An eighty-seventh minute winner by Alex Melbourne gave Hednesford Town a well deserved victory against Chorley as The Pitmen continued their unbeaten start to the season and moved into second place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division, one point behind Rushall Olympic.
In last seasons corresponding fixture Chorley scored within a minute and Gary Flitcroft’s side almost opened the scoring after twenty seconds this time round as Darren Stephenson saw his shot hit the outside of the post and cannon away to safety.
The Pitmen rode the early storm and Elliott Durrell curled a measured shot inches wide of Jack Cudworth’s far post but it was the home side who drew first blood on twenty-eight minutes as Dan Crane misjudged a cross from the right and, stranded in no mans land, saw Adam Roscoe’s deflected header loop over his head and into the net.
Hednesford reacted well to going a goal down and Dave MacPherson should have equalised three minutes later when Durrell ran with purpose into the Chorley box and, as the ball fell loose, MacPherson scuffed a left footed shot into the grateful grasp of Cudworth.
The equaliser did come for the away side on the stroke of half time as MacPherson did well to win a free-kick on the edge of the area and, as The Pitmen travelling contingent complained about a wall positioned only eight yards from the ball, Nathan Woolfe curled a sumptuous left footed strike into the top corner.
Rob Smith’s team rallied before the break and Michael Lennon saw his shot on the turn deflected wide and from the resulting corner Cudworth was at full strength to tip Durrell’s cross away to safety.
The impressive and ever-willing Neil Harvey raced through the Chorley defence and brought a superb block from Cudworth on fifty minutes and the home sides keeper beat away a Durrell shot from distance on sixty-three minutes with The Pitmen pushing hard for a second goal.
Chorley struggled to really test a resolute Hednesford defence but the introduction of Ciaran Kilheeney almost paid dividends as Crane had to be at his best to keep out a powerful shot by the substitute on seventy-five minutes.
An even game looked to be drifting towards a point a piece for both promotion chasing teams but, to the credit of Rob Smith, the away side had the character and bravery to chase a winner in the final five minutes as Ben Bailey headed over from three yards after a flick on unexpectedly saw the ball fall to him at the back post.
The Pitmen supporters behind the goal looked exasperated as they thought their chance had gone but with two minutes remaining Simon Garner gave the ball away in midfield, Durrell advanced towards a retreating Chorley defence. The diminutive midfielder played in Alex Melbourne who steadied himself, and, as the ground held its collective breath, superbly slotted in past Cudworth to win the game for Hednesford.
The deserved victory for the Keys Park outfit avenged last years 5-1 thrashing which still harboured bad memories for the supporters and manager Rob Smith and has sent a strong message to the entire league that this skillful Pitmen squad also possess the character and drive to achieve great things this season.
Cudworth, Ross, Barnes (Foster 89), Teague (c), Russell, Garner, Roscoe (28), Whitham, Denham (Kilheeney 69), Stephenson, Ince
Subs Not Used
Cunliffe, Jansen, Williams
Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson, Melbourne (87), Durrell, Harvey (Minott 90), Lennon (Rey 69), Woolfe (43) (Barnes 89)
Subs Not Used
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
Star Man – Neil Harvey
Attendance – 722
Match Highlights: Chorley vs Hednesford Town (15/09/12)