Hednesford Town hearts were broken in the cruellest of circumstances after conceding twice in stoppage time to see three points slip away from them as Stockport County claimed a late, late victory.
Frank Sinclair’s team selection for the game had been disrupted not only by the continued absence of Tom Thorley but also by football’s governing body FIFA, who had not granted international clearance for new recruit from Wrexham FC, Jonathan Royle to play, even though the player had been correctly registered with the National League last Monday.
Stockport were the first to threaten in the fourth minute when Richard Brodie fired wide while John Marsden saw his shot saved by Dan Crane five minutes later.
The visitors had another half chance in the 14th minute when Wade Joyce shot wide from the edge of the box before the home side forced their first chance nine minutes later as Ben Bailey’s header was saved.
Hednesford’s Tom Peers then had an effort on the turn midway through the half and Dan Crane saved low down from Richard Brodie in the 37th minute.
The second half got under way with substitute Danny Glover coming on for Kennedy Digie and in the 48th minute a break by Glover resulted in a firm shot well saved by Ian Ormson in the Stockport goal.
Five minutes later Shelton Payne also came close with a spectacular curling effort but was once again denied by Ormson.
The game was now starting to open up and a free kick by Tom Field from 20 yards was brilliantly turned round the post by Crane.
Finally, in the 72nd minute, came the moment that every Pitmen supporter had been waiting for. A free kick by Glover from the edge of the box was hit with venom and could only be parried by the keeper and then scrambled away for a corner kick. As the ball came over Ben Bailey rose above everyone and sent his powerful header into the top corner.
Stockport immediately made a double change but it was Hednesford who still looked threatening on the break with both Peers and Payne coming close as the full time whistle approached.
As the four minutes of added time ticked away it looked as though the hard work of all involved was finally going to pay off before disaster struck for Sinclair and his side.
A free kick lofted into the Hednesford penalty area was headed down beautifully by Kayode Odejayi but came back off the post; however substitute Obi Anoruo was the first to react and hooked the ball into the net to snatch the equaliser in the third minute of added time.
The Pitmen looked shell-shocked and at the restart lost possession and as the ball was hit long to Odejayi he took full advantage of a moment of hesitation in the Hednesford defence and lifted the ball over the advancing Crane into the net to leave everyone in a state of disbelief at what they had just witnessed.
Hednesford Town: Crane, Fitzwater (Robinson 90), Trainer, Bailey, Digie (Glover 46), Francis, Thomas, Williams, Peers, Cham, Payne
Subs not used: Ransome, Truelove, Ennis
Stockport County: Ormson, Morton, Garvin, Montrose, Connolly (C), Smalley, Joyce (Ellison 73), Field, Brodie (West 82), Marsden (Anoruo 73), Odejayi
Subs not used: Todd, Smith
Star Man: Sean Williams
Entertainment value: Four Stars