26.1.2008

UniBond Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

R. Dyer (44), Brownhill (86) (OG)

Witton Albion

Warlow (45), Thornley (63)

(1) 2

(1) 2

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Ben Brown

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Frickley Athletic (A) 2.2.08

Hednesford chalked up their third draw in a row in the UniBond Premier League but can be pleased with this particular point earned against runaway league leaders Witton Albion at Keys Park this afternoon

 

 The revolving door of ins and outs continued for the Pitmen as Phil Starbuck yet again handed a debut out, this time to giant striker Rory May after his midweek switch from Midland Alliance side Stratford Town with Mario Pedro making way to accommodate the 6ft 7" target man. Anthony Maguire was also dropped with skipper Paul Robinson available again to replace him after a ban following his red card against Marine earlier in the month. Wayne Dyer was passed fit to take his place on the bench after missing the past two games through a combination of suspension and injury

Witton's domination of the UniBond Premier League had seen them extend their lead at the top of the table to twelve points last week courtesy of a 2-1 win over Ilkeston Town two weeks ago. manager Jim Vince has largely stuck with the same team for much of this season, one of the main reasons why Witton have been able to be so consistent this term. There was only one change to the sie that had started against Ilson with Rob Lloyd coming in for Alex Brown in midfield

Veteran winger - David Eyres - making his home debut and playing in a more orthodox wide role than he did against Eastwood Town, was first to test Witton with a rasping corner that was missed by everyone as it flew across the face of goal in the second minute 

Witton goalkeeper Jon Kennedy was on hand to deny Chad Sheppard his second goal in two games three minutes later as he made a smart save to his left to deny the midfielder after Sheppard had driven a shot at goal from twenty yards out

Witton hit back with a great flowing move that saw their top scorer Adam Warlow put the ball past another home debutant, Ben Scott from close range in the ninth minute of the game after being played through on goal by former Pitman Dave MacPherson. However, Warlow's celebrations were premature as the goal was disallowed by referee Mr Smith for offside

Mark Peers, who scored the winner in last season's corresponding fixture for Witton, fired just over with a free-kick after ten minutes as Witton started to turn the screw on the Hednesford defence

Scott was enjoying a better game than his indifferent debut for the Pitmen last weekend and made a smart save to deny Warlow on fifteen minutes to claim the striker's downward header

 

Big striker May had his first chance in a Hednesford shirt four minutes later but pulled his shot well wide of goal from ten yards out after being set up well by Sam Hall's fine run and pass

Warlow testing Scott once again midway through the first period as his quick reactions saw him latch onto a long Tony Barras pass ahead of Paul Robinson, before firing low to Scott's right and forcing the former Lincoln United man into a good save

 

May was guilty of wasting another good opening for the hosts on twenty-six minutes as he firing high over the crossbar after a good ball into his feet by Eyres

 

Six minutes later, May thought he should have had a penalty after Barras appeared to have brought him down in the area in a battle of the heavyweights - nothing was given, however as Mr Smith gestured for May to get back to his feet and the game continued

A tricky run from Peers on thirty-six minutes saw him get the better of both Tom Birch and Robinson, only for a last-ditch challenge from Chris White to te-poke the ball away from the dangerous forward

You would have put money on the prolific Warlow scoring five minutes from the break when Rod Thornley's ball set him up for a simple shot, but he pulled it wide of goal with the net at his mercy when many in the ground expected him to slot the ball home

Hednesford took full advantage of this by taking the lead just a minute before the break; Ross Dyer outmuscled two challenges on the edge of the area, before drawing Kennedy out at his near post and steered a right-foot shot into the far corner of the net. Another fine individual goal from the talented youngster

However, the Pitmen could not hang on to their lead into half-time as Warlow grabbing a fortunate equaliser in added time. Warlow's initial snapshot from ten yards out was cleared off the line by Ben Brown initially, only for the ball to fall kindly to the striker once more who scuffed his rebound over Brown's head and into the net as Brown attempted to clear his lines

