The Pitmen go through to the next round of the Integro League Cup following late drama at Keys Park.
Cup action returned to Keys Park last night with the clash against Newcastle Town being Hednesford’ s first game since the victory over Stalybridge ten days previously. Once again manager Rob Smith faced selection difficulties due to injuries and suspensions, and was only able to name three players on the substitutes’ bench. Callam Mendez-Jones made his debut at right back with both Tom Thorley and Edjidja Mbunga returning to the starting line-up following absences through injury.
An even encounter began with a fairly uneventful opening 30 minutes with very few clear cut chances for either side. Both Graham and Mbunga had shots blocked by defenders in the Newcastle area during this spell of the game, without goalkeeper Raajan Gill being called upon to make a save, while Newcastle were restricted to a couple of corners. Luke Astley came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half when his header from close range was well saved by James Wren in the Pitmen goal. Shortly before half time Mendez-Jones broke forward and teed up Danny Glover whose shot was deflected just wide of the post by a Newcastle player.
Early in the second half Newcastle felt they had a strong claim for a spot kick when Lee went to ground following a tangle with James Wren, however the referee declined to award the penalty and opted to book the Newcastle player for simulation.
In the 76th minute Newcastle were awarded a penalty when Sam Oji was judged to have brought his man down. Aaron Bott stepped forward to take the penalty which he fired wide to the right despite James Wren going the wrong way. The penalty miss seemed to lift the Pitmen who began to play with an increased sense of urgency. Moving into the last few minutes of the game and heading towards a penalty shoot-out, a probing pass from midfield found Jordan Graham in space on the left, allowing him to run at goal and send a low shot past Raajan Gill.
The Pitmen defence had to defend two set pieces late on on when a couple of needless fouls in the middle of the park allowed Newcastle to get men forward into the Hednesford area. However, with Newcastle chasing the game and space opening up, the Pitmen were able to maintain possession and largely control the closing minutes of the game, securing a place in the third round.
Hednesford Town: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley, Bailey (Butlin 46), Oji, Gatter, Mbunga (Haig 76), Thorley (C), Glover, Graham, Fitzpatrick.
Sub not used: Veiga
Newcastle Town: Gill, J Askey (C), Bridge, L Askey, Cashmore, Davis, Griffiths (Wilson 79), Bott, Thomas (Bradbury 55), Dennis, Lee (Morris 83)