Keys Park once again plays host to a match on Wednesday which is the culmination of 42 matches this season but the The Skrill North Promotion Semi Final against Altrincham feels like a zenith of the three years, 215 game reign of Rob Smith, his players and his backroom staff.
The Pitmen stand just three games away from a place in the Skrill Conference for the first time since 2001 and, as managers have come and gone since then, Smith has moulded a team spirit and winning ethos unlike any other since the halcyon days of John Baldwin.
The fact that Hednesford were such long odds to mount a promotion charge at the start of the season is something which the manager has been very keen to stress in recent weeks and, speaking in the build up to Wednesday’s clash, again made it clear that it is Altrincham who are under pressure to win.
‘Without doubt everyone outside and inside Altrincham would have been expecting to reach the play-offs as a minimum this season and they have not let anyone down. As a club they will desperately want promotion.
‘On the other hand, we would quite happily have accepted mid-table this season, all of which means the players have a pressure free shot at the play-offs which can be dangerous for any opposition as we have absolutely nothing to lose.’
Regardless of who feels the most pressure, Smith is confident his players are ready for the game and, with the two-legged affair pitting the two highest scorers in the league against each other, he is unsure as to how the match will pan out.
‘We have talked about the game at training on Monday and I have to say we look as prepared as we ever have been. The players are ready and totally pressure-free, we are just delighted to be competing in the play-offs and the camp has never been so relaxed.
‘It’s hard to predict how it will go. I don’t think any scoreline would surprise me. Altrincham are a free flowing team and we like to have a go too so on paper it makes for an entertaining battle.’
Hednesford will go into the fixture with a clean bill of health after resting several key players during Saturday’s defeat against Barrow and the manager called upon the usually vociferous supporters to once again make Keys Park a difficult place to go.
‘I think the fans are equally aware as me that we have a squad who are a very tight unit and I hope they enjoy the occasion as much as we intend to. I’m sure they will make Keys Park as intimidating and noisy a place as possible. Our players will thrive off that.’
History points to games such as last season’s play-off semi-final and final against AFC Fylde and FC United of Manchester where The Pitmen made their loyal supporters proud on the big stage. Altrincham are an entirely different test but with a passionate Keys Park crowd behind Smith and his players, anything could happen under the floodlights.
Tale of the Tape
Hednesford Town Form – WWLWWL
Previous Result – Barrow 1 Hednesford Town 0 – Skrill North – Saturday 26th April
Next Fixture – Altrincham (A) – The Skrill North Promotion Semi Final Second Leg – Saturday 3rd May
Final League Position – 4th
Altrincham Form – WDWDWW
Previous Result – Histon 0 Altrincham 5 – Skrill North – Saturday 26th April
Next Fixture – Hednesford Town (H) – The Skrill North Promotion Semi Final Second Leg – Saturday 3rd May
Final League Position – 3rd
KO – 7.45pm
Address of Ground – Keys Park, Keys Park Road, Hednesford, Staffordshire, WS12 2DZ
Pricing: £12 Adults & £7 Concessions
Home supporters will enter the ground via turnstiles 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B and 4C and will have the use of the Chase Room facilities.
Altrincham FC supporters will be occupying the ‘Hednesford End’ of the ground, entering the ground via turnstiles 2A and 2B. This gives them the 300 seats behind that goal, as well as terracing either side, and the use of Strikers Bar and all facilities at that end of the Keys Park stadium.
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