Hednesford Town fell to their fourth away league defeat of the season to a Stockport County side which made the most of the opportunities given to them by a generous Pitmen defence which contrived to undo a very positive start by the away team.
County had lost just one game at home all season, having won six in succession, but it was Hednesford who started by far the better side in the opening 20 minutes.
Rob Smith’s men, themselves on a five match unbeaten run, registered no less than five attempts at goal with a front three of Steve Diggin, Danny Glover and Glenn Walker looking threatening as their team attempted to continue where they left off away from home after the 5-0 drubbing of Stalybridge Celtic a couple of weeks ago.
Unfortunately The Pitmen did everything but score in that opening quarter and the home side took a surprise lead against the run of play when another Hednesford attack broke down and County were able to waltz through a largely non-existent midfield before Scott Spencer outran Darren Campion and Francino Francis to finish well past Dan Crane.
Despite finding themselves a goal down, Hednesford continued to attack well with Glover’s clever step-over allowing Tom Thorley a yard or two of space on the edge of the area, unfortunately the midfielder’s shot flew over the crossbar.
The away side had another great opportunity to equalise after the half time break when Walker’s left footed volley was saved by Ian Ormson before a Jamey Osborne free kick was headed too high by Diggin; however, with 16 minutes remaining and with The Pitmen still very much in the game, Stockport were presented with another opportunity to settle the match.
First Francis horribly skewed a clearance and when the loose ball was headed onto Lee Stevenson down the left wing, Francis looked to outmuscle the Stockport player only to lose his footing and present Ritchie Baker with an easy chance from 12 yards which he duly swept past the exposed Crane.
With Hednesford now needing to really chase the game, Stockport were always going to threaten on the counter attack and, despite Ormson making a superb save from a rasping left footed Hurst drive, the third goal came when a long ball by the goalkeeper found Hurst struggling with Spencer and once the defender leant into the back of the striker the referee was only ever going to give one decision.
Jamie Milligan despatched the resulting spot kick to put a rather unfair gloss on a victory that, had Hednesford made the most of play when they were on top in the first half and cut out the defensive lapses in the second, would have been rather more difficult for The Hatters to achieve.
Rob Smith now has a free midweek to prepare his team for what is arguably their biggest match at Keys Park this season as they welcome near neighbours Tamworth for the first league derby between the sides since March 2003.
The manager will no doubt be looking for a 90 minute repeat of the opening 20 minutes of Saturday’s game at Edgeley Park as Hednesford look to make another concerted push towards the top six in The Vanarama Conference North.
Crane, Hurst, Campion (c), Bailey, Francis, Thorley, Osborne, Walker (Love 85), Glover, Diggin (Sullivan 59), Batchelor (Robinson 73),
Subs Not Used
Ormson, Belezika, O’Halloran, Moses, Gregson, Lees, Baker (77) (Churchman 87), Stevenson, Owens, Spencer (22), Milligan (80) (c) (Woolfe 90)
Subs Not Used
Hurst, Sharp, Russell
Bookings – Moses
Star Man – Scott Spencer
Entertainment Rating – 3 Stars
Attendance – 2651