Elliott Durrell was the FA Cup hero once again for Hednesford Town as the club’s top scorer calmly converted two second half penalties to give The Pitmen safe passage through to the First Round Proper for the first time since 2005.
The army of travelling Pitmen supporters were left dreaming of a tie against luminaries such as Wolverhampton Wanderers or Sheffield United after their team really played within themselves against a Stamford side who, thanks mostly to the imperious performances of defensive trio Ben Bailey, Francino Francis and John Disney, struggled to threaten for long periods.
In truth, The Pitmen should have been in the lead by half time through Durrell on 32 minutes when the diminutive striker picked the ball up 40 yards out, advanced with intent towards goal, and hit an unstoppable dipping drive which flew past the helpless Andrew Stevens only to bounce off the inside of the post and roll clear.
Durrell was positive down the right wing again just before half time when he sent in a cross with his left foot which Michael Lennon cleverly dummied for Jamey Osborne to arrow a shot inches wide of the far post and Durrell was again involved at the sharp end when Neil Harvey strongly held the ball up and laid it off to the oncoming striker whose shot was saved well by Stevens.
The closest Stamford came was on 15 minutes when Dan Lawlor ghosted past Disney and crossed for David Moyo who headed straight at Dan Crane, but it was in the second half that, despite a positive start, Stamford gifted two goals to the away side.
It’s fair to say that Nathan Haines had a half to forget as he was twice penalised for offences in the penalty area, the first a mindless barge into Lennon, the second a push on Bailey when Durrell’s cross looked to be going out of play.
On the first occasion after 55 minutes, Durrell confidently sent Stevens the wrong way, slotting the ball into the left corner after waiting for the keeper to commit himself and the second penalty, which effectively wrapped the game up on 79 minutes, was again expertly converted by Durrell into the opposite corner.
Despite some pressure on Hednesford’s penalty area Stamford looked bereft of ideas in between the two goals as the gap in quality became obvious, Lennon continued to look lively and Kris Taylor was his usual calming influence in midfield, ensuring The Pitmen kept the ball well.
The Pitmen solidly saw out the final 10 minutes with Francis especially strong in central defence and substitute Dave Macpherson strengthening the midfield, as their FA Cup run continued with ecstatic chants from the supporters regarding the possibility of reaching Wembley in seven months’ time. Obviously an appearance in the final is pretty unlikely but Hednesford can certainly look forward to the next game, having reached the First Round proper for only the third time in 12 years.
Stevens, Challinor, Haines, Jarvis, Jones (c), Ashton (Richards 63), Lawlor (Burgess 77), Robinson, Smith, Moyo, Wesley
Subs Not Used
Richardson, Blakely, Staff
Crane, Disney, Campion (c) (Melbourne 46), Bailey, Francis, Taylor, Osborne, Durrell (55p, 79p), Harvey (Macpherson 77), Lennon, Riley (Thompson-Brown 62)
Subs Not Used
Anagho-Ntamark, Rey, Woolfe
Bookings – Durrell, Taylor
Star Man – Elliott Durrell
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
Attendance – 668
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Photos by Colin Rogers