22.4.2017

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Whitby Town

Hopson (66)

Hednesford Town

(0) 1

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

342

Lewis Wright

D L W W D L L L L L

The Pitmen bring the curtain down on what was once an encouraging campaign with another disappointing defeat at Whitby Town - their fifth loss in a row and the fourth consecutive game without a goal

The trip up to North Yorkshire was boosted by the return of skipper Tom Thorley to the squad after the talented midfielder had missed the past two games due to injury. Thorley was one of five changes to the side that had been beaten by local rivals Stafford Rangers on Monday night as under-fire manager Gary Birch also brought Lloyd Ransome, Louis Danquah, Bradley Peace-McDonald and George Cater back into the side in place of Dan Crane, Darren Campion, Jordan Fitzpatrick, Stuart McNaught and Tony Clarke

Whitby had enjoyed a fine campaign thus far but were destined to finish just outside of the play-off places after fellow challengers Nantwich Town had clinched the final spot on Thursday night courtesy of a 1-1 draw at Halesowen Town. Manager Chris Hardy - with one eye on the club's North Riding County Cup Final against Pickering Town next week - made two changes to the side that had been heavily beaten at champions Blyth Spartans in midweek with Dan McWilliams and Mark Robinson coming in for Darren Bullock and Anthony Bell

On a pleasant afternoon overlooking the North Sea, the all-red Pitmen made a good start to the game and almost took an early lead with their first attack of the game; in the second minute, skipper Thorley picked the ball up in midfield and advanced on the Whitby penalty area before unleashing a rising shot from twenty-five yards out that cleared Whitby keeper Shaun Bland's crossbar by a matter of inches

The visitors continued to have the better of the opening exchanges as Joe Ballinger headed over the crossbar and into the large net capture behind Bland's goal from an inswinging Thorley corner kick in the ninth minute

A minute later, Gavin Hurren's inswinging free-kick was met by a full-blooded header from Danny Glover, who saw his goalbound header come back off the post. The rebound dropped to Peace-McDonald at close-range, who was denied by a fantastic instinctive save by Bland on his goal line to push the ball away

Whitby's response came three minutes later through a clever through ball from Dale Hopson to striker Matty Tymon, who wasted a good chance from fifteen yards out by driving his shot wide of Ransome's goal

 

Three minutes later, a cross from Lewis Wright was met by Ballinger at the far post, only to see his downward header towards goal smuggled away by a combination of Bland and one of his defenders

Midway through the first-half, Thorley was denied the opening goal of the afternoon by Bland, who made a fine parry to turn the Hednesford captain's well-struck free-kick away for a corner kick to the Pitmen

Danquah exchanged passes with Hurren on twenty-eight minutes to get past Callum Martin and crossed well for Glover, only for a block tackle from Robinson to deny the striker a clear shot at goal

Ballinger did well to make a fine block and deny Steve Snaith on thirty-two minutes as the centre-back slid in to deny the midfielder a clear chance following a quick break down the left from the hosts

The home side were enjoying their best spell of the game thus far and forced three corner kicks in a row on thirty-five minutes as they looked to take advantage of the Pitmen's flaky confidence in defence. Ransome saw over one inswinging cross from Hopson, tipping the ball over the bar to ensure it did not dip underneath the woodwork

Snaith was again involved for the Seasiders on thirty-nine minutes, firing in a shot across the face of Ransome's goal with an angled drive from the edge of the penalty area after a pass from Hopson

With two minutes of a fairly evenly-contested first half remaining, Glover bustled his way past the challenge of the pacy Kieran Weledji and into the Whitby penalty area, only to lose his footing at the crucial moment and lifted his shot high over the crossbar

Half-time saw the embarrassing sight of several Hednesford substitutes refusing to warm-up at the break and spent the fifteen minutes remaining on the bench larking around on their mobile phones, rather than join Crane and youngster Ryan Nesbitt in going through their exercises. Egged by the unavailable David McDermott, Stuart McNaught, Jordan Fitzpatrick and Jordan Nadat should all hang their heads in shame as they showed blatant disregard to the club

