31.3.2018

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Witton Albion

Hopley (7), (83), Tames (20) (penalty)

Hednesford Town

(2) 3

.

(0) 0

Attendance

MoTM

Current Form

Next Match

294

Callam Mendez-Jones

D W L D L L W L D L

Buxton (H) 5.4.18

The Pitmen's faint play-off hopes are all but extinguished this afternoon, as a dreadful opening twenty minutes from Rob Smith's struggling side saw them relinquish all three points to Witton Albion this afternoon at Wincham Park

 

 Injuries in the past week to James Fitzgibbon and Sam Oji had left Smith with very few options in his squad ahead of the game, with Charlie Gatter coming back into the side in place of the hamstring Oji. With Fitzgibbon also missing out due to a back problem, Smith could only muster four substitutes from the rest of his squad, with Jose Veiga returning to the squad after playing for Leamington last weekend

 

Witton were looking to get their own play-off hopes back on track, following a surprise defeat in midweek at home to relegation-threatened Halesowen Town. Manager Carl McAuley made a number of changes to his side but stuck with his experienced step three forward line of Rob Hopley, Will Jones and Steve Tames as he looked for a response from his side

 

In front of a surprisingly sparse crowd at Wincham Park, the Pitmen thought that they had made the perfect start to the game in just the second minute, as Tom Thorley - playing in a more advanced role - swept the ball past Calvin Hare from close range after a cross from Jack Rea, only to be denied the opening goal by an offside flag

 

Witton started to take control of the game after this early warning, and scored with their first real effort on goal on seven minutes; top scorer Rob Hopley did well to bring the ball down, fifteen yards from goal, before turning Ben Bailey and firing confidently home past James Wren for his seventeenth league goal of the season

 

It could have easily been 2-0 to the hosts a minute later, as Wren made a fine save with his feet to deny James Foley a certain second goal for the home side. The rebound rolled towards the empty net, but Gatter was on hand to hack the ball away

 

The Pitmen were wobbling badly, with Gatter and Bailey struggling to stem the flow of Witton's attacks. Jones reached a deep cross from Anthony Gardner on nine minutes but headed straight into the grateful arms of Wren at the far post

 

A header from Michael Wilson following a free kick from Foley flew just over the crossbar on thirteen minutes, followed two minutes later by a bobbled effort from Owens that drifted well wide of goal after he had found a pocket of space on the edge of the Hednesford penalty area

 

The hosts essentially killed off the game as a contest with a killer second goal on twenty minutes, however, as the Pitmen once again were their own worst enemies in defence. A knockdown in the Hednesford penalty area was seized upon by Foley, who was felled by Matt Curley as he entered the box. On closer inspection, it appeared that no contact was made and the Witton midfielder dived to earn the spot-kick. Tames placed the ball on the spot and sent Wren the wrong way from the spot to double Witton's advantage and leave the Pitmen with a mountain to climb

 

The Pitmen's response came in the form of a neat passage of play around the Witton penalty area on twenty-seven minutes, which culminated with Joe Fitzpatrick shotting high over the crossbar from twenty yards out

The midfielder repeated this feat five minutes later, firing high over the crossbar after a James Lawrie corner was cleared as far as the former Telford man

 

Despite the two-goal setback, the Pitmen started to come back into the game in the closing stages of the half, with Danny Glover doing well to chest a high ball down and into the path of Lawrie, whose shot was well wide of Hare's goal on thirty-six minutes

 

Callam Mendez-Jones did well to deny Witton a third goal on forty minutes, putting the ball out for a corner kick to deny Jones a clear shot on goal from six yards following a cross in from the Witton right wing

 

From the resultant corner kick, the ball was cleared as far as Owens by Glover, whose shot was pucked out of the air by Wren at his near post

 

Half-time saw the Pitmen forced into a change as their injury problems continued to stack up alarmingly, with Curley limping off and being replaced by Joey Butlin. This saw a major reshuffle of the side, with Thorley dropping back to right-back and Mendez-Jones moving across to cover at left-back

 

Despite this blow, the Pitmen started the half really well, playing neat, incisive football and pushing Witton back into their own third. An impressive move involving eight players saw the Pitmen produce a chance for the in-form Glover on forty-seven minutes, with Fitzpatrick's cross chested down by the striker before he attempted an ambitious overhead kick that flew wide of the post

 

 A quick break from Witton almost caught the Pitmen out on fifty-five minutes, as Tames broke free down the left wing, pulling the ball back to Owens. His drag back towards Hopley saw Bailey on his toes to hack the ball away from goal, deni=ying Hopley a second goal of the game

 

There was to be even more injury worries for the Pitmen on the hour mark, as Glover and Hare clashed in the Witton penalty area, leaving both players on the deck. Both players continued with the game after treatment, but it became clear to all that Glover was struggling as he manfully played on holding his side

 

 Fitzpatrick was denied a goal for the Pitmen on sixty-four minutes, as his half-volley from fifteen yards out was blocked by Danny McKenna en route to goal

 

 Jack Rea - still improving his stamina after recently joining the Pitmen - tried his luck with a firmly-struck effort on seventy minutes that was easily saved by Hare

 

Glover eventually had to concede defeat on his injury on seventy-two minutes, as he headed off to the medical room with what was alleged to be a cracked rib. Glover was replaced by Reece King, which again saw a reshuffle of the side as King slotted into a midfield role, leaving Butlin up front on his own

 

Wren was again on hand to deny Hopley two minutes later, plucking the striker's header out of the air after Hopley had met a cross from Tames inside the six-yard box

 

The Pitmen made their third and final change of the afternoon on seventy-seven minutes, with Rea replaced by Louis Harris in the centre of midfield

 

 Witton added some gloss to their win with a third goal on eighty-three minutes, a strike that was somewhat harsh on the Pitmen after a fairly dominant second-half display with the ball. Owens got the better of Gatter down the left flank, crossing well for Hopley, who headed beyond Wren with a free header from six yards out to secure the points for Witton

 

Lawrie summed up the Pitmen's luck and performance a minute later, as he did well to steal the ball off Hare after some dithering in the Witton defence, only to scuff his shot narrowly wide of goal when presented with an empty net

 

A curling effort from Anthony Dwyer went close for the away side on eighty-six minutes, before Lawrie was to have the Pitmen's final effort of the game two minutes later, twisting inside the penalty area to create room for himself, but fired wide of goal

 

The Pitmen paid the price once again for a poor start to the game, with Witton's front three the difference between the sides as Albion inch towards the play-offs with all three points. Injuries to Glover and Curley now mean the Pitmen are down to thirteen fit players ahead of Monday's derby against Liam McDonald's Rushall Olympic, unless one of the four injured players makes a miraculous recovery in the next forty-eight hours. Tough times, and tough decisions, ahead for Smith and Larry Chambers ahead of a busy week at Keys Park, with five games in the next eleven days, all at home

 

Witton Albion: Hare, Gardner, McKenna, Humphreys, Wilson, Foley, Lingouba (Ryan 80), Owens (Williams 88), Hopley ©, Jones (Evans 72), Tames   Unused Subs: Neild, Devine

 

Hednesford Town: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley (Butlin 45), Bailey, Gatter, Fitzpatrick, Rea (Harris 77), Dwyer, Glover (King 72), Thorley ©, Lawrie    Unused Sub: Veiga

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