Hednesford Town manager, Rob Smith, was gracious in defeat to his fellow promotion rivals Northwich Victoria after a game where The Pitmen went a goal down in the first half but rallied in the second and would have levelled were it not for two superb saves by Northwich goalkeeper Ben Hinchcliffe.
‘Their goal on the stroke of half time hurt us and meant we had to have a real go in the second half. We duly did and should have taken our chances better. Fair play to Northwich though, they are a very well organized team and a good side.’
In an even opening period Northwich looked strong at the back with Dom Collins in particular looking comfortable against the threat of Nick Wellecomme and Mark Beesley but it was Hednesford stalwart Cheyenne Dunkley who played with real fire in his belly. The centre-half won every ball in the air and threw himself in front of shots and into challenges like a man possessed.
Nick Wellecomme shot just wide on the turn from a Darren Campion corner on twenty minutes and Chris Clements controlled a perfectly judged Elliott Durrell cross and flashed a shot over on thirty-two minutes.
Northwich had more of the attacking possession and smothered the Pitmen midfield well but it was a frustrating misjudgment from Dunkley and Wellecomme from a long ball forward by Hinchliffe which allowed Ian Kearney space to finish past Dan Crane from six yards on forty-three minutes.
Wayne Riley had the first real opportunity of the second half for the away side as, following swift build up, he shot just wide and a fast counter attack on sixty-six minutes almost doubled The Vics lead as Dan Crane beat away a powerful shot by Ryan Wade.
Gary Hay and Ben Jevons were introduced with a quarter of the game remaining for the home side and it was from that point that The Pitmen began pressurizing the Northwich defence.
A square ball from Hay teed up Jevons on eighty-one minutes but the midfielder placed his shot and saw it superbly saved by Hinchcliffe and, with time running out, Hinchcliffe again made an outstanding block to deny Hay from ten yards as the striker hit his shot low towards goal.
Within three minutes the game had gone for Hednesford as Riley broke with pace into the area and Dunkley brought the winger down to gift the away side a penalty kick. Pitmen captain Darren Campion first argued with the linesman and then the referee before being sent off for a second bookable offence for dissent. Kyle Armstrong held his nerve and placed the ball just out of Crane’s reach to severely dent Hednesford’s hopes of a second place finish; improving Northwich’s league position considerable in the process.
Crane, Haynes (Landell 73), Campion ©, Dunkley, Johnson, Denny, Durrell (Hay 67), Clements, Wellecomme, Beesley (Jevons 67), Osborne
Subs Not Used
Hinchcliffe, Disney, Fitzpatrick, Collins, Kearney © (43), Fields, Riley, Abbott, Clarke (Evans 46), Wade (Armstrong (76 (90)), Woolfe
Subs Not Used
Rossy, Budrys, Short
Bookings – Haynes, Campion, Dunkley, Durrell, Collins, Fields
Sent Off – Campion
Attendance – 511
HT Score – 0-1
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Star Man – Jermaine Johnson