Hednesford Town produced a scintillating second half performance to record a fine 5-0 victory on Saturday at Stalybridge Celtic, thanks in part to a hat-trick from striker Steve Diggin.
The Pitmen welcomed back James Hurst and Jamey Osborne into their starting line-up as the pair returned from injury and suspension respectively.
It was the home side that started the better of the two teams with Hednesford captain Darren Campion making a fine block in the 10th minute to deny a goalscoring opportunity.
Two minutes later Town were caught out again as a ball through the middle of the defence found Paul Ennis, but the striker was denied by the quick thinking of goalkeeper Dan Crane who stayed on his feet until the last minute to smother the ball away.
Hednesford appealed for a penalty in the 17th minute as Diggin was pushed to the ground inside the box, but the referee waved play on.
Town goalkeeper Crane was called into action again just after the half hour mark when he stopped Liam Dickinson’s goalbound effort right on the line.
It would be the visitors who would strike first though, in stoppage time at the end of the first half. A long Ben Bailey throw into Celtic penalty area wasn’t dealt with and Diggin was on hand to turn and shoot home from 10 yards out.
The home team should really have equalised three minutes into the second period but somehow Anthony Malbon put the ball over the bar from inside the six yard box with the goal at his mercy.
This would prove costly as in the 59th minute Town doubled their lead in somewhat dubious circumstances. A ball into the box found Glenn Walker and despite the winger looking as though he was in an offside position he slotted home to score his second goal in as many games.
Hednesford still had to be on their guard though and ten minutes later Crane was forced into a smart low save to keep his clean sheet intact.
Town continued to press and they were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute as defender Todd Jordan brought down Diggin inside the box with the Celtic man seeing red for denying a goalscoring opportunity. The striker was able to pick himself up and slot home from 12 yards out to end any chance of a Stalybridge fightback.
Five minutes later it was 4-0 when a corner into the box found Diggin and although his effort rattled the crossbar Marvin Robinson was on hand to overhead kick the ball into the net.
In the first minute of stoppage time Diggin was able to cap a memorable day with Town being awarded a second penalty and the front man fired home into the opposite corner of the net to claim the match ball.
After three weeks away from home, Hednesford return to Keys Park on Saturday as they host league leaders Barrow in what should be another interesting test for Rob Smith’s team.
Stalybridge Celtic: King, Bleau, Heath, Jordan, Regan, Staunton-Turner (Cadman 76), McKenna, Holsgrove, Malbon, Ennis, Dickinson
Subs not used: Wigley, Crowley, Lomax, Hill
Hednesford Town: Crane, Hurst (Melbourne 79), Campion, Bailey, Westwood, Thorley, Osborne, Walker (Francis 60), Glover (Robinson 76), Diggin, Batchelor
Subs not used: Crowther, Sullivan