Whitby started the second period far more assertively and spent the first ten minutes of the restart camped inside the Pitmen's third of the pitch with a series of corners and free-kicks. Wright and Ballinger - both having good games at the back for the visitors - dealt well with the threat alongside Ransome as they protected the goal well

A quick break from the Pitmen on fifty-three minutes almost caught the hosts out as Wright's run and through ball to Washbourne saw the winger cut inside but leather his shot over the bar from a tight angle; a cross to Glover or the incoming Thorley would have been a better option with the benefit of hindsight

Good interplay from Hopson and Tymon played striker Anthony Hume away down the inside right position on fifty-seven minutes, only for Peace-McDonald to do enough to put the player off as he came across to narrow the angle for the striker to aim at, culminating in Hume lifting his shot over the bar

Three minutes later, Robinson's header from a Snaith cross was easily held by Ransome inside his six-yard box after Danquah had conceded a free-kick by fouling Hopson just inside the Hednesford half

The home side took the lead with what was to be the only goal of the game on sixty-six minutes - and what a strike it was, courtesy of the boot of Hopson. Teed up by Snaith's pas, Hopson strode into space left in front of him by a retreating Hednesford defence and unleashed an unstoppable rising shot beyond the reach of Ransome and into the top corner of the net from fully thirty yards out

Hednesford's response came from a Wright cross on sixty-nine minutes, whipping in a cross after getting the better of McWilliams and finding Glover, only for the Pitmen's top scorer to weakly head wide

On seventy-five minutes, Hopson tried his luck again with another long-range effort that Ransome did well to turn away from the target for a Whitby corner kick. From the resultant cross, Robinson and Weledji were both involved inside the Pitmen's six-yard box before the ball was cleared by Hurren

A minute later, the Pitmen made their first change of the game as Nadat came on up front in place of Washbourne, who had once again lacked the physicality to cope with another big, strong Northern Premier League team. This saw the away side move to a 4-4-2 formation with Nadat joining Glover up front

Tymon's clever lob on seventy-eight minutes saw the striker beat the retreating Ransome and headed for the net, only for the ball to bounce off the top of the crossbar before dropping behind the goal

Nadat was straight into the action with ten minutes remaining, hitting a first time shot at goal with an instinctive strike that was palmed behind by Bland at his near post for a corner kick

With five minutes remaining, the away side made their second substitution of the game as McNaught came on in place of Thorley, who was tiring after playing his first game in a couple of weeks

The Pitmen forced a couple of corner kicks in the final minutes, but were lacking in confidence up front and allowed Whitby to clear their lines. Birch's final roll of the dice came in the last minute of the game as young striker Nesbitt was brought on in place of the completely anonymous Cater

The final whistle brings to end a season of two halves - a strong start and a fine team assembled by Liam McDonald that was challenging high up in the table by November, disassembled by McDonald himself and the lack of profile of both Paul Casey and Birch brought to the club in plugging the gaps created in the squad, leaving Hednesford with a real mish-mash of quality in their team at the end of the campaign. Expect big changes once more in the summer, as another likely managerial change will bring more wholesale player changes as Hednesford look to improve on this ultimately disappointing fifteenth place finish in 2017-2018

Whitby Town: Bland, Martin, McWilliams, May, Weledji, Robinson, Snaith, Gell (Fryatt 55), Hume, Tymon (Roberts 86), Hopson      Subs Unused: Bell, Bullock, Dixon

Hednesford Town: Ransome, Wright, Danquah, Peace-McDonald, Hurren, Ballinger , Martin, Thorley © (McNaught 85), Glover, Washbourne (Nadat 76), Cater (Nesbitt 89)      Unused: Crane, Fitzpatrick