Hednesford Town missed a great opportunity to put further distance between themselves and their fellow play-off rivals after taking the lead through Ben Jevons’ first half header only to see Danny South sweep in a ninetieth minute equaliser for mid-table Frickley Athletic.
The players on the pitch weren’t to know that the scores in games involving principally Marine, Bradford Park Avenue and Chorley favoured their side but had they held on for a victory Hednesford could have taken a big step in cementing their play-off credentials.
Rob Smith’s side, struggling for form following a wicked run of fixtures, mostly away from Keys Park against the top sides in the division, struggled to impose themselves on the game for long periods despite the usual sterling efforts of the goal scorer, Jevons, captain Jay Denny and the imperious Cheyenne Dunkley.
The home side enjoyed long periods of possession in the opening period and played the better football on an undulating and hard pitch without really testing Dan Crane save for a James Ashmore header which went wide on fourteen minutes.
The Pitmen’s biggest threat was via the right foot of Elliott Durrell and, with Nick Wellecomme and Mark Beesley struggling for goals in attack, Hednesford looked most likely to score from a cross or set-piece.
Jevons headed over when well placed on twenty-six minutes, Wellecomme tested Stephen Dickenson from close range before the deadlock was broken when Durrell’s corner was cleared back to him and he swung in a superb cross for Jevons to flick on into the net three minutes before half time.
A Pitmen team on form would have expected to take control of the game in the second half but, to Frickley’s credit, they pushed concertedly for an equaliser and refused to let Hednesford settle in midfield.
A major flashpoint in the second half came when South appeared to forearm smash Cheyenne Dunkley in an aerial challenge but the referee, having recognised the offence, saw fit only to yellow card the striker.
South then had fervent claims for a penalty waved away as Crane reached a through-ball seconds before he took the man down and the lively striker saw a looping header hit the top of the cross bar on seventy-seven minutes.
The Pitmen failed to hit the attacking home side on the break in the final ten minutes and, as the clock ticked into stoppage time, Crane saved well from Ryan Mallon before the ball was squared to South to sweep the ball into the net and rescue a point for his team.
The Pitmen now go into next Saturday’s away game at Whitby knowing only a win will do with their season eleven games away from conclusion. There will be more dramatic days in this play-off race but The Pitmen may look back on Saturday’s result with regret come April.
Dickinson, Cyrus (Schofield 79), Turner, Walsh, Ludlam ©, Gray, Bleau, Ashmore, South (90), Ryan (Grayson 71), Mallon,
Subs Not Used
Crane, Bailey, Haynes, Dunkley, Johnson, Denny, Durrell, Clements, Wellecomme (Hay 83), Beesley, Jevons (42) (Osborne 67)
Subs Not Used
Blakeman, Landell, Grice
Bookings – Jevons, Clements, Haynes, South
Attendance – 204
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Star Man – Jay Denny