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Pitching In Northern Premier League West

Stalybridge Celtic

Fogerty (37), Duckworth (54), (83) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

Griffiths (65), Abbey (74) (penalty)

(1) 3

(0) 2



Current Form

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Jez Abbey



Hanley Town (H) 15.9.23

It's now six defeats in seven games for the ailing Pitmen tonight as they once again ship three goals on their travels as hosts Witton Albion take all three points at Wincham Park

Having been taken apart by Walsall Wood in their F.A. Trophy defeat at Keys Park on Saturday, Hednesford player/manager Danny Glover had much to ponder from his misfiring side ahead of tonight's trip to Cheshire. He elected to make three changes to his side, bringing himself into the starting XI for the first time this season as he replaced the injured Lewis Wright. Between the stocks, veteran stopper Dan Crane was dropped after a horrible error on Saturday in the lead-up to Walsall Wood's second goal and was replaced by teenager Jack Richards. The final change came in midfield as Joe Morley was out on trial at Lincoln City and was replaced by Desean Martin, who was available again after serving his one-match suspension following his red card at Stalybridge Celtic

Unlike their visitors, Witton had navigated their way through the first qualifying round of the F.A., Trophy on Saturday, although they required penalties to see off the challenge of league rivals Runcorn Linnets after the game ended 0-0. Witton manager Jon Macken - the former Manchester City striker -  made changes of his own for their return to Wincham Park as Oli Roberts came in for Kingsley Williams in midfield and Elliott Rokka replaced Connor Hughes up front. Former Hednesford midfielder James Lawrie - a good friend of Glover's from their time at Port Vale together - was named in the Witton starting XI

On a clear and mild early Autumn evening, the all-white-clad Pitmen made a good start to proceedings as they kept the ball well in the early stages of the game. Jez Abbey - who made his debut on Saturday - saw plenty of the ball as the visitors fed the ball into the attacking midfielder's feet at every opportunity. In the fourth minute, Jack Kelly played Rivel Mardenborough into space down the left flank to allow the striker time to cross into the penalty area. His low ball in was dummied into the path of Glover by Max Dixon, with the former Nantwich man striking a low first-time shot at goal that was turned away by Harry Wright in the Witton goal for a corner kick

Neat footwork from Abbey three minutes later saw him glide past Lawrie and into space just outside the Witton penalty area, only to be denied a shot at goal by a covering challenge from Cameron Fogerty

A ninth-minute corner kick from the Pitmen saw Kelly float the ball to the far post, where Sam Griffiths stretched to reach the ball but could only head tamely wide from seven yards out

Back came the hosts, who broke quickly in the eleventh minute through former Stafford Rangers man Jack Sherratt down the right-hand side before the striker played a neat through to Rokka, who had made a darting run in behind the Hednesford defence on the opposite side of the penalty area. However, Rokka's ballooned first-time shot and the aid of an offside flag against him in the build-up saw the chance come and go

Successive corner kicks from Witton piled further pressure on the flaky and nervous-looking Hednesford backline on fourteen minutes, with Michael Williams heading a dangerous Lawrie cross away at his near post with Richards rooted to the spot

Witton went closest of either team to opening the scoring three minutes later as they hit the woodwork through Sherratt. Another quick and direct break down the left flank saw Lee Jackson given time and space to pick out Lawrie, whose clever lay-off to Sherratt; his powerfully struck effort from the edge of the penalty area cannoned back off the crossbar via a flick off the glove of Richards and back into play before Kelly completed the clearance

The hosts had very much taken a hold of the game at this stage as the same, familiar failings started to creep into the Pitmen's game - a good start but failing to garner an early goal, allowing the opposition to take hold of the game before the inevitable opening goal in the first half. Another slick move on twenty-one minutes saw Jackson's ball into the Hednesford box dummied by Joe Duckworth into the path of the willing run of Lawrie, whose reverse ball back into the danger zone was eventually sidefooted goalwards by Rokka, forcing Richards into a diving save down to his left-hand side to concede another corner kick

The resultant corner was taken short and worked across the face of the penalty area by Witton, with Lawrie laying the ball off to Fogerty twenty-five yards from goal. The former Hyde United midfielder took a touch before unleashing a powerful effort at goal that was a matter of inches over Richards' goal frame

Sam Paddock became the game's first recipient of a yellow card from referee Mr Naisbett on twenty-four minutes as the young defender was penalised for a foul on Duckworth

A rare break forward from the Pitmen two minutes later saw Mardenborough bring down a high ball in midfield before shooting from long-range, forcing Wright into a scrambling save around his right-hand post to hand the Pitmen a corner kick

