Hednesford Town continued their quest for a top five finish in the Skrill North, and with it a place in the Play Offs, following a hardworking 2-1 victory at Oxford City in their first of the Easter double header of fixtures, writes Scott Smith.
Goals in each half from Dave Macpherson and Marvin Johnson proved to be the difference on the day, but that only tells half the story as The Pitmen played for 40 minutes with ten men after Wayne Riley was dismissed early in the second period.
It was the home side that started the better of the two teams and they forced no less than six corners, all of which were well defended by Hednesford. Ironically it would be a corner which would give Town the lead in the 16th minute as Ben Bailey met the ball at the back post and his header across goal was scrambled home by Macpherson from six yards out.
On a bouncy pitch it was hard to play any kind of football on the floor and it was no surprise that it was from set pieces that most of the chances were arriving. In the 28th minute Hednesford almost doubled their lead as Bailey once again got up well and this time his header found Riley who nodded wide at the near post.
Four minutes later The Pitmen were indebted to goalkeeper Dan Crane for keeping the scores level as a long ball into the box was unintentionally flicked goalwards at some pace by Town captain Darren Campion and only a full length save from Crane stopped what would have been a certain goal.
In the minutes leading up to half-time both sides had the ball in the back of the net, however both were ruled out for offside. Town wouldn’t escape much longer though and in the third minute of stoppage time they switched off at a throw which led to Andy Ballard getting in down the left. His first shot was palmed away by Crane but the follow-up was emphatically driven home to bring his side level.
Four minutes into the second period the lively Kayden Jackson almost gave the home side the lead as his thunderous 30 yard strike dipped over Crane and cannoned up off the crossbar and to safety.
In the 55th minute Hednesford were reduced to ten men when Riley was dismissed for foul and abusive language following the award of a free kick against him. It now looked as if Town would be under real pressure due to their numerical disadvantage, however apart from a couple of long throws and corners they coped with everything thrown at them.
Then in the 72nd minute winger Johnson set off on a run from inside his own half, twisting and turning the City defenders one way and another before firing a perfectly placed shot across the goal and into the far corner of the net to give his side the lead.
The result was almost bettered in the first minute of stoppage time as Johnson tussled for possession with City goalkeeper Matt Bullman some 40 yards from goal and his toe poked effort was just cleared off the line by Viv Solomon.
It wouldn’t matter in the long run though as Hednesford played out time to record an important victory which sees them requiring just one point from their final two games, should Boston United win both their matches, to secure a place in the Skrill North Play Offs.
Bullman, Henderson, Stonehouse, Pook, Learoyd, Preece, Benjamin (Solomon 70), Ballard, Jackson, Pond, Winters (Symonds 70)
Subs not used:
Cook, Wilmott, Basham
Crane, Disney, Campion, Bailey, McCone, Macpherson (Taylor 84), Riley, Johnson, Glover (Robinson 70), Melbourne, Thorley
Subs not used:
Lennon, Francis, Sullivan
Star Man: Tom Thorley
Entertainment Rating: Three Stars
[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157644106169321″ sort=”title” direction=”asc”]
Photos by Colin Rogers