Hednesford Town return to Keys Park tonight when they face Stourbridge in another local derby in the Southern League Premier Central division.
Hednesford slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home to Royston Town on Saturday and Stourbridge continued their good recent form with a 3-1 win over relegation threatened Biggleswade Town. Stourbridge will provide a formidable challenge for the Pitmen as they have improved immensely over the season and only lost 1-0 to National League high fliers Solihull Moors last month in the FA Trophy. Stourbridge have played one game fewer than the Pitmen and are two points ahead of us and one place higher in the league so this is a vitally important game for both teams in terms of the final league positions.
After a torrid start to the season which saw Stourbridge adrift in the relegation places, experienced manager Mark Yates left the club and was replaced by two legendary playing figures in Leon Broadhurst and Stuart Pierpoint. Broadhurst made 780 appearances for Stourbridge over a 16 year period and Pierpoint made 152 appearances in four seasons and together they have galvanised the club and the players to lift them well clear of the drop zone and into the top half of the table. Their recent form has been excellent with four wins and two draws from the last six games putting them second in the form table behind runaway leaders Banbury United.
Stourbridge are the second best supported club in the division with an average of 714 (74 fewer than Bromsgrove) and they attracted over 1,700 supporters to that recent FA Trophy game.Stourbridge’s leading goalscorer is experienced striker Reece Styche, who has scored 16 league goals since his arrival in September after starting the season here at Hednesford. Fellow striker and former Pitmen loanee Montel Gibson scored 10 league goals before his departure in January and Jason Cowley has scored seven. The team had difficulties in defence though earlier in the season with eight conceded against Peterborough, six against Nuneaton, five against Alvechurch and a trio of 4-0 defeats against Tamworth, Hitchin and Rushall leaving them with the seventh worst defensive record in the division.
Hednesford’s best performance of the season came in the away game at Stourbridge in August when we scored two penalties in a 2-1 win having completely dominated the game. The two teams also met two months ago when Stourbridge won 3-0 here in a Birmingham Senior Cup quarter-final tie. As well as Styche, the visiting squad includes a number of former Pitmen including defenders Ben O’Hanlon and Kyle Rowley plus midfielders Reece King and James McQuilkin.
Reece Styche has missed the last couple of games as he has been away with Gibraltar during the international break. He came on as a substitute in friendly matches against Grenada and Faroe Islands, with both games ending 0-0 and should be back for tonight. Styche has recently signed a contract until the end of next season but fellow striker Jason Cowley will miss the rest of the season as he underwent an operation over the weekend to be ready for next season.
Stourbridge should be backed by a large following tonight and there should be a fantastic atmosphere inside Keys Park under the lights for a game which is one not to be missed!