Sunday, 13 March 2011

Pitmen Eventually Strike Twice

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
12 March 2011 at Keys Park
Hednesford Town 2 Tiverton Town 0
Southern League Premier Division (step 3)
75th new venue of the season.
I’m here because of a Twitter/Facebook vote.  My friends chose Rob rather than Darren, John or Neil.  They didn’t know these were managers’ first names, so I am here because of Rob Smith rather than at Workington, Buxton or Folkestone.  It’s random, which is good.
This match in one sentence
A hard-fought victory that was never as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest.
So what?
Hednesford have five league wins in a row but remain one point outside the play-off zone albeit with games in hand.  Tiverton need points badly – they are in the relegation zone and this defeat will have hurt.
The drama unfolds
I opted for terraces rather than seats – this is a ground with good views from all sides, and no fewer than three food outlets for a crowd of just over 400.  They run a very professional setup here with stadium tours, VIP packages and a co-ordinated presence in the social media.

After an opening spell of 15 minutes which Tiverton shaded, Hednesford were the first to make two really clear-cut chances in succession.  Nick Wellcomme and Chris Clements combined well for the first, which led to a corner.  Then Darren Campion played in Wellcomme and this brought out a good block save from Tiverton keeper Ryan Draper.  Both sides were nervy for different reasons.  Hednesford kept the ball well but too many passes were backwards.  Tiverton were well-organised and their centre backs were both busy and effective.  You got the feeling they would settle for a point from the day if offered.

A booking for Tiverton’s Tom Gardner led to the local wags comparing the visitors to poultry – “You dress like a chicken and you walk like a chicken!”  However, the yellow-shirted side had a great chance after 35 minutes as Michael Nardiello crossed for debutant Jules Emati-Emati.  He should have scored with his header.  0-0 at half-time.  To quote Tiverton’s website, they were “in the game at this point because they were working their ‘nads off for each other.”  Quite.

Hednesford started to impose themselves more in the second half, as these clips demonstrate.

A “hospital rollout” from Draper meant that Hednesford won the ball on their right wing with the defence out of position.  From the cross, Wellcomme neatly set up Kyle Patterson, but he blazed over with the goal at his mercy.  He stood there with hands on head for a full thirty seconds as the potential implications sunk in.  However, he redeemed himself after 68 minutes.  Clements showed persistence once again at the left byline and looped a teasing cross over the goalkeeper and Patterson was lurking to nod it in at the far post. 1-0.

Tiverton went for the equaliser and certainly created several half-chances.  Their body language screamed, “Why are we so unlucky?” but the home side seemed calm enough.  The last few minutes were disrupted by an injury to Campion, who was stretchered off.  The stoppage time was saved from anti-climax by the second goal.  Wellcomme won the ball – fairly according to the referee though the Tivvy players seemed to freeze for an instant in expectation of a whistle – and finished well.  The truth is that the game had not been safe for Hednesford until that moment.  Final score 2-0.
Alternative activity of equal excitement for tourists in Hednesford
A 20-lap no-holds-barred and contact-allowed race for modified Morris Minors at Hednesford Hills Raceway.  If they don’t have such races there, then they should.  I’m glad this was an exciting and hard-fought game, otherwise the comparison would have been something about duck-sexing by telescope on Chasewater.
A snippet from the programme
The programme is also a high-quality product with a number of excellent match reports, and a snippet from the supporters’ association page caught my eye.

“It was felt that at the moment there are very few “next-generation” supporters coming through the turnstiles so with the support of Steve Price (the chairman) we have been able to offer a family ticket for the game against Oxford City.”

The club have changed the ko time and ticket pricing structure of this forthcoming fixture (26 March) to avoid clashing with the England – Wales game.
What I learned today

Hednesford Town have a mascot who reflects the noble coal-mining heritage of this area.
What Next?
Hopefully a random hop of some description on Tuesday evening – details to be follow but look out for future chances on Twitter to make the @GrahamYapp decision!

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