Hednesford Town goalkeeper Dan Crane played a huge part in a massively important victory for The Pitmen at a cold and foggy Keys Park on Tuesday night with a string of saves, especially in the first half, which kept AFC Fylde at bay.
The home side rode their luck in the first period but showed a real will to win in the second half and the three points, against a team who had won five in a row before this game, could prove vital in the title race.
Hednesford weren’t at the races in a first half when the away side were given far too much space to play football and but for the intervention of Crane on no less than five occasions, Fylde would have been ahead before Dave MacPherson’s long range shot slipped through the grip of Ben Hinchcliffe on 40 minutes.
Crane made another outstanding save just after half time, getting fingertips to a long range free-kick which hit the inside of the post.
Ben Bailey struck the woodwork with a powerful header from a corner on 54 minutes as The Pitmen’s work rate and desire to win transformed the final half hour.
Fylde’s passing football was disrupted and Hednesford’s increased effort was epitomised by the tireless running of Kyle Patterson in midfield and imperious defending by Francino Francis.
Aaron Rey’s tricky play down the wing set up Durrell, whose low shot was saved by Hinchcliffe just after the hour and as Fylde chased an equaliser, Crane made another sprawling save to deny substitute Adam Farrell from distance.
The Hednesford faithful nervously encouraged their team and in stoppage time Elliott Durrell beat the full-back and crossed for Michael Lennon to score a very popular second to leave The Pitmen one point behind leaders North Ferriby ahead of Wednesday night’s fixtures.
Crane, Disney, Campion (c), Bailey, Francis, MacPherson (42), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Lennon 82 (90+2)), Rey, Patterson (Wright 87),
Subs Not Used
Barnes, Woolfe, Fincher
Hinchcliffe, Haslam, Sumner, Hughes, Carden (Winter 85), Dunn (Dorney 65), M Barnes, B Barnes (c), Dean, McCarthy (Booth 73), Cooke
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Patterson, Haslam
Attendance – 295
Star Man – Dan Crane
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars