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Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Cockerline (22)


Whitby Town

Patton (55), (60)

(1) 1

(0) 2



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Dan Cockerline




Stafford Rangers (A) 15.12.18

Despite taking a first-half lead through Dan Cockerline, the Pitmen once again succumb to the opposition during the early stages of the second half to hand Whitby Town all three points at a wet and windy Keys Park this afternoon


Another busy week behind the scenes for caretaker/manager Francino Francis had seen him continue to wheel and deal in the face of more departures from the club; Callam Mendez-Jones had already departed for Halesowen Town, with right-sided Matt Curley following him to the Grove to link up once again with Rob Smith. Francis had been busy bringing faces in to offer competition, with winger Joel Logan returning to the club on a month's loan from FC United of Manchester as well as right-back Kieron Dawes on loan from Birmingham City and utility player Sufyan Zia from Bilston Town. Both Logan and Dawes were put straight into the side, alongside the returning Jed Davies, who had been serving a one-match ban against Workington last week. Experienced winger Matt Dodd had finally recovered sufficiently from his knee ligament injury suffered back in September to take his place amongst the substitutes as he looked to earn his place back in the team. There was, however, no sign of midfield threesome Reece King (suspended), Joe Fitzpatrick (unavailable), Josh Craddock (injured) or Lewis Archer (injured)


Whitby - beaten by the Pitmen back in September at the Turnbull Ground - arrived at Keys Park tucked up just behind the hosts in the table, one place and one point behind at the start of play. Manager Chris Hardy had recently moved to add to his number with the signing of the adaptable Leon Scott for a third spell at the club from Scarborough Athletic as the Seasiders looked to move their way up the league table


It had been a changeable day of weather in South Staffordshire, with heavy showers punctuated by spells of sunshine and a gusty wind to add to the tricky conditions ahead of kick-off. Skipper Charlie Gatter was the first player to have a sighter on goal in the second minute, hooking a Michael Howard cross straight into the arms of Whitby keeper Adam McHugh


It was forward Howard that found himself in the unusual position of shot-stopper a minute later, tracking back to find himself clearing the ball off his own line to deny Callum Patton a goal as the forward's shot deflected off Nathan Fox and Josef Bursik as it dribbled towards the empty net, only for Howard to hack the ball away at the last moment


Ruby Misambo was called upon to make a timely block for the hosts in the eleventh minute, denying Matty Tymon a shot on goal with a sliding challenge after the striker had been played through the centre of the Hednesford defence


Logan - who had an impressive short spell with the Pitmen two years ago - made a typically mazy run down the left wing for the hosts on seventeen minutes, teasing Kieran Weledji before cutting inside and striking a curling shot over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area


The tricky Logan almost forced Whitby's Toby Lees into an error on twenty minutes, as his run and cross was diverted towards his own net by the Whitby defender. Fortunately for him, McHugh was alert to the danger and made a smart save low down at his near post


The growing pressure on the Whitby goal finally told as Cockerline added to his recent impressive tally of goals midway through the half; a neat flick-on from Jack Hallahan played the big striker in behind the Whitby defence, with Cockerline steadying himself before slotting past McHugh


The rain that had been on and off all day returned with aplomb following the opener, as the heavens opened and made conditions difficult to play in. On twenty-five minutes, Logan slipped the ball through to Cockerline, whose goalbound shot was deflected behind for a Hednesford corner by Lees


Back came the visitors, with Adam Gell carving a way through the Hednesford defence on twenty-seven minutes before unleashing a shot from the edge of the penalty area that Bursik handled well in the difficult conditions


Whitby went even closer to drawing level once again on thirty-one minutes, as a good run and cross from Weledji found Tymon unmarked in the six-yard box, only for the striker to lift his effort high over the crossbar from close-range. A real let-off for the hosts


A low, bobbling effort from Davies three minutes later gave McHugh a brief moment of panic, as the Whitby stopper spilled the low drive from the midfielder and allowed it squirm out of his grasp before he picked the ball up at the second time of asking


A quick break from Whitby saw them fail to take advantage of a retreating Hednesford defence on thirty-seven minutes, as a cross Gell was cleared by Howard, but straight into the path of Lewis Maloney, who shot arced just over the crossbar


The final act of a fairly entertaining encounter saw Logan win a free-kick for the Pitmen just outside the Whitby penalty area on forty-one minutes. Howard took the subsequent kick and clipped the crossbar with a dipping effort over the wall and out of the reach of McHugh


 Unlike last week's tame start to the second period, the Pitmen made a good start to proceedings after the break and should have made the game safe through Cockerline on forty-seven minutes; after picking up the ball from Howard on the edge of the Whitby penalty area, Cockerline strode into the area and beat Alex White with his skill before pulling his shot across the face of the Whitby goal and narrowly wide of the far post


Two minutes later, Howard went equally close to settling the game as a contest for the hosts, as the excellent Cockerline slipped the ball through to his strike partner, who forced McHugh into a fine save at his near post to keep out Howard's powerful shot


A minute later, Cockerline was played through on goal by Halahan's slide-rule pass, only for the striker to get his foot under the ball and lift it high into the Heath Hayes end 


These three misses were to cost the Pitmen dearly as it turned out, as their fragile confidence was once again taken apart with a two-goal salvo from the visitors as the game headed towards the hour mark. On fifty-five minutes, a cross from Maloney was not dealt with effectively by Dawes, who weakly headed the ball straight into the path of Patton, whose left-footed volley flew past Bursik from twelve yards out to level matters once more


And, just as the previous week, the opposition made a quick job of turning the game on its head as Patton struck once more on the hour mark, getting on the end of a move that had seen the Hednesford defence ball-watch on the edge of their own area and allow the forward to drift in behind them to drive the ball past Bursik from eight yards out


This seemed to flatten the Pitmen's enthusiasm and morale, as they struggled to offer any response in the following ten minutes other than a clutch of mis-hit set-pieces with the rain coming down hard once more


The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on seventy-two minutes, as Dodd made his long-overdue return to the side in place of Logan, who had struggled to hit the heights he had in the first half


Quick feet from Dodd in the seventy-seventh minute saw him trick his way to the byeline and send over a great cross from the right to find Howard, who felt that he was brought down in the area after a challenge from Gell. The referee was right on the spot, however, and waved away any protests from the home side


The Pitmen made their final change of the game with seven minutes remaining, as young striker Romario Marton came on for the exhausted Howard up front 


Whitby were now content to play the Pitmen on the counter-attack and tested Bursik in the final minute of the game through substitute Ashley Coffey, striking a shot from the edge of the penalty area that Bursik fielded well


All in all, another depressing afternoon at Keys Park for the dwindling numbers to witness. In many ways, it was similar in the manner of last week's defeat at Workington - plenty of spirit and character to get themselves in front at the break, but a ruthless exposure of the sheer lack of experience and, in some places, a clear lack of ability at this level to compete with players who offer far more know-how. Francis - or whoever it will be in the dugout - has another tough week to come, with more departures likely ahead of the big Chase derby at Stafford Rangers next weekend


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Dawes, Fox, Gatter ©, Misambo, Griffiths, Hallahan , Davies, Cockerline , Howard ▆ (Martin 83), Logan (Dodd 72)    Subs Unused: Abadaki, McNally, Veiga


Whitby Town: McHugh, Weledji, Sukar, Scott , Lees, White , Gell, Patton, Maloney , Tymon (Rutherford 76), Hopson © (Coffey 76)     Subs Unused:  Bullock, Wilson, Norton


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