DATE  13.8.2016
 
COMPETITION   Evo-Stik Northern Premier League
 
Hednesford Town  HEDNESFORD TOWN (0) 3
 Sammons (62), Dunkley (80), Singh (88)
Spennymoor Town  SPENNYMOOR TOWN (1) 1
  Gott (5)
 
ATTENDANCE  459
  
MoTM  Tristian Dunkley
 
TOP SCORERS  Sammons, Dunkley, Singh (1)
 
FORM GUIDE  W 
 
EVO-STIK PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE :: 13.8.2016
 
POSITION TEAM PLAYED POINTS
1st Ashton United 1 3
2nd Blyth Spartans 1 3
3rd HEDNESFORD TOWN 1 3
4th Mickleover Sports 1 3
5th Buxton 1 3
6th Warrington Town 1 3
7th Marine 1 3
8th Workington 1 3
9th Grantham Town 1 1
10th Skelmersdale United 1 1
11th Sutton Coldfield Town 1 1
12th Whitby Town 1 1
 
  MATCH REPORT
The Pitmen make a winning start to life back in the Evo-Stik Premier League with victory over newly-promoted Spennymoor this afternoon - but were made to work for it after an insipid first half display from Liam McDonald's team

The summer had seen much change to the Pitmen, both on and off the pitch since relegation from the Vanarama National League North in May. No fewer than nine players were making their Hednesford debuts after new manager McDonald had overhauled the squad that had sunk under the stewardship of Frank Sinclair, with Lewis Wright, Calum Flanagan, Michael McGrath, James Mutton, Simeon Maye, Sean Geddes, Tristian Dunkley, Ashley Sammons and George Carline all starting for the first time. Only Dan Crane and Francino Francis survived the summer cull of the starting XI

Spennymoor themselves had undergone many changes since earning promotion via the Evo-Stik Division One North play-offs in May. The ambitious Moors had raided National League neighbours Gateshead for trio James Curtis, Robert Ramshaw and Jamie Chandler, as well as snapping up further step one experience in the forms of Guiseley striker Tom Craddock and Dover goalkeeper Andy Rafferty in an impressive spending spree by long-standing manager Jason Ainsley

On a warm but cloudy afternoon, it was the visitors who made the better start to proceedings, as the Pitmen struggled to find their feet in the opening exchanges. Indeed, Spennymoor were to grab the first goal of the new season in the Evo-Stik Premier League in the fifth minute, as neat build-up play down the Spennymoor left saw the ball played into the feet of Craig Gott, who was given all the time and space required to set himself up and curl a shot into the left hand corner of Dan Crane's net from twenty five

Crane was called into action three minutes later to keep his side in the game at such an early stage, making a fine stop to deny Craddock following a partially cleared Spennymoor corner kick

It was all Spennymoor in the opening quarter, as Curtis was guilty of a horrible miss following a corner from the left hand side, firing wide from close range after the ball had been headed into his path

The Pitmen finally offered some resistance in the eighteenth minute through Dunkley, who had been left isolated up front against three giant Spennymoor centre backs. A bobbling ball just outside the penalty area was knocked into the stocky forward's path by Sammons, with Dunkley firing straight at Rafferty in the Spennymoor goal

Bit by bit, the Pitmen started to get a foothold in the game as they looked to play through the Spennymoor defence, rather than over the top of it. Sammons was the mainstay of much of the attacking, linking the play intelligently and with purpose

The hosts were forced into a substitution on thirty three minutes, as Francis was forced off with injury. He was replaced by the fleet footed Cohen Bramall, bringing the number of debutants up to ten for the afternoon. Francis's withdrawal also meant a reshuffle in defence, with Calum Flanagan moving from left back to the centre of defence

It was Sammons who tried his luck with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area on thirty five minutes, requiring Rafferty to tip the ball around the post as it looked to be heading for the bottom corner of the net

The Pitmen had looked second best for much of the first half, despite a bright showing in the final fifteen minutes, as Spennymoor had comfortably kept the home side at arm's length with their neat, purposeful passing and intelligent game plan

Half time saw a change in attitude for the Pitmen, as they started the second half with more purpose and directness. Bramall added pace down the left, pushing Carline more central to support the horribly exposed Dunkley

A great run from Dunkley down the left almost brought an immediate equaliser for the Pitmen on forty eight minutes, making a jinking run inside from the wing before firing a shot across the face of goal and narrowly wide of the far post

A free kick earned by Dunkley on the edge of the penalty area gave Geddes a first sight of goal on fifty three minutes, but the playmaker wasted a chance to test Rafferty by firing high over the crossbar and into the Heath Hayes terrace

McDonald made his first tactical change of the afternoon on the hour mark, taking off the more defensive-minded McGrath and replacing him with the ball-playing Tom Thorley

This seemed to give the Pitmen a real cutting edge, as they enjoyed more and more possession in pushing Spennymoor back into their defensive third

This pressure was to pay dividends on sixty two minutes as Sammons chased down a hesitant Spennymoor defence, robbing the ball from the feet of Curtis before firing confidently past Rafferty and into the roof of the net from close range

The game nearly turned on it's head three minutes later, as Dunkley charged down a slack clearance from Rafferty and beat him to the loose ball before firing in a cross for Sammons, who somehow turned the ball over the crossbar at the far post when it looked easier to turn it into the net

Gurjit Singh made it eleven new faces for the Pitmen on sixty seven minutes, coming on up front in place of Lewis Wright, a move that saw Maye move to right back to allow Singh to play in a forward role

Despite having been on the back foot for much of the second half, Spennymoor still offered a threat, particularly from set-pieces. Crane came to his side's rescue once more on seventy seven minutes, making a superb double save to deny Andrew Johnson and keep the scores level

This was to prove crucial to the outcome of the game, as the Pitmen took the lead for the first time in the afternoon through the superb Dunkley. After chasing down a long ball forwards, Dunkley took advantage of indecision from Joe Tait and Rafferty to nip in ahead of the pair and toe-poke the ball into the empty net from just inside the penalty area

 The hosts wrapped up all three points with two minutes remaining, as Singh scored his first Hednesford goal in bizarre circumstances. Taking the ball out of his own half, Singh surged forwards from halfway before striking towards goal with a scuffed shot that took a wicked bounce off the turf, ending up bouncing over the hands of the flailing Rafferty and finding the back of the net

McDonald will have plenty to ponder, but very little time to do so with a trip to Stourbridge in the offing on Monday night. The shape of his midfield will come under scrutiny, particularly in a poor first half display, as well as concerns over a natural finisher in the team. But - a win is a win, however you earn them on the opening day
Francino Francis keeps his eye on the ball George Carline Ashley Sammons watches the ball Tristian Dunkley acknowledges the crowd after his strike
HEDNESFORD TOWN TEAM
 
No. Player Mins On On/Off For Goals
Dan Crane 90  
Lewis Wright 67 Singh  
Calum Flanagan 90    
Michael McGrath 60 Thorley  
James Mutton 90    
Francino Francis 33 Bramall  
Simeon Maye 90    
Sean Geddes 90    
Tristian Dunkley 90   1
Ashley Sammons 90   1
George Carline 90    
SUBSTITUTES
Lloyd Ransome 0    
Danny Glover 0    
Cohen Bramall 57 Francis  
Tom Thorley 30 McGrath  
Gurjit Singh 23 Wright 1