Southern League Playoff Winners 2004/05
Merthyr Tydfil 1-1 Hednesford Town
(Hednesford win 5-4 on penalties)
IF FATE does really play a part in determining a football club’s season, then surely Hednesford Town will be celebrating promotion this weekend.
After coming within 12 minutes of missing out on the play-offs altogether, the Pitmen are now just one game from returning to the Conference set-up.
And the manner in which they booked their place in the final suggests the footballing gods may be smiling on them.
Penalties are always a lottery by the Pitmen seemed to be blessed with super-human resolve as Lee Barrow, Mark Branch, Richard Teesdale, Leon McSweeney and Grant Beckett all despatched ice-cool spot kicks.
That, combined with an excellent save to deny Steve Williams, was enough to set up a winner-takes-all meeting with Chippenham for Chris Brindley’s men.
Chippenham themselves also came through a penalty shoot-out to see off Bedford town but they have already seen one chance of gaining promotion – as league champions – slip away from them in recent weeks.
The forward impetus instead lies with the Pitmen, who are grateful to still be in with a chance of promotion and will be determined to take it with both hands.
Key to their bid will be the outstanding defensive form of Barrow and Teesdale, who conspired to restrict Merthyr to just one goal in a difficult second half on Monday.
Hednesford had take a deserved 26th minute lead through a Barrow spot kick after Andy Bell had been sent tumbling by Jon Holloway.
But the hosts got back on level terms through Craig Steins four minutes after the break and proceeded to surge forward in search of a winner.
However, Hednesford withstood everything Merthyr could throw at them in both normal and extra time before landing a knockout blow in the penalty shoot-out.
The Pitmen deserved their luck – and let’s hope fate is on their side again on Saturday.
Hednesford Town: Young, Adams, Branch, Barrow, Teesdale, Maguire (Brannan 72), Walters, Brindley, Beckett, Bell (McMahon 116), McSweeney.
Subs not used: Evans, Campbell, Anthrobus.
Chippenham Town 0-1 Hednesford Town
THEY did it the hard way – which made much-wanted promotion to the Conference North all the more sweeter on Saturday.
Going through the play-offs has been a tough test of nerves for the players and their fantastic supporters, but they all passed with flying colours.
“We are back where we belong” overjoyed player/boss Chris Brindley said after Saturday’s play off final. “It’s a proud day”.
Some 600 away fans made the trip to Chippenham’s Hardenhuish Park ground to see their side get through with a single goal from “supersub” Paul McMahon 15 minutes from time.
Both sides had a player sent off and the Bluebirds got increasingly in a flap as the game and their chances of promotion, slipped away.
But the Pitmen lived up to their name by digging in when the going got tough especially during an agonising and seemingly endless period of time added on. Hednesford have had some look riding with them too and on Saturday they had some good fortune before a ball was kicked.
With a strong wind blowing down the slope at Hardenhuish Park, who won the toss could prove crucial. Fortunately, that honour fell to Hednesford Captain Lee Barrow who chose to play against the wind in the first half.
Both sides had a nervy first 20 minutes before Chippenham began to pile on the pressure.
But the back four of Ross Adams, Mark Branch, Richard Teesdale and Barrow stood firm and any that did get past them were dealt with by goalkeeper Ryan Young in his usual proficient style.
After the break, and now with the wind behind them, the Pitmen decided to go on the attach with Brindley leading by example to be a constant thorn in the side of the Bluebirds.
Just a minute in Brindley found Andy Bell but his shot went just wide and a Brindley header was pushed out by Mark Hervin to Bell who shot wide of the post.
Chippenham’s Ian Herring was the first player in the book for protesting too strongly to the assistant referee and when he scythed down Bell a few minutes later he had to go.
The dismissal saw the home side completely lose their rag as they kicked out and protested at every single thing.
But if it was attempt to put the Pitmen off, it backfired when McMahon, who replace Bell when he failed to recover from Herring’s tackle, put them ahead.
A deep cross from Ross Adams was headed across the goal by Brindley and there was McMahon on hand to head home and send the travelling fans wild in Wiltshire.
Chippenham could only respond with wild challenges which saw seven more of their players go in the book and a seemingly never-ending time of eight minutes was added on.
The only blip on an otherwise glorious afternoon for Hednesford was Marlon Walters’ sending-off late on for a second book-able offence.