Dr. Martens Southern Premier League


Pethick (70), Phillips (81)

Hednesford Town

(0) 2

(0) 0




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Lee Barrow



Eastbourne Borough (H) 24.1.04

Another league defeat this afternoon for the Pitmen leaves Barry Powell's side without a win in the Dr. Martens League in eight games as they are edged out of today's contest by league leaders Weymouth, who stretch their lead at the top of the table to five points in the process

Last week's win in the F.A. Trophy over Gresley Rovers had been a welcome distraction from the dreadful recent league form for the Pitmen as they dropped the eleventh in the table and a full twelve points behind today's opponents. Powell brought Alex Gibson back into the side at right-back in place of the error-prone Darren Simkin, whilst Chris Brindley replaced Stuart Ryder at centre-back after the former Walsall man's return to fitness had been checked with a midweek pull in training. Craig Dean was also ruled out due to injury and was replaced down the left hand side by the returning Chris Gray


The Terras had topped the Dr. Martens League table for much of the season so far and had shown great consistency under player/manager Steve Claridge having only lost three games and conceded only twenty goals. Claridge had moved into the transfer market in midweek and brought two players at opposite ends of their footballing careers to add competition to his squad; former Weymouth defender Robbie Pethick had returned to the club after a decade away playing in the Football League for the likes of Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers and Brighton and was joined at the Wessex Stadium by teenage striker Stewart Yetton, who had made a temporary switch on a month's loan from League Two side Plymouth Argyle. Both players came into the side for today's game as Claridge made two changes to the side that had beaten Lewes in a remarkable F.A.Trophy tie last weekend that saw the Terras triumph 8-5 at the Dripping Pan

A bright, but crisp afternoon on the South Coast greeted the players and near 1,500 crowd for today's game, with Weymouth making a cagey approach to the game as the Pitmen had the better of the opening exchanges. Mark Danks danced past Pethick in the third minute before firing well wide of goal from twenty yards out when a pass to Steve Evans would probably have been a wiser move


In the eighth minute, a great cross from Steve Evans out on the right wing found the boot of Danks, who had got goal side of Pethick to head the ball goalwards. Jason Matthews in the Weymouth goal - who was outstanding in the season opener between the two sides at Keys Park - made a brilliant instinctive save down to his left to turn Danks's goalbound header away from goal and behind for a corner kick

A minute later, Matthews handed Steve Anthrobus a great chance to give the visitors the lead as he raced out of his goal to head a pass from Steve Palmer away from Danks. The ball dropped kindly for Anthrobus, whose first-time volley dipped wide of Matthews' far post. A let-off for Matthews after a momentary rush of blood from the keeper

The Pitmen continued to have the better of the possession and territory, but were once again finding clear-cut chances at a premium. Pethick made a timely clearance inside his own six-yard box on sixteen minutes to hack the danger away after Les Hines had sent over a dangerous cross from the left

Anthrobus was guilty of dithering on the ball to long four minutes later as Steve Evans played a clever reverse pass into the striker's feet, only for the former Wimbledon man to get caught in two minds as whether to shoot or pass and allowed full-back Simon Browne to smuggle the ball away from him

Steve Tully was booked for taking down the flying Danks on twenty-three minutes as the striker skipped past him en route to goal. The result free-kick from Hines found the head of veteran Brindley, who had taken a stroll into the Weymouth penalty area but headed well over the crossbar and into the terrace behind the goal

Carl Palmer's recent form had mirrored the club's overall contributions, as the powerful midfielder had been off-colour in recent games compared to his commanding early season form. He headed wide of goal with a great chance on the half-hour mark as Hines and Steve Evans played a quick short corner that caught out the Terras defence, only for Palmer to nod his effort from Evans's cross tamely wide at the near post

The hosts had really struggled to create any openings of any real notion a frustrating first-half display in front of a large and expectant home crowd, who were starting to get a little agitated by Weymouth's lack of creativity in the final third. Their first sight at goal came on thirty-six minutes as a neat piece of play in midfield saw Ian Hutchinson play Yetton in on goal, only for the youngster to drag his long-range effort wide of Young's right-hand post

Another neat passage of play saw Browne pick the ball up just outside the Hednesford penalty area three minutes later, but in similar manner to Yetton drove his shot wide of the far post


