It really is all to play for in the Skrill North Promotion Semi-Final Second Leg this Saturday after Hednesford Town proved they have more than enough skill, commitment and desire to reach the Skrill Conference after a pulsating 2-2 draw with an equally impressive Altrincham side.
Keys Park was braced for yet another classic play-off semi-final and, while both teams looked more than happy with a draw towards the end of the second half, the game will be fondly remembered for the unerring commitment to the cause from every player, a superb move for Hednesford’s equaliser and, most of all, the astonishing left footed volley scored by Danny Glover to momentarily give The Pitmen a second half lead.
As a crowd of 1209 packed into the stadium on a balmy late Spring evening both sets of fans contributed to a superb atmosphere which never once spilled over into anything more than passionate support for their respective teams.
Altrincham, having scored ten goals in their final two league matches of the season, looked the sharper at the start of the game but it was Hednesford who had the first opportunity of the match as a Ben Bailey long throw was flicked on by Paul McCone and bounced onto the roof of the net.
Dave Macpherson epitomised the fighting spirit of his Hednesford side and well and truly welcomed Simon Richman to Keys Park with a robust challenge which got the combative midfielder a deserved booking after 10 minutes.
Altrincham reacted well to the forceful challenges from the home side and duly opened the scoring on 14 minutes when Tom Clee charged down a John Disney clearance and, in the blink of an eye, crossed superbly to the back post with his left foot where Damian Reeves was there to tap in past Dan Crane.
Richman got a semblance of retribution for Macpherson’s earlier tackle on 21 minutes when a late lunge, which left Disney writhing in agony, received a deserved yellow card.
In the opening 30 minutes the home side had to work incredibly hard, superbly led by Bailey and McCone at the back, to keep pace with a dominant Altrincham but then, on 33 minutes, the first flash of brilliance from The Pitmen levelled the scores.
Alex Melbourne, struggling to get into the game up until that point, played a superb dummied 1-2 with Glover, brought the ball into the area and calmly stroked the ball into the far corner to send the Hednesford throngs wild.
The half-time whistle gave the sides a well-deserved rest and also Glover the opportunity to shake off a nasty looking cut to the back of the head but, after Altrincham rattled the crossbar with a powerful header from a corner, the Pitmen striker proved he hadn’t been too badly affected by the injury with a goal of the season contender just before the hour.
A long ball was well controlled by Glover and as the Hednesford fans hopefully shouted for him to shoot the striker duly obliged and hit a stunning left footed volley over the goalkeeper and into the net to rock Keys Park to its foundations.
Unfortunately The Pitmen couldn’t hold on to their lead for long as James Walshaw headed beyond Crane just four minutes later and, after the game had petered out towards a draw, the Hednesford supporters gave their hard working players a deserved standing ovation at the final whistle.
The second leg at Altrincham on Saturday, with away goals not counting, is now essentially a one-off cup tie for a place in the Skrill North Promotion Final next Saturday.
Rob Smith and his team, backed by hundreds of Pitmen supporters, will have a firm belief they can come away from Moss Lane the victors and continue what has been up until now a fairy tale season.
Crane, Disney, Campion (capt), Bailey, McCone, Macpherson (Taylor 60) , Riley (Sullivan 83), Johnson, Glover (56) (Robinson 73), Melbourne (33), Thorley
Subs Not Used
Coburn, Densmore (capt), Griffin, Moult, Havern, Leather, Lawrie, Richman, Walshaw (59), Reeves (13) (Perry 90), Clee (Marshall 90)
Subs Not Used
Doughty, Wilkinson, Saunders
Bookings – Disney, MacPherson, Riley; Richman
Attendance – 1209
Entertainment Rating – 4 Stars
Star Man – Danny Glover
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Photos by Colin Rogers