21.4.2012

Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

Hednesford Town

Worksop Town

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Dan Crane

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Bradford (Park Avenue) (A) 28.4.12

Hednesford Town clinched a third successive season of play-off action his afternoon, as Rob Smith's side earned the point they needed to seal a fifth-placed finish in this season's Evo-Stik Northern Premier League

With the Pitmen looking to end the season on a high, manager Rob Smith made two changes to the side that had limped to a goalless draw with North Ferriby United on Tuesday night. Midfielder Ben Jevons came in at the expense of striker Nick Wellecomme, whilst Darren Campion replaced Elliott Durrell in wide midfield

The hosts made a bright start, winning a succession of corner kicks and free kicks in the opening five minutes. However, a well-drilled and well-disciplined Worksop defence denied any of Hednesford's big men coming forward a sniff at goal

Indeed, it was Worksop who came back into the game and played some neat football during an impressive opening quarter, winning a number of their own set-pieces. Jamie Jackson went closest to opening the scoring for the Tigers on ten minutes, heading a cross over the crossbar under pressure from Cheyenne Dunkley

Eight minutes later, Dan Crane was called upon for the first time in the afternoon to make a smart stop to hold a shot from Ash Burbeary that was struck from the edge of the penalty area

As per usual, all of the Pitmen's attacking threat came through the creative influence of Chris Clements, who again threatened to add to his sixteen goals this season, On nineteen minutes, his quick feet engineered an opening from twenty-five yards after robbing Chris Wood of the ball, but his swerving effort narrowly cleared the crossbar

Dunkley's miscued drive from a Clements corner was as close as the Pitmen came to scoring during the remainder of the first half, as Worksop were the more dangerous going forwards as the game headed towards half time

Crane made a superb save to deny Matty Young on the half-hour mark, making a smart stop to deny the midfielder with a save low down. this was followed almost immediately by a block to save from Jamie Jackson

The visitors were certainly turning the screw at this point in the game, and Clements was forced into a goal-line clearance to deny Jackson again on thirty-eight minutes

Talented former Carlton Town striker Massiah McDonald was last to test the reflexes of Crane at the end of the first half, firing in a shot that was deflected towards goal. Crane did well to readjust his body and claw the shot away from goal and keep the Pitmen on level terms

Half time brought news of FC United of Manchester easily beating crisis club Northwich Victoria, meaning the Pitmen could ill-afford a Worksop goal in the second half. Indeed, Smith and Larry Chambers took the step of adding to their attacking threat by putting on Wellecomme up front in place of the ineffective Jevons

The tactical move gave the Pitmen more balance and in Wellecomme a target to hit playing the ball forwards. Mark Beesley had offered very little in an isolated position up front against the well-organised Worksop back line and needed a partner up front to offer some kind of goal threat

Chris Shaw made a rare move forwards after the Pitmen had won a corner kick on fifty-two minutes, picking up a loose ball but firing straight at experienced Tigers keeper Mario Zaccardi

Wellecomme was making a nuisance of himself with his height and power, knocking a ball into the path of Clements on sixty minutes. However, the midfielder wanted too much time on the ball and was crowded out before he could test Zaccardi with a shot from range

Despite this mini period of pressure, Worksop continued to look dangerous going forward, with McDonald again testing Crane on sixty-four minutes with a low drive that the stopper turned away for a corner kick to the visitors

The same player tested Crane with a less venomous shot five minutes later, as news continued to filter in that FC United of Manchester were more than likely to grab all three points with a dominant display against Northwich. This made the Pitmen nervous, as their side had nothing in hand and was relying on their defence to keep out a Worksop attack that was offering more than their own misfiring forward line

Johnson incurred the wrath of the referee on sixty-nine minutes, as the burly defender unceremoniously brought down Jackson as he looked to get away from the Hednesford defender - this caution was to cost Johnson as the game drew to a close

After yet another stop from Crane, this time from a shot by Jackson, the Pitmen made their second change of the afternoon up front; Andre Landell was introduced in place of Beesley, who had found it hard work to break down a resolute Tigers defensive line

The final ten minutes saw Hednesford push forward in fits and starts, as the expected onslaught failed to materialise. Campion gambled with one run forward, firing towards goal with a drive from the left. Zaccardi made a save at his near post, with the ball bouncing off his face and away from danger

Johnson's earlier yellow card was to prove costly with a couple of minutes remaining, as Worksop attempted to catch the Pitmen on the counter-attack with a long ball over the top. Jackson scampered away from the Hednesford back line, leaving Johnson to pull the striker back as he was clean through on goal, just a couple of yards outside the penalty area. The referee had little choice but to send Johnson off, as he was the last man and already booked. Yet another red card in what has become a shameful campaign for this club with regards discipline

Keen to protect the point they needed, Hednesford brought on Ben Bailey for Jamey Osborne immediately to shore up the defence, dealing well with the free-kick that followed Johnson's red card

After seeing out time, there were muted celebrations at the final whistle from Hednesford players and supporters alike; a play-off place had been confirmed with this draw, but a season of so much promise had threatened to implode on them just a couple of weeks previously. A trip to Bradford (Park Avenue) now awaits for the side next Saturday, although a late appeal by Northwich Victoria may complicate matters in the coming week. Either way, the Pitmen can be sure of a semi-final appearance after today's limp draw

Hednesford Town: Crane, Haynes, Shaw, Dunkley, Johnson   (88), Denny ©, Osborne (Bailey 87), Clements, Beesley (Landell 75), Jevons (Wellecomme 45), Campion      Subs Unused: Blakeman, Ordish

Worksop Town: Ziccardi, Wood, Warlow , Young, Miller, Cotterill ©, Beeson (Nightingale 80), Melton (Sharry 68), McDonald, Jackson, Burbeary (King 73)      Subs Not Used: Taylor, Cuff

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