Dr. Martens Southern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Piearce (26), (72), Francis (64), Lake (84)


Welling United

Booth (36)

(1) 4

(1) 1




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Steve Piearce



Bath City (A) 1.2.03

The Pitmen finally get their New Year on track with a fine win over mid-table Welling United at fortress Keys Park, maintaining their unbeaten league form at home thus far this season


It had been a miserable 2003 so far for Ian Painter's side, with two 3-1 away defeats leaving them down in mid-table and with much work to do to catch other sides above them in the Dr. Martens League table. Manager Ian Painter had lost patience with a number of his under-performing players and made a large number of changes to his side following last week's tame defeat at Ilkeston Town. Out went Bryan Small, Ashley Williams, Wayne Simpson, Derek Rae and Graham Lancashire and in came Stuart Ryder, the recalled Stewart Airdrie, Kevin Francis, Anthony Maguire and Les Robinson. Small, Lancashire and Rae were dropped from the squad completely as Painter brutally swung the axe on his side


Welling arrived at Keys Park off the back of a five-game run without a win, having not tasted victory since beating Newport County five weeks ago. Manager Bill Williams made three changes to the side that had been beaten by Stafford Rangers at Park View Road last weekend, dropping Ray Aboagye, Sam Sodje and Dave Powell in place of Anthony Riviere, Lew Watts and Paul Jones as the Wings looked for three points to lift them away from their lowly league position


The visitors tested Michael Bingham in the Hednesford goal inside the first five minutes, with John Farley's speculative effort from range well held by the former Mansfield Town stopper


 Strike partners Francis and Steve Piearce linked up well four minutes later to register the Pitmen's first shot on goal, as Francis brought the ball under his control before playing a clever slide-rule pass to his team-mate. Piearce's goalbound shot took a slight deflection off Welling defender Tim O'Shea, turning the ball narrowly wide of the post for a Hednesford corner


 From the resultant Paul Ware corner, Piearce did well to nip in front of Welling keeper Glenn Knight and turn the ball home from close range, only for Piearce's goal to be ruled out for a perceived foul on Knight in the build-up


The Pitmen continued to knock on the door, with Ware's set-pieces a constant threat to the Welling defence. A free-kick from the midfielder on sixteen minutes dropped into the Welling six-yard box and into the path of Francis, whose horrible mis-kick actually turned into a good chance for David Berks with the ball rolling to the home debutant; his low drive was pushed away by Knight at his near post, with O'Shea finally completing the clearance for Welling 


The hosts finally got their noses in front on twenty-six minutes as their early pressure finally broke the Welling defence. Berks linked up well with Stuart Lake down the left wing to enable the winger to play Piearce in behind the Wings defence. Piearce made the most of his chance, burying the ball into the net past Knight from twelve yards out to record his fourteenth goal of the season


Lake could have increased the Pitmen's advantage five minutes later as he hammered a rising shot just over the crossbar with an opportunistic effort from thirty yards out


Two minutes later, the returning Airdrie - back after a loan spell at Guiseley - made a fine run down the right wing before drilling a low cross into the path of Francis, who couldn't get his feet sorted out in time and scuffed his effort wide of goal


And yet, Welling levelled matters against the run of play on thirty-six minutes, as the Pitmen's familiar defensive woes continued with a tame equaliser. A relatively tame cross from former Shrewsbury midfielder Kevin Seabury caught the Pitmen ball-watching once again, allowing Paul Booth to nip in and head past Bingham


Welling almost completed a turnaround in fortunes three minutes before the break, as Booth's run was checked by Chris Brindley but fell kindly to Jones, whose first-time shot hit the hoardings behind Bingham's goal


It must have been a frustrating half-time talk from Painter, as he had seen his side dominate large spells of the first period and yet go in on level terms and perhaps consider themselves lucky not to be behind. Painter's message had the desired effect, as the Pitmen totally dominated the second half and struck three further goals without reply


Neat and tidy play down the Hednesford left on fifty-one minutes saw Ryder link up well with Airdrie - who had switched wings at the break - to cross into the path of Piearce, whose toe-poke was saved by Knight


 Francis had a goal disallowed on fifty-six minutes as he turned the ball home from close-range from a Piearce cross, only for the referee to rule the goal out for a foul on Knight


The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on sixty-two minutes, with youngster Maguire returning to first-team action as he replaced Ware


Maguire made an instant impact just two minutes after coming on, teeing up Francis with a clever switch-back that allowed the big man to slide the ball past a horribly exposed Knight from close range


The Pitmen were rampant at this point and added a third eight minutes later courtesy of a wonderful breakaway goal. Ryder quickly played the ball to Airdrie, whose run and incisive pass saw Piearce scamper after the ball before cleverly lifting it over Knight and into the net from just inside the Welling penalty area


Knight kept his side in touch on seventy-five minutes, making a fine save to deny Francis after the striker had been played in behind the Welling defence by the youthful enthusiasm of Maguire


Chris Brindley went close to adding to his season's tally from an Airdrie corner kick on seventy-nine minutes, glancing a header onto the top of the crossbar as he beat Mark Hone to the inswinging cross


The hosts wrapped up a very well-earned victory courtesy of a rare goal from Lake on eighty-four minutes, firing home off the post from fully twenty-five yards out after Francis had knocked the ball down to him on the edge of the Welling penalty area


Painter could now afford to make his final two substitutions late on in the game with the points in the bag, as Jones returned to the side as a replacement for Francis following Lake's goal and Simpson replacing goalscorer Lake in midfield two minutes later


So, the Pitmen's Jekyll and Hyde season continues as they continue their unbeaten home form that is at complete odds to their woeful away form. Two-thirds the way through the season, and we are still to best understand what Painter's best eleven is from a large squad of predominently inconsistent players. The Pitmen have a further chance to improve on their away problems next weekend as they take a trip down to Bath City, who sit just above the Pitmen in the table at present 


Hednesford Town: Bingham, Simkin, Ryder, Robinson, Brindley ©, Lake (Simpson 86), Airdrie, Ware (Maguire 62), Francis (Jones 84), Piearce, Berks    Subs Unused: Williams, Jenkins


Welling United: Knight, Burgess, Farley, O'Shea, Hone, Edwards (Sodje 70), Riviere, Watts, Booth, Jones (Hogg 76), Seabury © (Standen 65)     Subs Unused: Aboagye, Virgo