Hednesford Town 2-1 Stafford Rangers

 Hednesford Town recorded a league double over Staffordshire rivals Stafford Rangers for the first time in six years as the Pitmen moved to within four points of the play-offs following this 2-1 victory.

Manager Rob Smith was able to welcome back striker Danny Glover into his squad after serving a one game suspension, and he replaced Edji Mbunga who departed the club early on New Year’s Day to sign for Redditch United.

Although Hednesford forced an early corner it was actually the visitors who showed the more attacking intent in the opening exchanges with Pitmen defender Sam Oji making a great last ditch tackle to deny Rangers’ Osebi Abadaki in the eighth minute.

Four corners over the course of the next ten minutes followed for Stafford but the Pitmen were able to deal with all of them.

The breakthrough would come for the home side just before the half hour mark when Mason Walsh drove past Sam Griffiths and his pinpoint cross found Joey Butlin who planted a header back across goal and into the corner of the net.

Hednesford goalkeeper James Wren was forced into action in the 32nd minute to deny Abadaki before Butlin saw an effort at the other end turned behind for a corner five minutes later.

Right on the stroke of halftime Hednesford doubled their lead in somewhat strange circumstances. A corner picked out defender Charlie Gatter whose high looping effort deceived Adam Whitehouse in the Rangers goal and found the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.

HT: 2-0

Six minutes into the second half a rasping effort from Massiah McDonald was kept out by Wren as Rangers looked for a way back into the game.

The Pitmen were looking strong going forward with James Fitzgibbon and Walsh both testing their respective fullbacks. Stafford meanwhile saw two efforts flash right across the Hednesford penalty area with Wren not tested.

The visitors would reduce the arrears in the 74th minute though when Abadaki got to the bye-line and his low cross in was slid into his own net by Callam Mendez-Jones.

Rangers were perhaps fortunate not to be reduced to ten men in the 84th minute when Matthew Bailey jumped in on Matt Curley – however a yellow card was produced instead.

Right on the stroke of the 90th minute Hednesford almost put the game beyond doubt as James Lawrie played a short freekick to Danny Glover but his low effort hit the post and went wide.

The home side also had appeals for a penalty turned away in the fourth minute of stoppage time and although Rangers launched balls forward into the Town box the backline held firm to see Hednesford record their third victory inside a week.

Hednesford Town: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley, Fitzpatrick (Taylor 88), Oji, Gatter, Walsh (King 69), Thorley, Butlin (Glover 73), Lawrie, Fitzgibbon
Subs not used: Graham, Mutton 

Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Griffiths, Davis, Craddock, Bailey, Brown, Abadaki (Hawley 90), Sherratt (Westwood 58), McDonald, Thompson-Brown (Thomas 77), Batchelor
Subs not used: I Reid, L Reid 

Attendance: 892

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