Hednesford Town begin their Isuzu FA Trophy campaign tomorrow in the third qualifying round with an away trip to nearest rivals Rushall Olympic. In a draw that has sent Stourbridge to Suffolk and Stafford to Lincolnshire, the Pitmen make the 7.7 mile journey to Dales Lane for what could be a blockbuster of a local derby, where a winner must be found on the day with the game going straight to a penalty shoot out if the scores are level after 90 minutes.
The Pitmen will go into the game with renewed confidence after finally getting their first win of the season last Saturday with a 5-0 victory against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. The Pics are also in great form at the moment with their last two matches seeing away wins at Redditch United (3-2) and Stratford Town (5-0). Interestingly Rushall have struggled somewhat at home so far with only four of their 14 points coming from home games having lost three of their first five at Dales Lane. They are currently ninth in the league table with four wins and four defeats overall as they look to replicate their excellent season last time around where they achieved a play-off place, losing 3-0 in the semi-final against Coalville Town.
Rushall are managed by former Pitmen boss Liam McDonald. He was only with us for six months at the start of the 2016/2017 season but his Pitmen team played some of the best football seen at Keys Park for some years and this tempted Solihull Moors to promote him two levels to the National League as their manager in November 2016. From Rushall’s last matchday squad, the only former Pitmen players are Tom Thorley and Andre Landell, although Jake Weaver and Callum Coyle had short loan spells here a few seasons ago too, and it is a very swift change for our new signing Keith Lowe, who only joined us from the Pics eight days ago.
Hednesford go into the game without the long term injured Riley O’Sullivan and midfielder Luke Rowe, of whom the management team said: “Luke did some light work this week and had no reaction so we will build him up in training a little more now and see where he is so fingers crossed he is on the right track.” The Pitmen will also be without Kyle Bennett, who is suspended for one game, and Mason Birch, who is suspended for three games following their red cards in the recent defeat at home to Bromsgrove.
Following the Pitmen’s 5-0 win in their last game, the management team said: “The mood has definitely been lifted with the win and training has been excellent this week. We have had two really good high tempo quality sessions and the lads have reacted brilliantly to what we are trying to get across as a management team.”
Everyone at the club would love to see a big following of Pitmen fans make the short journey to Rushall as a rallying call the management team said: “We are confident going into the game. We want to continue where we left off on Saturday and get another win but we know it’s not going to be an easy game. Rushall just missed out on promotion last year and recent results show they are turning the corner after a slow start but it’s a local derby and you always want to win them especially when you have a lot of fans making the trip and we expect that tomorrow.”
Kick off is at 3pm and the ground address is: Rushall Olympic FC, Dales Lane, Rushall, Walsall, West Midlands, WS4 1LJ