Hednesford Town’s superb run of six straight victories came to a halt courtesy of an unexpected Stocksbridge Park Steels comeback in the second half on a truly bitterly cold Yorkshire afternoon, where late goals elsewhere would have done little to lift the mood of disappointment in the Pitmen camp.
Rob Smith’s side, having not drawn or lost a game since the 16th October, looked to be coasting to another victory and one which, in the context of the league title race, would have served as a vital three points, after Elliott Durrell scored a goal of real class on sixty-eight minutes to give his side a 3-1 lead.
The midfielder reached double figures for the season as he picked the ball up thirty yards out and, with a slight headwind which seemed to deceive Xavier Parisi, hit an unstoppable shot which sailed over the head of the goalkeeper who could only dive more in hope than expectation.
The Pitmen had done well before their third goal to recover from a defensive lapse inside the first eight minutes when Alex Callery was given far too much space eighteen yards out, dodged the desperate tackle of Sam Barnes and finished into the corner.
The away side were level within a matter of two minutes when a Nathan Woolfe corner found Ben Bailey, who, in acres of space six yards out, tapped the ball into the open net.
Sam Barnes side footed wide before Aaron Rey headed over after Woolfe had bamboozled Nicky Darker on the left wing, but it was Rey who finally found the net with a superb left foot finish after cutting into the area from the right wing on thirty-six minutes.
The second half was a scrappy affair for the first fifteen minutes with Dan Crane called upon by Matthew Hamshaw to beat away a fierce shot, but the freezing Pitmen travelling support were warmed by the piece of brilliance by Durrell to all but secure the three points. Or so they thought.
In a crazy three minute spell Stocksbridge came alive and reduced the deficit when Hamshaw’s speculative shot was charged down by Dave MacPherson only to see the ball, in a stroke of luck akin to an Andreas Brehme free-kick for Germany against England in Italia ‘90, sail over the helpless Crane and into the net.
Hednesford may have felt aggrieved with the previous goal but two minutes later they had only themselves to blame as a cross from the right wasn’t prevented and the impressive Jordan Thewlis made a run across a static Hednesford defence and slotted in at close range with his left foot to equalise on seventy minutes.
There was to be no late show from either side and the spoils were shared, but The Pitmen’s frustration was no doubt amplified by North Ferriby’s ninetieth minute winner at Chorley which extends their lead over Hednesford to nine points, having played three games more.
Stocksbridge Park Steels
Paris, Darker, Turner, Haigh ©, Swirad, Callery (8), Bettney (Payne 79), Senior, Ring (Goff 61), Thewlis (70) (Todd 86), Hamshaw (68),
Subs Not Used
Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey (10), Barnes, MacPherson ©, Melbourne, Durrell (64), Harvey (O’Connor 66), Rey (36) (Lennon 77), Woolfe (Bottomer 58)
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Campion
Attendance – 143
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
Star Man – Elliott Durrell