Hednesford Town safely progressed into the FA Cup Third Qualifying round on Saturday after a nervy but ultimately satisfactory result against Nuneaton Griff, a side playing at the Second Qualifying Round stage for the first time in their history.
The Pitmen, looking to improve dramatically on Tuesday’s heavy defeat against Worksop, were pushed all the way by a gutsy Nuneaton team but, in the end, had enough class to emerge victorious.
The away side, no doubt weary of the chances of a dramatic upset, made the perfect start to a game played in blazing Autumnal sunshine as captain Dave MacPherson hit a loose ball on the half volley from the right side of the area past the despairing dive of Dave Watson within two minutes of the first whistle.
The opening goal, while clearly advantageous for Hednesford, led to the team taking their foot off the gas against a hard working Nuneaton side and, despite the home side not threatening too much in attack, The Pitmen should really have put them to the sword.
Alex Melbourne and Neil Harvey both shot wide when well-placed and MacPherson could have had a second goal but got himself into the wrong position from a superb Nathan Woolfe cross and was unable to tee-up a team mate to finish.
Aaron Rey forced Watson to make a quality save as his powerful shot was parried from danger before, out of the blue, Nuneaton were gifted an equaliser. Ben Bailey played a square ball across the pitch without enough attention and succeeded only in passing the ball straight to Kyle Baxter who calmly rounded Dan Crane and levelled the scores on thirty-four minutes.
The scores were equal at the interval and Nuneaton had a golden chance to take the lead on forty-eight minutes as Crane hesitated but Moore lobbed over the bar before The Pitmen turned the screw in an eight minute spell to seemingly put the game beyond the home side.
Woolfe found space on the left and played a perfectly weighted ball into Harvey who took a touch and smashed the ball beyond Watson into the corner on fifty-one minutes. The second goal came when a low cross by Elliott Durrell set up Rey for an easy tap-in at the back post on fifty-nine minutes.
With Hednesford comfortably ahead by a two goal margin the game began to drift towards the final whistle before lax defending by The Pitmen gave Nuneaton an unexpected lifeline as a long throw wasn’t dealt with and Ryan Slipp slotted the ball home on eighty-three minutes.
The travelling Pitmen support were understandably nervous in the final minutes as stoppage time was played but Rob Smith’s side managed to see out the victory to ensure they have a place in the draw for the Third Qualifying Round and fans, players and management alike can continue dreaming of making their mark on the FA Cup this season.
Watson, Hutchison (Hutchison 81), Greenway, Faulconbridge, Millerchip ©, Hildreth, Barnett, Williams, Moore, Baxter (34), Lillicrapp (Slinn 67 (83))
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Gallagher, Slobbie, Pritchard, Robinson, Reardon
Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, Francis, MacPherson © (1), Melbourne, Durrell, Harvey (51), Rey (59) (Allen 81), Woolfe (Barnes 77)
Subs Not Used: O’Connor, Watkins, Taylor, Recci, Hornby
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Star Man – Elliott Durrell
Attendance – 298