The Pitmen visited Marston Road for the second leg of the Chase derby with Stafford Rangers making the neighbourly gesture of splitting the gate receipts after the previous encounter, a 1-1 draw was played behind closed doors at Keys Park a fortnight ago.
The hosts made the better start testing the Pitmen defence with some dangerous crosses and set pieces into the area, Ben Bailey dominated in these early exchanges and it appeared that the storm had been weathered. Furthermore, when Rhys Thompson’s searching pass found Dan Turner on the right, the frontman found space and coolly finished past Lewis King to put the Pitmen ahead against the run of play after 11 minutes.
Stafford continued to largely control the half and an untidy challenge from Dan Preston in the box, presented Jamie Sleigh with the chance to equalise from the penalty spot. Danny Glover got on the end of Louis Dodds’ cross to force a save from King before the break.
The Pitmen went close to regaining the lead early in the second half, when Bailey narrowly headed over from a corner won by Turner. Callum Coyle’s accurate pass found Jamie Sleigh, who from the right of the Pitmen area claimed his second goal of the afternoon to give the home side the lead in the 57th minute.
Turner set up Dodds, who shot wide as the Pitmen fought to get back in the game, before both players had good efforts blocked by resolute home defending. The Pitmen came close to levelling the game in the closing stages with Turner shooting just wide after a tricky spin on the edge of the area. Jed Davies was denied by King at the far post when he got on the end of Thompson’s deep cross. Carter Lycett slotted a ball into the area for substitute George Cater, who was just unable to go round the advancing keeper.
After the game, Pitmen manager Andy Morrell commented; “Obviously I want to win, I was disappointed with the first half. We weren’t quite good enough with the ball, it’s pre-season and it’s a learning curve. We got six or seven lads through 90 minutes and created some good chances that we didn’t take. We conceded two poor goals, but we will learn from it and we look forward to the upcoming games.”
Hednesford Town; Wycherley, Thompson, Lycett, Bailey, Preston, Smith (Davies 67),Norcross (Cater 67), Dodd (Hallahan 67), Glover, Dodds, Turner. Subs not used; Kilford, Waddison, Dongo, Agoo, Ojelabi, Santana.