Hednesford Town welcome play-off contenders Chorley to Keys Park on Saturday, looking to put behind them the second half horror show against local rivals Rushall Olympic on New Year’s Day that led to a surprise 4-3 defeat and only their fourth reverse in 22 league games this season.
The Pitmen slipped seven points behind North Ferriby at the top of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division thanks to Tuesday’s defeat and Hednesford boss Rob Smith believes his players must react in the right way against a Chorley side who have picked up form of late and lie five points off the play-off places.
‘Just about everything that could go wrong did so on Tuesday. We defended atrociously all afternoon, lost two midfielders to injury and saw Francino Francis get sent off. We always want a reaction to a defeat.’
Smith also stated the danger Chorley pose, a team he saw as favourites for promotion at the beginning of the season and a side The Pitmen narrowly beat in their previous meeting this season.
‘I thought Chorley would be one of the leading pack and there is still time for them. They are big, strong and very organised and if they go on a run they can still comfortably make the top five. We know it will be a very hard game but it is vital stay in touch with the league leaders.’
Dan Crane, serving a one-match suspension against Rushall for his sending off against Frickley before Christmas, is expected to return between the posts but Jamey Osborne and Dave MacPherson are doubts following injuries picked up on New Years Day.
Osborne is suffering from a knock to the calf but, frustratingly for The Pitmen, MacPherson, who has been inspirational in midfield at times this season, has a hip injury which is likely to keep him out for weeks rather than days.
Chorley, winless for eight matches through October, November and early December, go into Saturday’s clash having won two from their last three in the league including a 1-0 home win against third-placed Marine.
Previous meetings between the two sides have brought mixed fortunes for Chorley with The Pitmen coming out on top in two out of three meetings, Nathan Woolfe’s superb free-kick and a late winner by Alex Melbourne early this season helped Hednesford to a fantastic 2-1 win at Victory Park which avenged for a 5-1 defeat last year.
The only meeting at Keys Park came in November 2011 when two goals by Gary Hay put an early season dent in Chorley’s play-off aspirations and moved The Pitmen to within four points of then league-leaders Northwich Victoria.
What the Hednesford faithful would give for a repeat performance on Saturday as, following a hugely successful 2012, Rob Smith’s side look to secure their first vital win of 2013.
Pitmen Form – WWWLWL
Previous Result – Hednesford Town 3 Rushall Olympic 4 – Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division – Tuesday 1st January 2013
Next Fixture – Rushall Olympic (A) – Doodson Sport Cup Third Round – Tuesday 8th January 2013
League Position – 2nd
Chorley Form – LLDWLW
Previous Result – Kendal Town 1 Chorley 4 – Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division – Tuesday 1st January 2013
Next Fixture – Blyth Spartans (H) – Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division – Saturday 12th January 2013
League Position – 7th
KO – 3pm
Address of Ground – Keys Park, Keys Park Road, Hednesford, WS12 2DZ