If there was a stereotypical game of two halves this was very much it as Hednesford Town rode their luck throughout the first 45 minutes before putting in a composed second half showing to remain top of the Skrill North following an excellent 2-1 victory at Guiseley, writes Scott Smith.
The hosts, under the guidance of new manager Mark Bower for the first time after being appointed on a permanent basis earlier in the week, were keen to impress and should have opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Michael Burns found space inside the penalty area, but he could only rattle the crossbar with his well struck effort.
Guiseley then had two good efforts in as many minutes as first Wayne Brooksby pulled an effort wide before Gavin Rothery struck the upright with a low driven effort.
Hednesford hadn’t really been in the game and it took until the 26th minute to produce their first real half-chance when Matt Regan headed wide at the back post from a corner. Back came the home side though and Dan Crane in the Hednesford goal was soon forced into action, tipping an effort over the bar from Burns on the half-hour mark.
Town manager Rob Smith was not impressed with what he had witnessed in the first 45 and as such made two changes at half-time, with Alex Melbourne and Robbie Thompson-Brown both being introduced. Two minutes into the second half came the main talking point of the match as play was halted for 11 minutes with one of the assistant referees pulling up with an injury. With the assistant not being able to carry on, an appeal was put out over the tannoy, with HTFCSA Committee member Ian Pitt volunteering to take over if needs be, but he was eventually replaced by another qualified official from the crowd.
Upon restarting, Town were in front within two minutes as Neil Harvey was expertly played in by Darren Campion and he was able to round Steve Drench in the Guiseley goal before slotting home despite the best attempts of the home side’s defenders.
Hednesford were now on top and should perhaps have doubled their lead with 15 minutes remaining only for Thompson-Brown to lash his effort over the bar from inside the 18-yard box.
As the clock ticked onto 80 minutes, the prolific Elliott Durrell was able to make it 2-0 though. After being superbly picked out on the wing, he cut inside his defender and fired low into the bottom corner of the net from just inside the penalty area.
With Town knowing they had 11 minutes of injury time to see out, their quest was made a little easier in the 93rd minute when midfielder Rothery was sent off for using foul and abusive language towards an assistant referee.
However this didn’t hinder the home side and they pulled a goal back in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Ben Bailey didn’t clear his lines and although Craig Hobson saw his effort strike the post, Burns was on hand to slot home at the second attempt despite an excellent first save from Crane.
Guiseley almost found an equaliser in the last seconds of the match only for Regan to deny Alex Johnson with an excellent block tackle after he had rounded Crane.
Hednesford now take a break from league action as they head to The New Bucks Head on Saturday 28th September for their FA Cup Second Qualifying Round game against AFC Telford United, 3pm kick off.
Guiseley AFC: Drench, Rea, Meynell, Potts (Holdsworth 72), Harris, Parker, Brooksby (Ennis 77), Lawlor (Hobson 84), Johnson, Burns, Rothery
Subs not used: Ible, Worsnop
Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion ©, Bailey, Regan, Macpherson (Melbourne 46), Osborne, Durrell, Harvey (Anagho-Ntamark 90), Rey (Thompson-Brown 46), Taylor
Subs not used: Woolfe, Francis
Man of the Match: Matt Regan
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Photos by Colin Rogers