Elliott Durrell’s 66th minute penalty, his fifth successful spot kick in four matches, settled an even game at Keys Park to take The Pitmen to within just one point of North Ferriby United after the league-leaders surrendered a two goal lead against Rushall Olympic.
An attendance of nearly 1000 created a bubbling atmosphere within Keys Park but it was a calm head in the form of Durrell who stepped up to convert from the spot, after Lee Neville had fouled Sean O’Connor in the area.
Hednesford boss Rob Smith reserved special praise for his diminutive midfielder who scored his 17th goal of the season after a long wait to take the kick following O’Connor’s lengthy treatment.
‘You’ve got to take your hat off to Elliott. It was a pressure penalty just like last week. He had a quiet game but he’s scored again and I was especially pleased with our reaction at seeing out the game after we scored.’
Karl Marginson, FC United manager, rued the opportunity his team missed in the first half after a poorly placed Durrell pass-back but is confident his team can recover and mount a charge for the play-off places.
‘If we had taken our chances, especially in the first half, the game would have been very different. It was a big game that was always going to hinge on one or two opportunities but we are in a good place to build on our position in the next few matches.’
In a relatively even first half, amid a vociferous atmosphere, both teams struggled to get a foothold in the match with the away side perhaps shading exchanges, making the most of a lack of bite in midfield from Hednesford.
Mike Norton latched onto a perfectly judged, but purely unintentional, Durrell ball through towards his own keeper and it was only the swift reactions of Dan Crane that prevented Jerome Wright finishing at the near post on 17 minutes after Francino Francis’ goal-line clearance.
Positive play by Hednesford left-back Darren Campion set up Aaron Rey to turn and shoot just wide on 36 minutes but, after Harvey had seen an overhead kick roll inches wide before half-time, the game turned on a penalty decision when Lee Neville was adjudged to be climbing over Sean O’Connor.
After the striker had received lengthy treatment on the pitch Durrell, despite considerable goading from FC United goalkeeper James Spencer, sent him the wrong way and made it 1-0 to the home side.
The Pitmen professionally saw the victory out to close the gap at the summit of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division to one point with their first ever victory over The Red Rebels in six attempts.
Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Francis, Melbourne, Osborne, Durrell (66p), Harvey, Rey, Woolfe
Subs Not Used
FC United of Manchester
Spencer, Jacobs ©, Neville, Chalmers, Jones, Stott, Wolfenden, Krou, Norton, Wright, Cottrell
Subs Not Used
Cheetham, Carr, Giggs
Bookings – Melbourne, Norton, O’Connor
Attendance – 929
Star Man – Francino Francis
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars