Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town


Witton Albion

Foley (70) (penalty)

(0) 0

(0) 1



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Ben Bailey




Farsley Celtic (H) 1.1.19

The Pitmen's descent down the league table continued this afternoon at Keys Park, as caretaker/manager Francino Francis suffered a fourth successive league defeat since taking over last month courtesy of a narrow defeat to Witton Albion at Keys Park


Francis was able to call upon the services of the returning Ben Bailey for today's league clash, having missed out on the services of the experienced centre-back last weekend due to International Clearance. Bailey was one of a number of changes to the side that had been taken apart in last weekend's local derby at Stafford Rangers, with Reece King, Osebi Abadaki, Matt Dodd and Joel Logan all restored to the side in place of Ryan Shaw, Michael Howard, Jack Hallahan, Romario Martin and Rudy Misambo. Striker Lewis Archer was passed fit to take his place amongst the substitutes after a spell out injured


Witton - in a false position in the table in seventeenth place - were unbeaten in their previous four games, having beaten Marine last weekend at the Marine Travel Arena. Carl Macauley's side were able to call upon the striking talents of both Rob Hopley and Will Jones, both a thorn in previous Hednesford sides for other clubs as they looked to extend their unbeaten run and move further up the table with games in hand on teams around them


 It was a reasonably comfortable afternoon weather-wise, as the temperatures held up and the sun peeked out of the clouds to offer unseasonably mild weather for the time of year. the crowd of 303 was perhaps a little more than were perhaps previously expected, due to the time of year and the unconvincing league positions of both clubs. The Pitmen made a swift start to the game, winning a couple of early corner kicks with Nathan Fox heavily involved down the left flank. From a corner on seven minutes, Fox was to have the first chance of the game, as Davies rolled the ball into the path of the left-back, whose fierce shot from the edge of the penalty area was turned over by Witton keeper Greg Hall for another corner


Witton's first chance fell to the feet of James Foley on fifteen minutes, as Bailey's attempted clearance rebounded kindly to the Witton man on the corner of the six-yard box. Foley's cross-cum-shot beat Josef Bursik at his near post, but dribbled across the face of goal and was cleared by Fox


Logan won a free-kick for the Pitmen on the edge of the Witton penalty area on twenty minutes after one of his tricky runs, with Davies taking the subsequent kick and sending over a cross that was only inches away from being turned in at the far post by Charlie Gatter


The Pitmen looked far more accomplished in the midfield area having made the bold double change of dropping Shaw and Hallahan after last weekend's horror show, with King doing well after being restored to the side to offer Davies far more protection than was offered at Marston Road. Bailey gave the defence more stability than it had shown in recent outings too, organising the team well after he had been handed the captaincy of the side once more


The action was limited for most of the rest of the first half, as neither side offered much in the way of quality of attacking prowess. In the fortieth minute, a neat piece of play from the Pitmen saw Dodd send over a low cross from the wing, which Cockerline did well to control and lay into the path of Davies. The midfielder slipped the ball back into the path of Cockerline, who produced a fine piece of skill to turn the Witton defence and fire in a low shot that was well saved by Hall


Witton started the second half with purpose, lifting two shots over the crossbar in quick succession as the Pitmen twice failed to effectively clear their lines inside their own penalty area


In the fifty-fifth minute, a Davies corner was partially cleared by the Witton defence and fell at the feet of Abadaki, who lifted his shot over the crossbar from twelve yards out with the Witton defence closing him down


 A swift break from Witton three minutes later caught the Pitmen out down the right, with Hopley's progress checked by a last-ditch tackle from Bailey. Hopley picked up the rebound and pulled the ball back into the six-yard box towards substitute Jones. Bursik did well to smother the initial cross before making a fine block to deny Hopley at his near post as the striker showed plenty of perseverance


A long throw from Bailey found the head of King on sixty-one minutes, who managed to get on the end of his own downward header and attempt a shot on goal, only to be denied a clear shot by some last-ditch defending from the away side


Cockerline did well to reach a deep free-kick from Davies on sixty-three minutes, heading towards goal as he met the inswinging ball but was denied by a simple save from Hall


The Pitmen made their first change of the afternoon on sixty-five minutes, with the on-loan winger Logan struggling for fitness and being replaced by Archer down the left flank


The visitors were handed a golden opportunity to snatch the lead in a drab encounter on seventy minutes, as Foley was brought down by Davies in the penalty area as the midfielders challenged for Hopley's flick-on. The referee awarded the away side a penalty kick with Foley confidently firing past Bursik from twelve yards out to hand Witton the lead


There was plenty of huff and puff from the Pitmen in the next few minutes as they looked to get back into the game, although a poor pass from Bailey handed Witton a glorious chance to put the game beyond the Pitmen on seventy-five minutes as Hopley seized upon the skipper's wayward pass to run in behind the Hednesford defence and fire past Bursik, only to be denied by the outside of the post


With ten minutes remaining, the flagging Dodd was replaced down the right wing by Howard, who could probably feel slightly aggrieved at not starting the game after a fine run of form


With five minutes remaining, the Pitmen made their third and final change of the afternoon with Martin coming on in place of Abadaki to add another forward player to the mix


Witton almost ended the Pitmen's resistance with a minute remaining, as left-back Matty Devine broke in behind the Pitmen's back-line and pulled the ball back into the six-yard box, only for Hopley and Jones to both miss the ball as they ran into the penalty area


A late set of corners from the Pitmen failed to produce the equaliser they were looking for, as Witton held on well to claim another three points to move up the league table


Another home game, another depressing and familiar performance from the Pitmen, who are, yet again, undone by a typical Northern League away performance from Albion, who eased to a win over a side severely lacking in overall quality in most positions. Francis has proved himself unable to steady the ship in four successive league defeats, thus opening up the need for a permanent and experienced manager to move the Pitmen away from the dreaded drop-zone before they drop into it through a difficult January schedule


Hednesford Town: Bursik, Dawes, Fox, Bailey ©, Gatter, King, Dodd (Howard 80), Davies, Cockerline, Abadaki (Martin 85), Logan (Archer 65)    Subs Unused: Hallahan, Shaw


Witton Albion: Hall, Gardner, Devine, Wardle, Humphries, Lussey, Smart, Owens, Hopley ©, Cobley (Jones 54), Foley     Subs Unused: Lingouba, Booth, Yates, Wilson


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