Hednesford Town fell to defeat against promotion chasing Shaw Lane in controversial circumstances – after seeing a man dismissed in each half.
The home side made the perfect start to the game when they went in front after five minutes as defender Charlie Gatter swept the ball home from 18 yards after a corner hadn’t been cleared properly.
Although Shaw Lane showed plenty of attacking intent the Pitmen still continued to press forward with James Fitzgibbon seeing a shot deflect into the side netting after a surging run forward.
Gatter almost lobbed his own goalkeeper in the 26th minute – but the ball bounced into the side netting with Spencer Harris heading the resulting corner wide.
Hednesford goalkeeper James Wren made a smart double stop on the half hour mark as he first scampered back to clear off the line before blocking an effort from Alex Byrne.
The Shaw Lane midfielder was in the thick of the action again in the 41st minute as he drove forward before firing his effort over the bar.
Hednesford’s Danny Glover fired narrowly wide in the 45th minute from a free-kick into the penalty area. This wouldn’t be the last action of the half though as the Pitmen striker was dismissed after a 50/50 challenge drew reactions from the visiting bench and players, which saw the referee bow to the pressure and produce a second yellow card.
The ten men of Hednesford battled hard at the start of the second half and they didn’t look as though they had a man disadvantage with Fitzgibbon again coming close for the Pitmen.
In fact the visitors could count themselves lucky not to be a man down themselves as Ryan Qualter lunged in on Tom Thorley, but the referee felt that it was only worthy of a booking.
After seeing out most of the chances for the visitors Hednesford would come unstuck in the 70th minute though when a corner was only half cleared and Nicky Walker fired home a lovely effort into the bottom corner.
Eight minutes later and the Pitmen were reduced to nine men when Louis Harris was given a straight red card only seconds after coming on, following a sliding tackle which was deemed dangerous by the referee – a decision that was largely inspired again by the Shaw Lane complaints.
The visitors now sensed victory and went ahead in the 80th minute when Reeves fired home from 12 yards after a whipped in cross from the left had picked out the striker.
Despite their numerical disadvantage the Pitmen kept pressing forward and forced a number of corners – with Joe Fitzpatrick coming close to an equaliser as his effort was deflected wide for another set piece.
Shaw Lane would add a third late on when a ball over the top was taken down by Walker who rounded Wren and fired home into an empty net.
Although the scoreline wasn’t one that favoured the home side the majority of the Keys Park faithful stayed behind in order to cheer and applaud the nine remaining Pitmen and their management team off the field in recognition of their valiant efforts and their perceived harsh treatment they had received during the previous 90 minutes.
Hednesford’s attentions now turn towards Boxing Day when they make the short journey to Rushall Olympic.
Hednesford Town: Wren, Thorley, Curley, Mendez-Jones, Oji, Gatter, Taylor (Harris 77), Fitzpatrick, Lawrie, Glover, Fitzgibbon (Walsh 80)
Subs not used: Mbunga, Graham, Butlin
Shaw Lane AFC: Wilczynski, Pollard, Gordon, Lugsden, Qualter, Lugsden (Reeves 65), Byrne (Whitehouse 85), Abadaki, Clayton (Chilka 76), Harris, Walker
Subs not used: Rothery, Payne