Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Warrington Town

Duggan (32)

Hednesford Town

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Blake Thompson


Ilkeston (H) 28.3.17

The final eight games that remain this season cannot be over soon enough for the players and weary supporters of Hednesford Town Football Club, as another torrid display from a young, inexperienced side saw them crash to defeat at play-off chasing Warrington Town this afternoon


With the midweek game against Halesowen Town called off due to bad weather, Gary Birch had had a full week to make more changes to the ever-evolving Hednesford squad, bringing in three new faces in the form of Jordan Nadat, Blake Thompson and Jake Webb to add to the ever-decreasing numbers. Nadat and Thompson were thrust straight into the side, alongside fellow debutants Louis Danquah and Bradley Peace-McDonald in a young and inexperienced line-up. Danny Glover was deemed fit enough to take his place amongst the substitutes alongside both of last week's goal scorers Tony Clarke and Desean Martin


Warrington had adapted well to life at step three-level since promotion the last term, with the Yellows hitting form at just the right time to make a late run for the play-offs. Four wins in a row had lifted Paul Carden's side into fifth place at the start of play including a 1-0 win at Sutton Coldfield Town last weekend Carden named an unchanged side for today's game, including former Hednesford slipper Sean Williams in their starting XI at a bright, warm and sunny Cantilever Park


The hosts were quicker into the game than the Pitmen, playing a neat, direct game on a beautiful pitch for this time in the season. Dan Crane was called upon for the first time in the afternoon in the seventh minute, turning Danny Hattersley's effort over the crossbar for a Warrington corner

From the resultant corner, Crane was alert once more to make a smart save from Scott Harries, turning the ball away from goal from close range to keep the scoreline level as the Warrington man arrived late into the six-yard box to turn the ball goalwards


The Pitmen thought they had taken an eleventh-minute lead with their first attack of the game as Darren Campion's deep corner kick was turned home at the far post by Glover after initially coming back off the post, only to be ruled out for an earlier foul on Warrington keeper Tony McMillan by Thompson


Burly midfielder Thompson was making an impression on his debut, with the Australian seeing plenty of the ball in the opening twenty minutes as he put himself about the pitch in search of the ball. Nadat was a busy presence up front but found himself limited in supply as he was well shackled by defensive duo James McCarten and Evan Gumbs

In the eighteenth minute of the game, a quick passing move from the home side opened up the Hednesford defence as Scott Bakkor's slide-rule pass set Harries away, only for a late offside flag on the main stand side to pull the striker back as he shaped to shoot past Crane

Three minutes later, a bout of pinball inside the Hednesford six-yard box from Williams free-kick see the all-red visitors partially clear their lines back to Williams, whose angled drove from twenty yards out just cleared former team-mate Crane's crossbar

Clear-cut chances continued to be at a premium at both ends, with Warrington again well off-target on twenty-six minutes as Harries drive a shot well wide of goal when it would have been a better option to square the ball to Hattersley, who was in a good position on the edge of the Pitmen's penalty area


The game had been a poor spectacle for the near-500 in attendance in the first half-hour, but it finally opened up with what proved to be the winning goal on thirty-two minutes; right back Mitchell Duggan picked the ball up from over thirty yards out and was allowed time and space to line up his effort and pick his spot. Duggan's dipping effort deceived Crane, who allowed the bouncing ball to evade him and find the corner of the net. Another soft goal let in by the Pitmen add to their ever-increasing showreel of poor goals conceded this term


Crane partially atoned for his error in the goal a few minutes later, making a smart save on thirty-six minutes to turn the ball away for another Warrington corner kick as Williams' inswinging kick threatened to dip underneath the veteran stopper's crossbar

With five minutes of the first-half remaining, a deep cross from Duggan was headed back across goal by Hattersley to Harries, who was denied a certain goal by Joe Ballinger's alert defending inside the six-yard box to clear the danger


The home side should probably have been reduced to ten men a couple of minutes before half time, as Gumbs took exception to a foul from Washbourne and appeared to kick out at the Hednesford midfielder. After a bout of handbags and exchanges between both sets of players, the referee showed the pair a yellow card apiece for their part in the clash


