Pitmen Open Campaign With Unlucky Defeat At Gainsborough ..
Hednesford Town started their first season in the Conference North 12 months ago with a shock 4-0 victory against Stalybridge Celtic and, on the sheer number of chances created by Rob Smith’s men, could easily have racked up a similar score away at Gainsborough Trinity on Saturday but, thanks to a goal just before half time for the home team and then an outstanding performance from their goalkeeper, a frustrating 1-0 defeat to open the campaign was scant reward.
Rob Smith, rocked by an ankle ligament injury to striker Steve Diggin in their final training session of pre-season on Thursday evening, chose to go with the 3-5-2 formation which had impressed in recent weeks, rightly rewarding Francino Francis and Alex Melbourne with starts and put his faith in the attacking midfield skills of Jamey Osborne and Glenn Walker supporting Danny Glover as the main forward.
Hednesford started the livelier of the two teams but neither side really threatened on goal throughout a cagey first half as both sets of fans basked in the August sunshine until Jamey Osborne peeled off the back of his marker in the left hand channel and hit a right foot shot which flashed across the far post on 39 minutes.
The reaction of the Hednesford supporters was telling – it was the best chance of the half up to that point and Osborne was left to rue his miss as Gainsborough came forward with rare abandon and a hitherto untroubled Pitmen defence momentarily lost their shape, failed to close down Dominic Roma, whose perfectly judged cross gave Ciaran Toner a run on Jamie Ashmore at the back post to head powerfully into the net.
For a second half comeback to happen The Pitmen had to commit more players forward and to their credit that’s exactly what they did, almost incessantly for the entire final half an hour once Tom Thorley and Paul Sullivan were introduced for Ben Bailey and Alex Melbourne.
Jan Budtz, the bane of Hednesford all afternoon produced a run of saves fully deserving of the man-of-the-match award, as first Kris Taylor’s low left shot was palmed out and Sullivan’s rebound was bravely blocked.
Marvin Robinson was introduced to the fray, much to the delight of the travelling supporters behind the goal, and could have twice won the game in the last eight minutes but not before Paul McCone misjudged a long ball and Darryn Stamp blazed a golden chance over to secure the game for Trinity.
That let-off was the signal for Hednesford to pour forward as Sullivan’s shot from a tight angle hit the outside of the post, Budtz again denied Sullivan and then Walker on the rebound before a Taylor corner was headed powerfully past the keeper by Robinson only for a defender to clear brilliantly off the line.
Sullivan and Robinson both found space in the area in stoppage time but neither could direct their headers away from Budtz and Gainsborough held on for a well-earned but rather fortuitous victory.
The Pitmen now welcome Leamington to Keys Park on Tuesday night before league favourites Harrogate Town visit on Saturday; another performance like that shown in the second half and the first victory of the season will undoubtedly come.
Budtz, Roma(c), Lacey, Roberts, Quinn, Picton, Russell, Toner (45), Beesley, Stamp, Higginson (Davies 73),
Subs Not Used: Binns, Salt, Lobjoit, Emery,
Crane, Ashmore, Campion(c), McCone, Francis, Bailey (Sullivan 63), Osborne (Thorley 63), Melbourne, Glover (Robinson 73), Taylor, Walker,
Subs Not Used: Smith, Price
Booked – Russell, Francis,
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Star Man – Jan Budtz
Attendance – 457