Hednesford Town approached their opening Emirates FA Cup encounter with a troubling early season injury list and the absence of marksman Reece Styche who was on international duty with Gibraltar. The squad was boosted by the return to fitness of Courtney Richards and the the arrival of forward Chay Tilt as the Pitmen sought to extend their unbeaten start to the season. Cleethorpes Town have started their league campaign in the Northern League East reasonably well, currently sitting in eighth place, despite being a league below the Pitmen, the Owls triumphed in the last meeting between the two sides, winning a cup replay after a 1-1 stalemate at Keys Park.
The Pitmen got off to a strong start, dominating the opening stages of the game and it was no surprise when Andre Landell opened the scoring in the 12th minute heading home debutant Chay Tilt’s inviting cross. Minutes later Tilt could have extended the Pitmen’s lead when he got on the end of Carter Lycett’s left wing cross, Owls’ keeper making the vital save with his feet. There was a hint of offside when Josh Batty had a great chance to equalise when through on goal but his tame shot was easily saved by Andy Wycherley.
A flat second half performance from the home side failed to kill off the tie as Cleethorpes battled their way at back into the game. Substitute Josh Smaller had only been on the pitch for a minute when he rose above everyone else to head Cleethorpes Town level in the 72nd minute. Both sides fought for a breakthrough to settle the tie, with the visitors enjoying greater possession, but in reality there were no more clear cut chances setting up a replay on Tuesday night.
After the game Keenen Meakin-Richards commented; “We were lethargic, tired and leggy. Fair play to Cleethorpes Town who at time were better than us today. The management team will take that on the chin, with the amount of knocks and injuries we have, but we are still in the cup and we will wake up and make sure that we bounce back on Tuesday night.”
Hednesford Town; Wycherley, Webb, Pryce (Griffiths 54), Bailey (Richards 46), Rowley, Ison, Tilt, Parker, Brown, Landell (Chambers 64), Lycett. Subs not used, Morley, Wollaston, Hanna
Cleethorpes Town; Jackson, Walker, McKay, Topliss, Cooke, Donald, Dickens, Flett, Batty (Smaller 71) Robertson, Venney. Subs not used, Boswell, Lowe, Middleton