Hednesford Town were able to keep hold of their unbeaten start to the season, but only just in what will go down as another memorable Staffordshire derby fixture against local rivals Stafford Rangers, writes Scott Smith.
Town manager Rob Smith was forced to make one change to his starting line-up with Ben Bailey replacing the injured Sam Barnes in central defence. Stafford included three former Hednesford men in their starting XI with Jimmy Turner, Jermaine Johnson and Danny Quinn all appearing against their former club.
It was the visitors who started the better and they almost found a way through after just 60 seconds when Turner’s freekick drifted into the box and narrowly wide of the post. Hednesford responded well though and Neil Harvey saw his downward header turned behind by Rangers keeper Danny Read.
The rest of the half saw both sides cancel each other out as they struggled to gain any real foothold on the game. Town did have a goal disallowed right at the end of the first period, however the whistle had long gone for a foul before Aaron Rey had slotted home.
The second half started in a lively fashion and Hednesford were indebted to goalkeeper Dan Crane for keeping the scores level as he superbly turned away a goalbound effort.
It was to be Town that would take the lead though in the 50th minute as they were awarded a penalty following a foul on Jamey Osborne. Elliott Durrell stepped up and after some delaying tactics from the Rangers players he sent Read the wrong way to make it 1-0 to Town.
Things went from bad to worse for Stafford soon after as they saw defender Johnson carried off with a nasty looking leg injury which delayed the game for some five minutes, before drawing level in the 62nd minute. A Turner corner was headed home at the back post by an unmarked Quinn to draw his new side level against his former employers.
As the game wore on it looked as if both sides were starting to settle for a 1-1 draw, however things suddenly exploded into life in the 84th minute. Both Osborne and Stafford defender Luke George lunged in for a loose ball and although Osborne took the ball he was adjudged to have gone in two footed and received a straight red card.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining the visitors edged in front as Quinn broke into the area and was brought down by Neil Harvey. He dusted himself down and tucked away a great penalty into the top corner of the net, giving Crane no chance.
As the game entered the third of five added minutes there would be one last twist as Hednesford managed to drag themselves level. A ball across the box from Michael Lennon fell to Nathan Woolfe who turned the ball onto his left-foot and curled home an effort into the top corner of the net via a slight deflection, much to the delight of the majority inside Keys Park.
In the end both sides would have to settle for a point as for the second season running Hednesford came from behind in stoppage time to take something from the fixture. Hednesford will look to continue their unbeaten run into September as they travel to Stalybridge Celtic to take on FC United of Manchester on Sunday 2nd September.
Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney (O’Connor 87), Campion, Bailey, Francis, Macpherson, Osborne, Durrell, Harvey, Rey (Lennon 69), Woolfe
Subs not used: Clarke, Melbourne, Watkis
Stafford Rangers: Read, George, Brown, Walshe (Espley 77), Johnson (Dicker 56), Carr, Turner, Downes, Quinn, Street (Everall 85), Kasiama
Subs not used: Heler, Wood
Man of the match: Ben Bailey