Every Hednesford Town player, to a man, celebrated with their delighted supporters after inflicting a first home defeat of the season on league-leaders Chester in an outstanding game of football at The Exacta Stadium which now leaves Hednesford Town level on points with their vanquished opponents. Three-thousand-three-hundred-and-forty-three watched a game which ebbed and flowed and crackled with the atmosphere of a genuinely big game in the title race at the top of the Evo Stik Northern Premier.
Rob Smith, mindful of Chester’s attacking prowess this season, set up with a 4-5-1 formation but it was Chester who started the game quickly with the tall Matty McNeill the focal point in attack as both teams struggled with a very strong wind howling into the face of Dan Crane in Hednesford’s goal.
The goalkeeper was forced to beat away a shot by Antoni Sarcevic on fifteen minutes before the opening goal came on twenty-two minutes against the run of play to send the vociferous Pitmen travelling support wild. Chris Clements picked up a loose ball thirty yards out, took the ball past two defenders and from distance curled a brilliant shot into the top corner giving John Danby no chance.
The goal caused Chester to attack with further intent and, following a strong challenge on Jamey Osborne earning Christian Smith a first yellow card for the home side, Dan Crane was called into action again to deny George Horan with his legs from six yards out.
The Pitmen fought back and, as another Chester attack broke down with an unsuccessful penalty shout, a long clearance suddenly found Gary Hay through on goal and he despatched a shot into the corner to sensationally double Hednesford’s lead on thirty-four minutes.
The eighty or so Pitmen supporters were in dreamland but their mood was darkened somewhat by the hither to impressive McNeill doing his best impression of Alan Shearer in his prime as he backed into Cheyenne Dunkley and fell on the floor demanding a penalty.
The referee pointed to the spot and despite Crane coming very close to keeping it out Matthew McGinn halved the deficit on the stroke of half time.
The second half was always going to be a siege on the away sides’ goal and Chester had several opportunities to equalise but to their credit The Pitmen defended with true grit and determination.
Crane denied Michael Wilde and Smith with fantastic saves, the last coming in injury time but the save would have all been for nothing was it not for Osborne’s desperate block on the rebound.
The final whistle was blown after an agonising five minutes of stoppage time and Hednesford’s players rushed to their elated supporters to celebrate a win which, following Northwich’s draw against lowly Frickley, has blown the title race right open.
Danby, Mackin (Wilde 7), McGinn (PEN 45), Horan, Taylor, Smith, Sarcevic (Booth 53), Rainford (Simm 79), McNeil, Brown, Howard
Subs Not Used: Ormrod, Judge
Crane, Haynes, Campion, Dunkley, Bailey, Denny, Osborne, Clements (22) (Blakeman 74), Jevons, Hay (34) (Landell 84), Durrell (Beesley 64)
Subs Not Used: Robinson, Grice
Bookings – Smith, Horan
Star Man – Chris Clements
Entertainment Rating – 5 Stars
Attendance – 3343