Richards made a fine save to deny Witton the evening's opening goal on twenty-nine minutes as Lawrie strode past Jacob Gwilt with ease in midfield before playing a neat through ball into the path of Duckworth, whose right-footed effort from the edge of the penalty area was parried away by the young goalkeeper before Paddock blocked Rokka's follow-up and cleared the danger

A neat passage of play from the hosts on thirty-two minutes saw them work the ball from right to left across the pitch and into the path of Jackson, whose low cross into the penalty area was hacked clear by Griffiths before Rokka could take advantage at the near post

There was a sense of inevitability about the direction of the game at this point as Witton continued to stream forwards against a Hednesford defence that was struggling to keep up with its markers. On thirty-five minutes, Lawrie's quickly-taken free-kick looked to catch the Pitmen out as they organised their wall, with Duckworth getting his angles all wrong with a tame first-time effort 

The opening goal of the night finally came on thirty-seven minutes as another crisp, direct pass ball into the feet of Rokka saw him neatly backheel the ball into the path of Fogerty, who took the ball past Michael Williams and steered the ball past Richards from six yards out as his shot back across goal found the far corner of the net

Witton went close to doubling their lead four minutes later as another quick break forwards saw Duckworth hold the ball up well and lay it off to Sherratt; his ball out to Jackson was worked back across goal from the left and eventually into the path of the lurking Duckworth, who felt that he was felled into the penalty area by a poor challenge from Kelly after the left-back's attempted clearance had bounced the way of the striker. Mr Naisbett took a long look at the challenge but allowed play to continue, despite the protests of the home players and fans that they should have been awarded a spot-kick. Witton recycled the ball well through Fogerty, whose pass into the feet of Roberts saw the midfielder's low shot turned away by Richards down to his right

As had been the case in most of their recent games, the Pitmen had been a solid second-best in the opening forty-five minutes and had struggled to make any impact at all in the final third, whilst looking nervous and error-strewn at the back against a lively Witton attack that had opened up the Hednesford defence with relative ease time and again. Dixon had failed to get himself into the game and was sacrificed by the away side at the break as winger Reinaldo Forbes was brought on in his place before the start of the second half

The tempo of the game continued into the early stages of the second half, with Witton continuing to press as they went in search of a second goal. Fogerty, Lawrie and Duckworth linked up well to win a free-kick right on the edge of the box on forty-eight minutes. Roberts took the resultant set-piece and drove a low shot through the wall and straight into the arms of Richards, who momentarily spilt the ball and allowed Fogerty to scramble the ball home on the rebound. However, Witton's celebrations were cut short as Mr Naisbett had spotted a handball by Lawrie in the melee and awarded the Pitmen a free-kick

Good play from Abbey sixty seconds later saw him surge into the Witton half from the centre circle, taking him past two challenges before looking to play Mardenborough into space down the left. The former Darlaston man - as has been the way in many recent games - did well to work the space for himself but elected to take one touch too many as he shaped to shoot from an angle and saw Mike Koral get across to block the effort

More direct play from Witton on fifty-one minutes saw Fogerty, Lawrie and Rokka combine with another quick piece of passing play into the Hednesford third of the pitch. Rokka took the ball past Gwilt and struck a fearsome shot from twenty yards out that curved just wide of Richards' right-hand post

Rokka should have made it 2-0 seconds later as the excellent Fogerty turned past Gwilt in midfield and played a delightful through ball to Duckworth out on the right; his cut-back into the six-yard box was begging to be turned home by his strike partner, who was caught on his heels and could not quite make up the ground in time to tap the ball home from close range

However, the hosts finally grabbed what had felt like an inevitable second goal on fifty-four minutes as a long, searching ball forwards from Lawrie caught the Hednesford defence out as Duckworth made a well-timed run in behind them, taking a cushioned touch before turning the ball past the advancing Richards from fifteen yards out. So easy from the home team

Abbey had been the one bright spark for the Pitmen on an otherwise miserable evening, with the new signing creating an opening for Glover on fifty-seven minutes. Drifting in from the right, Abbey played a neat reverse pass into the feet of his manager, whose angled shot from ten yards out was parried away at his near post by Wright

Witton responded on the hour mark with another quick break down the left from Jackson, whose pull-back to Lawrie on the edge of the box was blocked by Michael Williams before the former Pitman could get his shot away

The Pitmen got themselves back into contention midway through the second half as Sam Griffiths grabbed his second goal of the season; a free-kick from Kelly out on the right was whipped into the Witton six-yard box, where the Hednesford skipper rose highest of everyone to nod the ball home from close-range to reduce the deficit once more

