10.11.2007

UniBond Northern Premier League

Witton Albion

Kearney (21), Thornley (61), Warlow (70)

Hednesford Town

Dyer (7)

(1) 3

(1) 1

Attendance

MoTM

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447

Sébastian Arnolin

D W W D L L W W L L

Kendal Town (A) 17.11.07

Hednesford's season just can't seem to get going at all, as they suffer another setback to any hopes they have of promotion this season at league leaders Witton Albion

 Phil Starbuck - coming under pressure once more to arrest the team's recent slide back into poor form - made three changes to the side that lost to Guiseley in the F.A. Trophy last week with Daniel Wells coming in for the injured Tom Marshall in defence, Chad Sheppard replacing David Brown in a re-shaped midfield alongside Chris Adam, who returned to the side after injury to replace Alan Nagington 

Witton's form had been red-hot during October, scoring six goals against both Ashton United and Whitby Town in consecutive games to put them top of the table, followed by a 5-2 win over Stocksbridge Park Steels in the F.A. Trophy last weekend. Striker Adam Warlow's goals had been central to their success after grabbing three hat-tricks in his past five games to make it ten goals in his past five games overall. Manager Jim Vince stuck with the winning formula he had found from this XI and retained the same personnel from the demolition of Stocksbridge last weekend, which included former Hednesford captain Dave MacPherson, who had recently joined Witton from the Pitmen

The hosts started brightly as cult hero Brian Pritchard made his way forwards in the third minute to meet a cross from Steve Brodie but could only flick the ball well wide of goal as it glanced off his head from eight yards out

The Pitmen were bright and inventive on the ball going forwards and were rewarded with the opening goal of the afternoon on the seventh minute; loanee midfielder Sébastian Arnolin, playing out on the right side of midfield, crossed for Ross Dyer to head past John Kennedy in the Witton goal with a glancing header from close-range. there were muted calls for offside against the youngster, but it appeared that Pritchard was playing Dyer on as the ball came in and the goal stood

Clearly buoyed by their goal, the visitors continued to press for a second goal but found Witton skipper Tony Barras in the way of them increasing their lead, with the former Walsall stopper denying Dyer with a last-ditch tackle in the eleventh minute. The veteran defender came off worst in the challenge and limped over the byeline before signalling to the bench. After a couple of minutes of treatment, Barras had to be substituted and was replaced by Ian Kearney, with Pritchard taking the captaincy

Walsall loanee Chris Hanna had a great chance to open his account for the Pitmen in the fourteenth minute, but his header from a dangerous Adam cross flew over the crossbar as he got underneath the ball from eight yards out

At the other end, Rene Gilmartin was forced into his first action of the afternoon on eighteen minutes as he fielded a Mark Peers reverse pass into penalty area with Warlow bearing down on him

Witton's first real effort of the game on twenty-one minutes was to bring them an unlikely equaliser as the tiresome defensive indecision struck the Pitmen once more; a Mark Peers cross was not dealt with by the visitor's defence, allowing substitute Kearney to gamble and turn the loose ball home at the far post after making a late run into the penalty area. Another shocking example of the lack of harmony amongst the Hednesford defenders to add to the scrapbook of errors from this first three months of the season

This leveller appeared to inspire the hosts into more of the form they have been in lately, with Gilmartin tipping a looping cross from Rob Thornley over his crossbar on twenty-five minutes with Peers looking to pick up on any scraps

Two minutes later, a quickly-taken free-kick from MacPherson sent Warlow away down the left, in behind Ross Adams. the full-back did well to delay the striker's cross, who only succeeded in scuffing his intended cross to Peers into the shins of Adams and the defender cleared his lines

It was all Witton at this point, with Peers fired just wide on the half-hour mark as he held off a challenge from Wells before drilling his long-range effort wide of Gilmartin's post

Three minutes later, Arnolin lost out to Brodie in midfield as the Witton man won a fifty/fifty challenge and supplied Thornely with the ball. The striker took a couple of touches on the edge of the penalty area before curling a shot across goal and wide of the far post

For the Pitmen, they were limited to long-range efforts or picking up scraps heading towards half-time. Sheppard tried his luck with a dipping free-kick on thirty-nine minutes which was easily field by Kennedy, followed a minute later by a week, bobbling daisy-cutter of an effort from Wayne Dyer that failed to trouble the Witton goalkeeper

Warlow went close to adding to his recent goal glut just before the break as he quickly turned Wells and made himself a yard of space, only to pull his right-footed effort just wide of the upright

Half time saw Starbuck make a like-for-like swap out on the left-wing as Mario Pedro came on for Adam, who was looking off the pace and still feeling the effects of his recent injury lay-off

Pedro was straight into the play on fifty minutes, setting up Ross Dyer with a fine through ball, only for the Pitmen's goalscorer to lash his first-time shot wide of goal

Witton continued to have the better of the chances at the start of the second half and looked the more likely to grab a second goal; Brodie and Thornley linked up well just outside the Hednesford penalty area on fifty-five minutes to play Liam Brownhill in down the right, with his low driven cross turned behind by Paul Robinson ahead of Warlow

Two minutes later, Rob Lloyd got the better of Wayne Dyer and turned past a further challenge from Wells before pulling a low shot wide of goal with Thornley screaming for a pass into his feet

The home side's pressure finally told with a second goal of the afternoon just after the hour mark; Brodie's cross found Thornley, who managed to squeeze the ball past Gilmartin at his near post with a clever goal from a tight angle, despite the stopper's best attempts to get to the ball

There was almost a quickfire third goal for the hosts on sixty-four minutes as an inswinging free-kick from Brodie was headed down to the feet of Warlow, only for his shot to be blocked by the forest of legs in front of him

If a salvage job had become difficult for the Pitmen, it became nearly impossible on sixty-eight minutes when recently-signed full-back Neil Brisco was shown a straight red card by referee Mr Thorley for a crude challenge on MacPherson - a well-deserved punishment for a poor challenge that no one in blue could have any arguments about

Witton took full advantage of the Pitmen being down to ten men with a killer third just two minutes later. The Hednesford defence was left horribly exposed as Peers' ball through found Warlow, who had the simple task of beating Gilmartin from just inside the area

The Pitmen went into damage limitation mode in the final twenty minutes of the game, bringing on centre-back Gordon Simms on seventy-six minutes for midfielder Arnolin to add to their back line and limit the threat posed by Witton's lively front three

 

Good play from Peers on seventy-seven minutes saw him turn Simms and play in substitute Dean Crowe, only for the former Stoke City striker to lift his shot over the crossbar from fifteen yards out

Robinson's speculative effort from long-range on eighty-three minutes was as much as the Pitmen could muster in the closing stages with their fate sealed following Brisco's red card

With three minutes remaining, Warlow was denied a fourth Witton goal by a late, late offside flag against after he had matching onto MacPherson's through ball

It had been a battling performance from the visitors, but with their defensive weaknesses exposed once more by a shape Witton side, adding to the red card, defeat was as much as they deserved which leaves them marooned in mid-table and way off a play-off place. It is another away day next weekend as the Pitmen make the long trip up the M6 to struggling Kendal Town looking to shake off these back-to-back defeats

Hednesford Town: Gilmartin, Brisco ▆ (68), Adams, Sheppard, Wells, Robinson, Arnolin (Simms 76), W. Dyer ©, R. Dyer, Hanna, Adam (Pedro 45)     Sub Unused: Nagington

Witton Albion: Kennedy, Coo, Brownhill, Pritchard, Barras © (Kearney 13), Brodie, MacPherson, Lloyd, Warlow, Thornley (Crowe 66), Peers      Sub Unused: Spearitt

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