F.A. Trophy 1st Qualifying Round

Willenhall Town

Briggs (13)

Hednesford Town

Pedro (60), (70), Dovey (90)

(1) 1

(0) 3



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Mario Pedro


Stamford (H) 27.10.07

Beleaguered Hednesford got a boost this afternoon as a good second-half performance saw them move into the second qualifying round of the F.A. Trophy, beating local rivals Willenhall Town in the process and partly atoning for two poor performances in the previous week


New signing Wayne Dyer, an experienced midfielder formerly with Hinckley United, Bedford Town and Moor Green amongst others, came straight into the side at the expense of the injured Steve Palmer whilst Dominic Heath also coming back into the side for the departed Lee Whittington and Linden Dovey replacing the injured Alan Nagington. Once again, the bench was filled with several youth team players as injuries continued to pile up for the visitors and limited Starbuck's options in terms of game-changers off the bench

Step four Willenhall were having a fine season in the Southern League Midlands Division, having enjoyed a superb debut season in 2006-2007 when they finished fourth. Manager Dean Edwards named former Hednesford midfielder Mark Briggs in an unchanged starting XI after beating Belper Town in the previous round and also included former Hednesford youth team defender Danny Harvey as part of his team

The all-blue-clad Pitmen started brightly, with Ross Dyer immediately into the action as he ghosted past the Willenhall defence before chipping the ball goalwards, but his second-minute effort cleared the crossbar

Willenhall keeper Steve Jackson had to be on hand to deny three Hednesford players in less than two minutes; Tim Sanders' through ball put Dyer away once again in the seventh minute, only for Jackson to palm the ball away for a corner


From the resultant kick, the ball was cleared as far as Ashley Woolliscroft, whose firm shot from the edge of the Willenhall penalty area was well saved by Jackson


Two minutes later, Jackson denied Dyer once again as the young striker's low shot from eighteen yards out was fielded low down by the goalkeeper to his left

However, as has been the theme of many of the games so far this season, the Pitmen can have all the play and concede the opener due to their own inabilities in defence. And once again, their failure to clear their lines was to cost them in the thirteenth minute as a corner kick was not fully cleared by the defenders. The ball dropped to former Pitman Briggs - lurking just outside the penalty area - who fired a superb first-time volley past Rene Gilmartin to give the hosts a shock lead

On seventeen minutes, new boy Wayne Dyer almost got the Pitmen on level terms as Heath won a corner kick on the right-hand side which was taken by the winger. His ball in was on by Ross Dyer to his namesake, but his effort was cleared off the line and onto the post by Harvey before Todd Perry completed the clearance

Dovey felt hard done by on twenty-one minutes as he looked to turn a loose ball home following a challenge on Jackson after the goalkeeper had made a hash of Heath's cross and punched it up into the air, only for the referee to penalise the striker for a foul

 The hosts were giving as good as they got, making light of the one division difference between the sides and enjoying good periods of possession. Briggs drilled another long-range effort wide on twenty-seven minutes, followed by a late flag that halted Craig Gregg's progress three minutes later as he attempted to break the offside trap

Gregg was denied another clear sight at goal on thirty-five minutes by Gordon Simms, as the former Wolves defender did well to cover ground and block the striker's shot after he had been played in by John Williams' flick-on

Four minutes later, Gregg and Williams combined once more to create a glorious chance for the Lockmen to double their lead just before the break; Williams again flicked on a long ball forwards into the path of his striker partner, who turned provider on this occasion as he returned the ball to Williams. With only Gilmartin to beat, Williams dragged his shot wide of goal with a weakly-struck low effort

Willenhall created yet another great chance with two minutes of the first half remaining as centre-back Harvey somehow headed wide from a Briggs free-kick with the goal gaping


In added time, Gregg forced Gilmartin into a regulation save as he out-paced the out-of-depth Simms and fired towards the Hednesford goal from the edge of the penalty area. The Pitmen were on the ropes and were delighted with the sound of the half-time whistle after being out-played by their lower-league opponents

Dovey was again a frustrated figure for the visitors three minutes after the restart as he broke through the Willenhall backline before being held back by Ross Miller. Rather than let the game continue as Dovey shook off the challenge, the referee elected to pull the play back and awarded the Pitmen a free-kick instead, much to Dovey's derision

Williams had a great chance to score nine minutes after the restart as Williams blazed over from close-range after the Pitmen had left him unmarked at a corner

Another individual error, this time from Marshall, saw him get the ball caught under his foot on fifty-eight minutes and allow Gregg to nick the ball from him. The defender - struggling with injury and fitness - just did enough to stretch out a leg and intercept the ball to stop Gregg from getting away. He turned the mistake into a positive move as he pumped the ball over the top to Pedro, who in turn played Ross Dyer in on goal. The youngster tried his luck but found Jackson equal to his effort

The Pitmen finally got themselves on the scoresheet on the hour mark and it took an absolute beauty from Mario Pedro to get them back into the contest. Wayne Dyer clipped a ball across the face of the penalty area to Pedro, who was standing on the right-hand corner of the box. The Portuguese winger met the ball with a first-time volley that flashed past Jackson and into the net for one of the goals of the season so far. Game on

The away side took full advantage of their equaliser and started to dominate proceedings as we entered the final quarter of the game. Dovey could have scored a header on sixty-four minutes but somehow put his effort wide of goal as he stretched to meet a Ross Adams free-kick at the far post


Briggs drove another long-range shot over the bar on sixty-eight minutes after a quick counter-attack before Gregg was denied once more by Gilmartin as he rushed out of goal to deal with a break from the Willenhall striker

It took another moment of Mario magic to put the Pitmen in front with twenty minutes left as his pace and movement was too much for the Willenhall defence, dancing past two challenges before firing past Jackson from an angle to give the away side the crucial advantage

Gregg could count himself lucky to remain on the pitch with twelve minutes remaining as he was only shown a yellow card for a dreadful late challenge on Simms

With ten minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their one and only substitution of the afternoon as Ross Dyer - struggling with a leg injury - was taken off in favour of fellow youngster David Brown

Simms almost gifted Willenhall an equaliser with eight minutes remaining as he allowed Perry to rob the ball from him as he tried to see the ball out. Fortunately, Northern Irishman managed to get back and clear the ball from under his own crossbar as Perry tried to chip the ball past Gilmartin


 The hosts came within the width of the crossbar of equalising with two minutes left as young striker Tyrone Barnett, on as a substitute, hit the bar after an acrobatic effort from Harvey had set him up from close-range

After surviving this late salvo from the home side, the Pitmen tied up the game in added time as Dovey got his first goal for the Pitmen, cutting in from the wing and firing past Jackson to seal Hednesford's passage to the second qualifying round

It had been a tough afternoon for Starbuck's men, who were relieved at sidestepping a potential banana skin that they had failed to do so at Rushall Olympic last week. Next weekend sees the Pitmen return to league action against Stamford, who sit just above the Pitmen in the UniBond League table


Willenhall Town: Jackson, Wheeler (Newton 75), Milligan, Miller, Newall, Harvey, Perry, Briggs, Williams (Barnett 75), Gregg , Cain       Subs Unused: Skitt, Facey

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Marshall ©, Adams, Simms, Pedro, Sanders, Heath, Wooliscroft, W. Dyer, R. Dyer (Brown 80), Dovey      Subs Unused: Fussell, Wells, Harbutt