 Half-time saw the Pitmen make a tactical change with striker Tony Clarke coming on in place of on-loan Danquah, who had looked out of his depth on the left-wing. Clarke joined Nadat up front as the Pitmen moved to a more direct 4-4-2 formation for the second period 


The hosts were again quicker out of the blocks in the second period, as Crane made a good save to deny Hattersley on forty-nine minutes to push the Warrington forward's shot away from goal at his near post for a corner to the Yellows


Left-back Josh Askew went close to doubling the home side's advantage on fifty-three minutes as fired a low shot into the side netting after being afforded too much time and space to drift into the Pitmen's penalty area and latch onto a pass from Bakkor


Nadat's tricky run and a cross was claimed by the experienced former Barrow keeper McMillan on fifty-seven minutes, claiming the ball low down at his near post and whipping the ball away from the feet of Clarke as he loomed to pick up any scraps on the rebound


At the other end, Hattersley wasted an excellent chance to put the game beyond the Pitmen a minute later but shanked his shot high over the crossbar from twelve yards out


In an attempt to add more pace to the attack, the Pitmen made another offensive change on fifty-nine minutes as youngster George Cater came on in place of Washbourne, who had offered very little penetration down the left flank against Duggan


The dangerous Hattersley got in behind the makeshift Hednesford defence again on sixty-four minutes, but pulled his shot well wide of goal as he tried to place his shot across Crane and into the far corner of the net


Nadat was replaced by the more experienced Glover up front a minute later, teaming Clarke and Glover up once more as the Pitmen searched for the elusive equaliser with a more heavyweight attack


A mazy run from Warrington substitute Michael Monaghan saw him shimmy his way past two half-hearted challenges and fire a shot narrowly wide of the far post on sixty-six minutes


Forward Dylan Vassallo felt he should have been given a penalty on seventy minutes after he went down under a challenge from Ballinger, but the referee felt he had dived and shown Vassallo a yellow card for simulation

Thompson headed wide of the target for the Pitmen on seventy-two minutes from Thorley's deep free-kick before Warrington quickly countered down the right and played substitute Vassallo in, only for Crane to smother the ball at the striker's feet on the edge of his penalty area

The game became scrappy as it entered the final fifteen minutes, with Warrington content to break the game up at every opportunity and take their time on every set-piece, much to the angst of Birch who berated the official on his side of the pitch to point out the time-wasting going on

Thorley saw a low shot blocked by Gumbs on eighty minutes, with Clarke wasting the rebound as he lifted his shot high over the crossbar and into the Hednesford fans behind the goal

Hattersley and Vassallo continued to be a threat on the counter-attack, exchanging passes on eighty-three minutes to Duggan in down the right, only for Crane to claim the ball at his near post to clutch the full-back's angled shot


The Pitmen had offered next to nothing in an uninspiring second-half display, not testing the unworked McMillan once with a shot of any note. However, one moment of magic from Clarke looked to have rescued a point for the visitors with the game entering the final minute. The big striker cut in from the right and beat three players, before his progress was halted illegally just inside the penalty area by a clumsy challenge from Askew. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, despite the protests of the Warrington players. Top scorer Glover picked the ball up and struck his spot-kick well enough, but McMillan guessed right and made a superb stop low down to his right to preserve his clean sheet and deny the Pitmen a point they barely deserved

The penalty miss knocked the Pitmen's confidence in added time, with Warrington seeing out the four added minutes with ease to claim another three points to cement their placing in the play-off places. Another defeat on the road leaves Hednesford down in fifteenth place after the round of games today, with any looming hopes of a late play-off push now a distant memory and a top-half finish now the best they can hope for. Birch and his team looking for a reaction when relegation-threatened Ilkeston visit Keys Park on Tuesday night as the Pitmen go in search of that rarest of things this season - a league double


Warrington Town: McMillan ©, Duggan, Askew, Williams, McCarten, Gumbs , Bakkor (Ventre 85), Smart, Hattersley, Sherlock (Vassallo 63), Harries (Monaghan 45)      Subs Unused: Codling, Shaw


Hednesford Town: Crane, Wright, Campion, Thompson, Peace-McDonald, Ballinger, Washbourne (Cater 59), Thorley ©, Nadat (Glover 65), Hutton, Danquah (Clarke 45)      Subs Unused: Ransome, Martin

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