 Lee Phillips - a thorn in many a former former Hednesford side in recent years - had been quietly dealt with by Lee Barrow in the first period but did create a chance for Yetton in the final minute of the first-half; coming in from the wing, Phillips jinked past a couple of half-hearted challenges from Gibson and Barrow before sending over a low cross to the far post that Yetton headed down towards goal. Young did well to palm the youngster's header away from danger and scrambled the ball away with help from Hines

The visitors could be reasonably happy with their first-half performance as they had gone toe-to-toe with the league leaders and had much the better of the game which had silenced the crowd and handed Claridge a difficult half-time talk

The Pitmen continued to press at the start of the second period despite the expected Weymouth reaction as Anthrobus forced Matthews into a fine instinctive save on fifty minutes after turning Danks's pass goalwards

The impressive Barrow went close to giving the away side the lead five minutes later, getting on the end of a deep, swinging free-kick from Hines at the far post and heading just wide of Matthews's left-hand post as he rose above Pethick and Matthews

Mark Robinson came on for Luke Nightingale for the hosts as Claridge made a positional change that pushed his side further forwards, which forced the Pitmen back into their own third as Weymouth pressed for the first time in the game


Just three minutes after coming on, Robinson created a great opening for the Terras as Tully's fine pass found the substitute, whose run and cross from the right flank was hacked off the line by Gibson with Yetton lurking

The impetus was now with the hosts, who looked the more likely to break the deadlock with the supporters behind them for the final quarter of the game. Yetton got the better of Brindley with his pace on sixty-eight minutes, but his shot was blocked by the boot of the covering Barrow before dribbling through to Young

The growing pressure on the Hednesford goal finally told with twenty minutes remaining as Weymouth finally got their noses in front. Lee Philpott's corner was cleared as far as Phillips on the edge of the penalty area, whose low drive was cleared off the line by Hines. The ball bobbled around in the Hednesford six-yard box before Pethick bravely dived in to head the ball past Young from close range for the defender's debut goal

The Pitmen had been protecting the point up to this point and had looked devoid of ideas going forwards for much of the second period. Powell made an attacking change on seventy-four minutes as he brought Nathan Lamey on in place of Steve Evans to play up front with Danks and Anthrobus

And yet it was Weymouth who looked the more likely to add to their tally, as Yetton went close to grabbing a debut goal on seventy-eight minutes as Brindley's slip let the youngster in behind the Hednesford defence, only for Yetton to pull his shot and drag it wide of Young's post with the goal gaping

Lamey did well to skip past a challenge from Tully on eighty minutes as he picked up Gray's forward pass, drifting inside from the left wing before rifling a low shot into the side-netting at Matthews' near post. Danks was infuriated with his striker partner having made a run into the six yard box and the pair exchanged angry words about Lamey's decision-making

Lamey's miss was to prove a costly one for the Pitmen, who found themselves two goals down a minute later with Phillips grabbing his almost-obligatory goal against Hednesford; Paul Buckle's cross from the right was partially cleared by Brindley, but only as far as Phillips who fired confidently past Young from twelve yards out to settle the game as a contest

Powell slumped back in his chair on the Hednesford bench, visibly frustrated at his team's inability to defend effectively for ninety minutes. It had been another game of near-misses for the Pitmen, who had once again shown their ability to compete against the best sides in the league, only to fall short when it really matters. The importance of finishing in the top thirteen and maintaining their step two status is an all-important requirement for the club in this restructuring season and the club is now starting to look behind them at the chasing pack having been fairly comfortable for the majority of the campaign so far. Only ten points separate bottom of the table Bath from the Pitmen in twelfth and a number of sides below them are in good form, with one of these sides - Eastbourne Borough - next up for the Pitmen at Keys Park next Saturday in a key six-pointer

Weymouth: Matthews, Tully , Browne, Pethick (Barlow 86), Hutchinson ©, Buckle, Nightingale (Robinson 60), Wilkinson, Yetton, Phillips, Philpott      Subs Unused: Walker, Hall, Claridge

Hednesford Town: Young, Gibson, Hines, S. Evans (Lamey 74), Brindley, BarrowC. Palmer, S. Palmer ©Anthrobus, Danks, Gray     Subs Unused: McGhee, Dodd, Charie, P. Evans