The Pitmen started their campaign back in the Skrill North League with a bang, scoring four goals without reply at Stalybridge Celtic yesterday. Although this sounds like a one-sided affair, it was far from it, with the home side playing some good passing football but coming up against a resolute Hednesford defence and goalkeeper Dan Crane at his best.
The away side started brightly with both Neil Harvey and new boy Wayne Riley looking lively up front and in the 13th minute the Pitmen forced a corner. Kris Taylor’s corner kick was met by Francino Francis and the big centre back’s downward header could only be parried into the net by goalkeeper Matty Urwin.
The home side had some good possession shortly after and Dan Crane was forced into action on 28 minutes with a full length flying save to deny them an equaliser.
In the spell up until half time there were opportunities at both ends with Lewis Hatch firing over the Hednesford crossbar and free kicks from Kris Taylor and Elliott Durrell failing to increase the lead.
Half time: 0-1
The second half started well for the Pitmen as Jamey Osborne jinked into the box, a quick step over and drew in the tackle for a stone wall penalty kick. Elliott Durrell made no mistake with the spot kick, smashing it past Urwin who had guessed the placement correctly.
On 52 minutes Dan Crane was again called into action with a spectacular triple save, saving high to his left, parrying out the follow up shot and diving onto the loose ball to prevent any home side revival.
Elliott Durrell added to the lead in the 64th minute, driving in the loose ball after a goal mouth scramble.
Stalybridge did their best to try to get back into the game and were denied by the crossbar on a couple of occasions before Durrell completed his hat-trick in the 76th minute rifling in a shot which took a wicked deflection off a defender before finding the net.
The last word still went to Dan Crane who, in injury time, came to the edge of his area and spread himself bravely to block an attempt for a consolation goal by Obi Anoruo and sealed a fine first day victory for the Pitmen.
Stalybridge Celtic: Urwin, Bleau, McWilliams, Platt, Lees, Haywood (Wilkinson 68), Buckley, Hatch, Anoruo, McConville, Platt (Parkhouse 64)
Unused Subs: Cameron, Welsby
Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, Francis (13), Taylor, Osborne (Macpherson 64), Durrell (49p, 64, 76), Harvey (Rey 75), Riley, Thompson-Brown (Melbourne 73).
Unused Subs: Woolfe, Barnes
Cautions: Osborne, Macpherson
Star Man: Dan Crane
Report by Terry McMahon
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Photos by Colin Rogers