Witton made their first change of the evening on sixty-seven minutes as veteran former Port Vale striker Tom Pope came on to add his experience to the ranks as he replaced Rokka

Buoyed by the goal, Hednesford pushed forward in search of a leveller as Forbes made a driving run towards goal down the left on sixty-eight minutes later before being brought down by a combination of Koral and Ben Harrison. Kelly delivered another fine free-kick into the area, aimed once more at Griffiths, but the defender was penalised on this occasion for a push on Koral as the pair looked to challenge. Wright collected the ball and was brushed by the hand of Martin as the midfielder ran past him to get back to the centre circle. In almost comedic style, Wright went down as if he had been shot, with Mr Naisbett astonishingly showing Martin his second red card in successive games. A truly bizarre decision as it appeared that minimal contact had been made between the pair

Witton thought that they had extended their lead against the ten men of Hednesford on seventy-one minutes as Jackson's deep free-kick from out on the left was headed back across goal by Pope and turned into the net by Duckworth, only for Mr Naisbett to rule the goal out for a foul by the substitute on Paddock in the build-up

Unbelievably, despite their numerical disadvantage the away side dragged themselves level once more on seventy-four minutes as they were awarded a penalty kick. Forbes made a slalom-like run into the box after drifting in from the left, taking two Witton players with him. He overran the ball slightly but allowed Abbey to take up possession, with the midfielder's shot from fifteen yards out striking the hand of Jackson. Mr Naisbett immediately pointed to the spot, with Abbey stepping up to send Wright the wrong way from twelve yards and level matters with his first-ever Hednesford goal

Despite this, you still felt that Witton held the upper hand with the extra player on the pitch going into the final fifteen minutes on top of the Pitmen's well-documented flakiness in the final quarter of games this season. Pope rose highest once more to meet Lawrie's free-kick on the right on seventy-nine minutes but headed high over the crossbar as Griffiths put him under pressure

At the other end, Abbey and Forbes linked up once more on eighty-two minutes to play Mardenborough into space down the left. He took Koral to the byeline and attempted to chip the ball back across goal to Glover, only for Wright to make a comfortable save at his near post

The hosts were handed the chance to re-establish their lead with seven minutes to go as they were also awarded a penalty kick by Mr Naisbett, who had had a very mixed evening in the middle. Lawrie was involved once more as he picked the ball up on the right flank and played the ball into the feet of Koral, who had made a run into the box. He took a touch to take the ball away from Forbes, who shoved the defender in the back and sent him to ground. The referee had no doubt in his mind and pointed to the spot, allowing Duckworth to send Richards the wrong way with his penalty and restore Witton's lead with his second of the night

It could have been worse for the Pitmen as Richards kept Witton at bay on eighty-five minutes, palming away a sidefooted effort from Sherratt after good play from Pope and Duckworth had laid the ball back to the midfielder on the penalty spot. Pope picked up the rebound but somehow sidefooted his effort wide of the post from close range

The Pitmen's final change of the evening came a minute later as youngster Wembanvuanda Star Mayemba came on in place of the visibly tiring Glover up front


Duckworth picked up a late caution for the hosts with a minute of the game remaining as he was cautioned by Mr Naisbett for a foul on Griffiths to stop the Hednesford skipper from getting play started quickly

Another poor result and another sobering reminder of the poor situation the Pitmen have found themselves in after a torturous summer of upheaval, with large numbers of the squad continuing to demonstrate that they simply don't have the capabilities to play at the higher level of competition against another big, strong and direct NPL opponent. The Pitmen are now hovering just a point outside the relegation zone after tonight's round of games, just a point above the drop zone and facing an early season relegation six-pointer against Hanley Town at Keys Park on Saturday. A continuation of their recent woeful form and a defeat, coupled with results going against them elsewhere, could see the Pitmen drop to the foot of the table come Saturday tea-time, an astounding and unfathomable position for a huge football club like Hednesford Town to be in at this juncture

Witton Albion: Wright, Koral, Jackson, Harrison, Hitchcox, Fogerty (K. Williams 74), Lawrie, Roberts (Cain 83), Duckworth, Rokka (Pope 67), Sherratt        Subs Unused: Grewal, Mwasile


Hednesford Town: Richards, M. Williams, Kelly, Martin (69), Griffiths ©, Paddock, Gwilt, Abbey, Glover (Mayemba 86), Dixon (Forbes 45),  Mardenborough     Subs Unused: Bower, Sang, Crane

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