A strong second half performance by Hednesford Town definitively put to bed a three game losing run as The Pitmen outpassed and outplayed Stalybridge Celtic to run out convincing 4-1 winners and give themselves the chance to go top of the league if Bradford Park Avenue are beaten next Tuesday night.
The performance and eventual result had a feeling of real importance as, rightly or wrongly, the promotion credentials of Rob Smith’s team had been called into question by some over the past few weeks and the three points were extremely welcome given the fact that a number of Hednesford’s rivals were in FA Trophy action.
Paul McCone settled nerves within Keys Park with a fifth minute opener following up a rebound from his initial header which was saved by Aaron Jameson and the home side could have extended their lead but Neil Harvey, struggling for a break in front goal over recent weeks, missed two presentable opportunities, the first picking up the ball in space twelve yards out and lashing his shot over and the second a shot which hit the post.
Hednesford survived a strong penalty appeal just before half time when Phil Marsh looked to have been felled in the box but the impressive referee Sian Massey signalled for a corner and from the resulting ball in Dan Crane tipped a volleyed Kristian Platt backheel over the bar.
Nathan Woolfe was introduced at half time for Harvey who was carrying an injury, to much expectation from the Hednesford faithful as the tricky left winger, a class above on his day, continues to search for a return to his blistering form of 12 months ago.
Before Woolfe finished Stalybridge off it was Jamey Osborne, who advanced past two challenges and pulled the ball back perfectly for top-scorer Elliott Durrell to slam home his 22nd goal of the season on 57 minutes.
Crane was called upon to scoop a Phil Marsh header clear just after the goal but Marsh made no mistake on 57 minutes when he nipped in front of Francino Francis, ignored the claims of handball and finished well.
Momentarily after Stalybridge’s goal The Pitmen struggled with the pace of the away side but Paul McCone underlined why he was keeping the usual pairing of Ben Bailey and Francino Francis in centre defence apart with a very assured performance.
On 74 minutes the game was won when Woolfe skilfully cut in from the right wing and curled a superb shot which Jameson could only parry to the feet of Greg Pearson who netted the rebound and five minutes later Woolfe capped a superb second half performance with a deflected free kick.
The Hednesford substitute then thundered a brilliant left-footed shot off the crossbar and McCone headed wide late on but The Pitmen can now move on from their recent struggles with a renewed confidence.
Crane, Disney, Campion (c), McCone (5), Francis, MacPherson (Taylor 72), Osborne, Durrell (53), Harvey (Woolfe 46 (79)), Pearson 71 (Riley 72), Thorley
Subs Not Used
Jameson, Bleau, McWilliams, Tunnicliffe, Platt (c), Haywood (Warburton 63), Pepper (Buckley 71), Briggs, Marsh (57), McConville, Platt (Ennis 54)
Subs Not Used
Attendance – 454
Star Man – Nathan Woolfe
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157638678955563″ sort=”title” direction=”asc”]
Photos by Colin Rogers