A slow start to arguably Hednesford Town’s biggest game of the season so far cost them dear as sleepy defending from two set-pieces gave FC United of Manchester an unassailable advantage which, try as they might, Rob Smith’s side were always going to struggle to overturn.
The Pitmen will no doubt feel incredibly frustrated at allowing first Adam Jones to head unmarked into the net from a corner on three minutes and then Lee Neville to flick a header inside the far post ten minutes later before going on to dominate the second half.
Matthew Wolfenden could have made FC United’s lead even bigger as their leading goal scorer failed to hit the target after rounding Dan Crane on twenty-three minutes but, following an insipid end to the first half, The Pitmen found prominence after the break.
A triple substitution at half time from Rob Smith gave the home side far better impetus as Gary Hay, Mark Beesley and Ben Jevons entered the fray for the disappointing Elliott Durrell, Jamey Osborne and Nick Wellecomme.
The substitutions had an immediate effect as Jevons first saw his header palmed away by James Spencer and from the resulting corner had another opportunity but headed over the bar when well placed.
The resurgent Pitmen duly made their early second-half dominance tell with Jermaine Johnson heading beyond James Spencer from a Chris Clements corner on fifty-eight minutes to give their supporters hope of a comeback.
Keys Park passionately encouraged The Pitmen forward to secure an equaliser but FC United held strong in the face of concerted pressure from the home side.
Despite the attacking pressure FC United defended solidly and the closest The Pitmen came to an equaliser was a Chris Clements free kick which flashed over the cross bar on seventy-four minutes while Chris Shaw had to hack the ball clear of the line at the other end as FC United attacked on the counter.
Hednesford had a solid claim for a handball in the penalty area turned down by the referee before Mark Beesley saw red for an innocuous looking alleged stamp picked up by the linesman on eighty-five minutes. Pitmen boss Smith was then also ordered from the dug-out for his protestation regarding the decision.
Beesley’s sending off killed any hope of a late revival and, as the final whistle was blown, Hednesford supporters were left rueing their slow start which left their team in a very difficult situation for the rest of the game.
The Pitmen sit fourth after this result but FC United are now three points closer to them lurking just outside of the play-off spots. The four remaining home matches at Keys Park in the run-in could not be more important for Rob Smith’s team now.
Crane, Haynes, Shaw, Dunkley, Johnson (58), Denny ©, Osborne (Jevons 45), Clements, Wellecomme (Hay 45), Landell, Durrell (Beesley 45)
Subs Not Used
FC United of Manchester
Spencer, Jacobs ©, Neville (13), Cottrell, Jones (3), Stones, Mulholland (Platt 61), Wolfenden (Battersby 89), Norton, Stott, Johnson (Grimshaw 87)
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Johnson, Stones, Grimshaw
Sent Off – Beesley
Star Man – Kyle Jacobs
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
HT Score – 0-2
Attendance – 1228