Three minutes into the second period, May continued to add his tally of missed chances as the striker guilty of pulling yet another shot wide of Kennedy's left-hand post from a good position after Hall had played him into space

 

Dyer could have snatched his second of the game on fifty-three minutes but fired over after controlling a fine long throw-in from the impressive Ben Brown and turning past Barras

An error from Eyres three minutes later almost cost the Pitmen dearly, as his misplaced pass down the left allowed Peers to steal possession and fire a deflected shot just over the bar with Scott beaten

 

Witton's pressure was building as the half progressed, with Thornley becoming more and more involved in the game after a quiet first period. On fifty-nine minutes, his powerful run straight through the centre of the park saw him get past both White and Sheppard before he lifted his shot over the crossbar from nearly thirty yards out 

Two minutes later, the ineffective Sheppard was hooked by Starbuck after a poor game in the centre of midfield and was replaced by the rangy figure of Wayne Dyer

 It was no surprise when the visitors took the lead just after the hour mark after another spell of pressure on the Hednesford goal. A speculative shot from Thornley found its way all the way through to goal, with Scott unsighted by several players in front of him and allowing Thornley's daisy-cutter to roll past him and nestle into the corner of the net. A soft, soft goal to concede and the sort of goal that goes your way when your form and confidence is up

Starbuck's reaction to going behind for the first time in the game was to bring the mercurial Pedro on down the left-wing in place of Hall to add more guile to his attack

 

May failed to test Witton's resolve once again on sixty-six minutes as he got on the end of a run and pass from Wayne Dyer, but his weakly-struck shot was well blocked by Barras

Ben Brown underlined his man of the match performance with a fine - but risky - sliding tackle on Warlow on seventy minutes, poking the ball away from the striker in the Hednesford penalty area in a timely fashion to deny Warlow a clear shot at goal

Alan Nagington was brought on in favour of the tiring Eyres on seventy-three minutes as Starbuck looked to add more attacking intent to his side, who had struggled to create clear-cut openings in the second half

 

Pedro got in on the action four minutes later with a shot that sailed wide of Kennedy's far post as he managed to create space for himself just inside the Witton penalty area

 

Scott denied Peers with a fine save on eighty minutes, pushing the striker's bringing shot away from his right-hand post to concede a corner kick in the process

Warlow was also denied by Scott three minutes later as his powerfully-hit effort from the penalty spot was instinctively turned away from goal by the goalkeeper

To the Pitmen's credit however, they continued to plug away manfully and nearly equalised sixty seconds later as Ben Brown headed a corner kick from Pedro inches wide of the far post from a couple of yards out

With four minutes remaining, the hosts got the equaliser they so desired as Dyer initially forced Kennedy into a great save from close range; the ball bounced across the face of goal from the save, with the back-tracking Liam Brownhill only succeeding in putting the ball into his own net with Nagington putting him under pressure from close-range

The Pitmen had their tails up and went in search of an unlikely winning goal in the final moments as Witton simply held on. Wayne Dyer was wasteful with a rebounded shot over the crossbar after a Pedro corner was cleared as far as him on the edge of the penalty area before Ross Dyer was beaten to a lovely through ball from Ross Adams by Kennedy in added time

A fair point for both sides, who both had good spells in the game and could have won it with a bit more composure in front of goal. This leaves the Pitmen down in twelfth place in the table and still struggling to shake off their frustratingly inconsistent form. However, this was a fine performance against a Witton side that has swept all aside so far this season and offers a glimpse of the potential quality in the Hednesford squad when they have the bit between their teeth. It is another away day next for Starbuck's men, who travel up to Yorkshire next weekend to face rock-bottom Frickley Athletic

Hednesford Town: Scott, B. Brown, Adams, White, Robinson ©, Birch, Hall (Pedro 65), Sheppard (W. Dyer 61), May, R. Dyer, Eyres (Nagington 73)      Subs Unused: None

Witton Albion: Kennedy, Coo, Brownhill, Pritchard, Barras ©, Brodie, MacPherson, Lloyd, Thornley (Evans 83), Warlow (Rutter 88), Peers      Sub Unused: Kearney