A triumphant atmosphere emanated from the loyal Pitmen faithful, who had travelled in their numbers on Friday evening to support their side, as they saw their side win 2-0 and leap frog FC United of Manchester to put real pressure on the stuttering Red Rebels in their game against Matlock on Saturday afternoon.
However, the play off standings were bizarrely turned on their head half way through the second half when news filtered through that Northwich Victoria were to be expelled from the league at the end of the season for financial irregularities and therefor unable to be promoted, moving Bradford, Chorley, Hednesford and FC United up a place and effectively meaning a win for The Pitmen, who were 1-0 up at the time, would almost guarantee them a play off place.
Rob Smith’s team, fresh from a morale boosting derby victory against Chasetown on Easter Monday, duly delivered. Their performance was one of true grit, smattered with a touch of class, rarely seen at this level, by the diminutive Chris Clements.
Sam Craven, covering Jermaine Johnson’s continued absence at the back for The Pitmen was stretchered off with a serious looking ligament injury on twenty-five minutes, causing Ben Jevons to drop into an unfamiliar role at centre half alongside Cheyenne Dunkley.
Hednesford supporters had no cause for alarm however as both players turned in imperious displays as Northwich, most notably through the impressive distribution of goalkeeper Ben Hinchliffe, released a volley of aerial balls into the box and also into the right and left channels for Kyle Haynes and Chris Shaw to also deal with admirably.
Despite seeing less of the ball in the first half The Pitmen had the best chance when, on forty-one minutes, a slip by Kyle Armstrong allowed Mark Beesley to sprint through on goal, only for the forward to hesitate, try and round Hinchliffe and see his eventual shot blocked on the line.
The second period saw Crane make an acrobatic save to tip over Michael Clarke’s header before Clements took centre stage as the supporters behind the goal screamed at him to square the ball for the advancing Elliott Durrell, the ‘Evo-Stik Young Player of the Year’ calmly turned on a six pence, engineered a yard of space and caressed the ball into the corner past a helpless Hinchliffe.
The Pitmen faithful rightly went berserk as the ball hit the net and then came the news through Twitter and the league website that Northwich’s season was as good as over, pending an appeal of course, before Durrell sealed the win with a low shot on eighty-minutes.
A late penalty, converted by Kyle Armstrong, was no consolation for The Vics as The Pitmen players walked off to a hero’s ovation following a massive result which will prove vital, regardless of what comes of the situation regarding play-off places.
Hinchliffe, Law, Collins ©, Armstrong, Fitzpatrick, Abbott (Johnson 70), Roddy, Field (Wade 70), Clarke (Woolfe 70), Budrys, Evans
Subs Not Used
Crane, Haynes, Shaw, Dunkley, Craven (Durrell 26 (80)), Denny ©, Osborne, Clements (59) (Blakeman 77), Wellecomme, Beesley, Jevons
Subs Not Used
Ordish, Campion and Landell
Star Man – Cheyenne Dunkley
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
Attendance – 282