It was to be Staffordshire Senior Cup Final heartbreak for Hednesford Town after the Pitmen suffered a narrow defeat against fierce rivals Stafford Rangers in a five goal thriller at the Bet365 Stadium.
On a wet evening in Stoke it was a cautious start from both sides with neither seriously testing opposition goalkeeper in the opening exchanges.
This would all change in the 14th minute though when Hednesford failed to fully clear the ball away and Rangers midfielder Jack Sherratt controlled the ball before curling an excellent effort into the top corner of the net from 25 yards out.
This kicked Hednesford into gear and two minutes later most Pitmen fans thought they had equalised but James Lawrie’s low effort took a deflection into the side netting – rippling it as if it was a goal.
Town should have perhaps been level in the 19th minute when Anthony Dwyer broke forward down the right-hand-side and his low cross picked out Danny Glover, with the striker seeing his effort from 12 yards being superbly turned behind by Rangers goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse.
Ben Bailey headed the subsequent corner just over before James Fitgibbon cut inside and saw his shot fly narrowly wide of the Stafford goal.
An equaliser would arrive for Hednesford in the 31st minute though when a ball into the box was only cleared as far as Anthony Dwyer who took a touch before firing in an unstoppable shot from 20 yards into the roof of the net.
Kyle Perry fired a shot wide for Rangers a minute later before the Pitmen were unfortunate not to be ahead in the 34th minute when Reece King saw his shot blocked with Glover’s goalbound effort being turned behind for a corner.
Rangers would have the last chance of the half with Perry seeing a flick-on just cleared in front of the Pitmen goal.
It would be Hednesford that would start the second half on the front foot and perhaps they should have gone ahead in the 50th minute as Dwyer latched onto a loose backpass but his effort was saved by Whitehouse. From the resulting corner Glover’s downward header was blocked on the line.
On the hour mark Rangers caused some confusion in the Town box – with Josh Craddock seeing a shot deflected wide. This would ultimately lead to them going back ahead though as the corner was powered home by Perry from six yards out.
Whitehouse was called into action again in the 74th minute when Fitzgibbon drove forward before firing in an effort that was tipped just wide of the goal.
Eight minutes later a half chance came and went when Glover laid off to King but he fired his effort well wide.
This would prove crucial as in the 87th minute Rangers added a third when Robbie Thompson-Brown fired in a set piece that was flicked up into his own net by Bailey.
Just when it looked as if it was game over, Hednesford pulled a goal back in the first minute of stoppage time when Lawrie fired a cross into the box which Ben Bailey was able to turn home on the stretch.
The Pitmen now laid siege to the Rangers backline and almost equalised in the final minute of five added when the ball found its way to Glover but his shot was blocked and claimed by Whitehouse.
Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse; L Reid (Davis 65), Griffiths, Brown, Westwood; Waite (Thomas 90), Sherratt, Craddock, Perry, Thompson-Brown; Perry, McDonald (Abadaki 85)
Subs not used: Burnett, Stephenson
Hednesford Town: Wren, Curley, Campion, Bailey, Mendez-Jones, King (Butlin 85), Dwyer, Fitzpatrick (Thorley 65), Glover, Lawrie, Fitzgibbon
Subs not used: Rea, Gatter, Veiga