Hednesford Town’s gallant promotion push faltered in the first half and crashed in the second as Bradford Park Avenue scored five goals with no reply with The Pitmen resigning themselves to a third play off heartbreak in consecutive seasons.
There was doubt as to whether the game would even go ahead with the torrential rain seen throughout the country in the run up to the match and it was the home side who dealt with a muddy surface the better throughout the match.
In a relatively even first quarter of the game both sides traded corners but, due to the incessant downpour and blustery conditions, judging set pieces was proving difficult.
The game came alive on twenty-six minutes however and there was huge controversy as Richard Marshall fell under supposed contact from Cheyenne Dunkley on the right hand edge of Hednesford’s penalty area. Under instruction from his linesman the referee awarded a hugely debatable penalty for the home side and, to rub more salt into The Pitmen’s wounds, Dunkley was booked and Marshall converted.
The away side reacted well to their perceived injustice and Chris Clements forced John Lamb into a superb save to tip his shot onto the inside of the post on the half hour mark.
Two further Hednesford corners followed as they gamely searched for an equaliser before a familiar problem resurfaced and lax marking at a corner on forty-minutes allowed Adam Clayton to jump well and head into the net to double Bradford’s lead.
The Pitmen were given a lifeline to get back into the game on the stroke of half time as Dunkley fell in the area and Clements, usually so reliable from the spot, struck his penalty low but saw Lamb make an outstanding save to preserve Bradford’s vital two goal lead.
The penalty miss was to prove a crucial turning point in the match as, after the break, Hednesford recent lack of threat up front became obvious and the introduction of Gary Hay and Mark Beesley caused no further problems for the home side.
Dan Crane had to make a quality early save in the second half but could do nothing about Martin Drury’s third goal on sixty-three minutes and a Jay Denny red card for a high tackle and two further goals by James Knowles and a second for Marshall at the death twisted the knife for the away contingent.
The Pitmen’s season came to a disappointing end but the frustration from the supporters of Hednesford will no doubt come from the fact that in the last three matches of the season their goal tally reads zero. Had Clements not seen his penalty so well saved at 2-0, a famous comeback may have been on but it’s a long summer to reflect for Rob Smith and Larry Chambers after yet more play off heart ache.
Bradford Park Avenue
Lamb, Clayton (41), Drury (63), Daly (James 52), Knowles ©, Riley (Dempsey 62), Davidson, Hotte, Marshall (26 PEN, 89), Deacy, Boshell (Matthews 75)
Subs Not Used
Crane, Haynes, Shaw, Dunkley, Johnson, Denny ©, Osborne, Clements (Jevons 74), Wellecomme, Durrell (Hay 58), Campion (Beesley 58)
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Dunkley, Clements, Beesley,
Sent Off – Denny
Star Man – Richard Marshall
Attendance – 609