A below par Hednesford Town side crash out of the FA Trophy following their replay loss to lower league AFC Mansfield at Keys Park …
There were warning signs in the opening few minutes that the Pitmen were in for a torrid night in front of a small crowd. Kieran Wells forced a sharp save from Josef Bursik when he found himself in yards of space on the edge of the home area. A free kick and a corner for the visitors followed before a free header was planted well wide of the right post. As Rob Smith urged his team to get a grip on the game, it was Wells again proving to be a thorn in the side of the Pitmen with Callam Mendez-Jones’ last-ditch interception cutting out any danger.
Eventually the Pitmen showed some attacking purpose when Bursik found Matt Curley, making his 50th appearance for the club, on the right wing. His tempting cross split the visitors’ defence, but neither Sweeney nor Archer could apply a finish. Another series of corners for AFC Mansfield saw Bursik make a decent save from visiting skipper James Ghaichem.
The Pitmen should have taken the lead when Fitzpatrick played an intelligent ball into the area for Dan Sweeney after a surging run forward. Sweeney went round the keeper but shot over the crossbar from the right hand side. Matt Curley would then test AFC Mansfield stopper Jason White a few moments later with a long-range effort. However, it would be Kieran Wells, again finding gaps in the Pitmen defence, before sending a low shot into the net to give the visitor’s a 0-1 lead.
The first half finished with AFC Mansfield in the ascendancy but unable to add to the score despite a number of set pieces. In separate incidents Sweeney and the visitors Patrick Lindley both went into the referee’s book for poor tackles.
The Pitmen made a change during the break with Mikey Howard replacing Nathan Fox. The home side showed greater attacking intent with Fitzpatrick and Howard delivering promising balls into the area, while a free kick on the edge of the box caused problems after Sweeney was fouled. Following a visitors corner Howard broke at pace on the right teeing up Fitzpatrick who fired over the crossbar. Another late tackle from Sweeney attracted the referee’s attention, who opted to call over Stef Galinski to “have a word” with the fortunate Pitmen forward.
Despite long spells without the ball, AFC Mansfield were able to soak up pressure from the home side and make the occasional threatening break with Bursik making a low save from Bradley Wells. A run and cut back from Lewis Archer set up Dan Sweeney from close range, his goalbound shot was deflected off the line by Pitmen substitute Dan Cockerline.
Following this slice of misfortune, the Pitmen increasingly lost composure in front of goal with Mendez-Jones firing over, Sweeney failing to get onto a decent flick from Cockerline and Archer sending his shot just wide. In amongst the handful of chances spurned by the Pitmen, Lindley, after a hefty challenge on Callum Coyle, came to close to receiving his marching orders, however the referee continued with his earlier tolerant approach. Despite six minutes of added time due to the number of injuries suffered by the visitors during the second half, AFC Mansfield were able to hold on and advance to the next round with a tie against Pickering Town.
Pitmen: Bursik, Mendez-Jones, Griffiths, Fitzpatrick, Galinski © (Grimshaw 82), King (Cockerline 67), Curley, Coyle, Archer, Sweeney, Fox (Howard 46) Subs not used; Gatter, Veiga
AFC Mansfield: White, Marsden, Dudley, D’Laryea, Annable (Wall 60), Broadhead, Ghaichem ©, Buxton, K Wells (Dear 67), Lindley, B Wells. Subs not used; Guest, Burton, Dawes.