Hednesford Town fell to their first defeat in five matches on a windswept stormy day in Yorkshire as fellow play off hopefuls Harrogate Town took advantage of defensive lapses in the opening 45 minutes to leave The Pitmen struggling to mount any sort of comeback in the second half.
Jamey Osborne made a surprise start in midfield after previously being rated as very doubtful due to his ongoing hamstring problems as Rob Smith looked to fill the creative void left by the departure of top scorer Elliott Durrell to Wrexham and the terrible news regarding Kris Taylor’s diagnosis of testicular cancer in the week.
The Hednesford manager also opted to play a back three of Ben Bailey, Francino Francis and Paul McCone, with John Disney and Darren Campion expected to support the aforementioned Osborne, Dave Macpherson and Tom Thorley in midfield but it was perhaps the unfamiliarity of the formation which gave Harrogate the opportunity to open the scoring on ten minutes.
Disney was caught too far forward on the right wing and when the ball was played in from the left wing Ashley Worsfold fired in a cross-cum-shot and Chris Hall was able to divert the ball into the empty net at the back post.
The home side doubled their lead when a relatively straight forward free kick was played into the box and lax marking left Matt Heath in acres of space to sweep the ball beyond Dan Crane.
The Pitmen, with Neil Harvey and new signing Paul Sullivan up front, struggled to get any change from the strong Harrogate centre-back pairing but as the half hour mark came Harvey headed over from a Thorley free kick, Disney hit a rasping drive across goal and the deficit was halved when Osborne was fouled in the area.
Disney confidently tucked away the resulting spot kick on 36 minutes and The Pitmen support would have been delighted to see their side enter the half time break only a goal down. Their hopes were dashed when Bailey looked to see the ball out for a goal kick but misjudged the pace and let Worsfold in to square for Hall to nip in front of a static Hednesford defence to restore Harrogate’s two goal lead.
In truth, that third goal put the game to bed as a contest and as the weather took a marked turn for the worse in the second half and those fans present at the CNG Stadium cowered for cover from the blustery conditions The Pitmen, a Macpherson shot straight at Craig MacGillivray apart, never really looked like mounting a comeback.
Luckily for Rob Smith’s side, North Ferriby United’s surprise defeat against Barrow and Brackley’s defeat of Boston United means The Pitmen go into next weekend’s home clash with Solihull Moors still lying in second place and eight points inside the play off places.
Congratulations to Rob Smith who completed his 200th game in charge. Rob first took up the realm on 2/10/2010 with a 0-0 draw at Brackley Town in the Zamaretto Premier League.
I’m sure you will all agree us supporters have had a terrific ride since that day and long may it continue.
Full Record: P200 W122 D33 L45 F422 A269 (Win %: 61.00%)
League Matches P149 W89 D29 L31 F299 A190 (Win %: 59.73%)
MacGillivray, Samuels, Merris, Nelthorpe, Heath (26), Killock (capt), Mallory (Brown 62), Nowakowski, Hall (10, 43), Worsfold (Smith 72), Clayton
Subs Not Used
Sellars, Hardy, Crook
Crane, Disney (36 pen), Campion (capt), McCone, Francis (Woolfe 46), Macpherson, Osborne (Riley 50), Bailey, Harvey (Robinson 66), Sullivan, Thorley
Subs Not Used
Bookings – Crane, Nowakowski, Hall, Killock,
Attendance – 477
Star Man – Chris Hall
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
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Photos by Colin Rogers