With both teams in contention for a play-off spot, a fiercely contested game was anticipated as Hednesford Town visited Dales Lane to face Rushall Olympic in the BetVictor Premier League Central. The Pitmen endured an afternoon of frustration as their greater share of possession and superior attacking football did not translate into the result that their overall performance deserved.
The Pitmen controlled a goalless first half, retaining possession of the ball for long periods, without creating the chances that would lead to a breakthrough. With Osebi Abadaki and Elliot Hodge asking questions of the home defence on both wings, a couple of early half chances fell to Danny Glover, the first coming from a Ben Bailey throw was blocked while a second shot from distance went inches over the crossbar.
Pic’s goalkeeper Jonathan Flatt made a timely block as Hodge shook off a couple of challenges as he burst into the area, the rebound fell kindly to James Hurst whose shot went the wrong side of the upright. Alex Moore received a yellow card for a foul on Abadaki, whose pace and purpose had been drawing a number of robust challenges from the home side.
Left-back Sam Griffiths won a corner following another extended Hednesford attack, Tom Fry delivered the ball to Glover who headed agonisingly wide. Moments later on a rare Rushall break, former Pitman Richard Batchelor landed a cross from the right onto the bar in the home side’s only clear chance of the half. A long ball from Andy Wycherley came close to putting Glover through on goal forcing Flatt, in inspired form, to come out of his area to head the ball clear of danger. The Pitmen player manager then combined well with Hodge to set up Hurst who shot wide from 25 yards.
The decisive moment of the game was a controversial one early in the second half, when Jonathan Letford broke through the middle inside the Pitmen area, Wycherley came out of his goal and although appearing to take the ball with both hands from the feet of the advancing striker, the referee signalled for a spot-kick. Sam Whittall fired the penalty to the left of Wycherley in the 49th minute, who to add insult to injury had been booked for the challenge.
The Pitmen worked hard to break down the resolute home defence who were now content to play a rear guard action protecting their fortunate lead. Another shot from Glover was blocked in the area, while Abadaki was denied a penalty when he appeared to be hauled down in the Rushall box.
The home side were reduced to ten men when the previously booked Moore attempted to deceive the referee following a legitimate challenge from Hednesford skipper Bailey on the edge of the area.
Flatt made a double save before tipping Jack Hallahan’s shot over the bar in a spell of play where the Pitmen were unable to find the back of the net through a crowded home area. In the dying moments of the game, with Rushall defending frantically, an apparent handball went unnoticed by the referee and his assistant.
Following the game Danny Glover said; “We totally dominated from start to finish, sometimes football can be cruel. The penalty should not have been given and a blatant handball was missed at the other end. We need to convert chances to see teams off when we are on top.”
Rushall Olympic; Flatt, Clarke, Charlton, O’Callaghan, Whittall, Pendley, Waldron (Lund 88), Moore, Rowley (Smith 72), Letford (Sawyers 83), Batchelor. Subs not used; Burroughs, Leachman-Whittingham
Hednesford Town; Wycherley, Curley, Griffiths, Bailey, Gatter, Hurst (Hallahan 69), Hodge, King, Glover, Fry (Reid 90) Abadaki (Jones 90). Subs not used; Morris, Viega