Match Data 2002/2003
Hednesford Town 3
Havant & Waterlooville 0
Southern League Premier Division - Sat Sep 14, 2002
The reading of the team sheets at Hednesford yesterday afternoon brought the news that Shaun Gale’s hamstring problem hadn’t cleared up in time for the game, and consequently the ever versatile Neil Champion moved into the middle of the back three leaving a space on the right wing for Louis Savage to make his debut. Louis, who last season was part of Stevenage Borough’s youth training scheme set up, it has to be said did an excellent job of fitting in immediately and showed little sign through his 72 minutes of a lack of Hawks first team experience.
Again without strikers James Taylor and Warren Haughton, Jamie O’Rourke had the unenviable task of running the front line alone. In what looked like a slight change to the formation, Paul Wood played just behind O’Rourke to support him and Jamie Ford stepped into the centre of the midfield.
One could have expected the home team to capitalise on the injury struck Hawks, and the not inconsiderable coach journey to Staffordshire, but as the game got underway the Pitmen seemed willing to sit back initially to gain a better appreciation of the team they were playing. Through the first half the Hawks did much of the running, Hednesford looking for openings when they came. One did early on when Shaun Wray’s cross fell to Carl Adams, unmarked in the area. He opted to side foot volley the ball, and beat Aaron Kerr, but the shot struck the foot of the post and rebounded to safety.
Jamie Ford tested Mark Gayle moments later with a blast from range, but a Darren Simkin free kick then saw the pressure back on the visitors with Paul Ware eventually making a mess of Mark Jones’ excellent cross. Gareth Hall may have seen a chance for a goal after Louis Savage tried a deflected shot at the fifteen minute mark, Gayle dropping the ball in his area, but as Hall’s header hit the post the Referee blew for a free kick for an infringement on the keeper.
As was the case for much of the game, the Hawks forwards seemed happy to pick up the ball for crosses from the wing. Good crosses mostly, like Wood’s clever footwork in the 30th minute that saw him outrun the home defence and launch a dangerous ball from the left that was put out by Chris Brindley, but with everyone playing provider there was no one in the box to put the ball away. If ever Super Jim was missed, it was during this game. The half ended with a threat from the Pitmen, a fast break allowing them to arrange four players on the edge of Kerr’s six yard box, but Steven Piearce head Brindley’s cross over the bar.
Four minutes into the second half the Hawks won a free kick for a foul on Wood that seemed to encapsulate much of the day’s play. Confusion held the shot up with the visitors indecisive about what to do with the ball, and Bobby Howe’s eventual rocket launched high over the bar. Conversely, Hednesford made good use of a similar set piece opportunity moments later when quick work saw Stuart Lake’s deep cross volleyed into the net by Brindley. Amid the celebrations though the Pitmen hadn’t noticed the linesman flag for offside the moment the cross had been struck.
Lake then hauled down Howe for a free kick put unusually high by Poate, and a cross from Neil Davis found its way to Gayle just ahead of O’Rourke. Through the first hour of the game the Hawks appeared to be holding out well in the face of growing adversity. As was the case at Chippenham, it wasn’t a classic performance but it would have been enough to hold the Pitmen to a draw, until lapses in concentration allowed the home side a shattering three goal lead.
The first came in the 63rd minute when a short back pass allowed Wray to take the ball before it reached Liam Daish and poke it to Simkin for a lovely floated ball to the far post, where Piearce met it for a header that thumped past Kerr. Seconds later a miss hit clearance from Daish allowed Jones to shoot the ball into the side netting, but the critical blow came just five minutes after the first goal. Simkin split the Hawks’ defence with a high through ball that met with the inexplicably unmarked Paul Ware. He raised his foot high enough to gently clip the pass and added enough height to it to deflect it over Kerr and into the net.
The blow sapped what resolve the Hawks had, and for the rest of the half Gayle had nothing to do in the home goal other than watch as the third and most unfortunate goal saw the Hawks let in three for the second time in just five days. Leworthy replaced Savage in the 72nd minute as the visitors went all out with three at the front looking for a goal, but this obviously weakened the defence. Neil Champion, caught in possession on the edge of the area, failed to rid himself of the ball and stumbled as Ware took it from him to race one on one with Kerr. What followed was amazing. Alone with both Ware and Piearce as the visiting defence stood aghast, Kerr blocked Ware’s shot and then raced to the other side of his goal to do the same to Piearce’s first effort. Picking up the rebound, Piearce shot again and Kerr was unlucky not to pull off a third stupendous point blank save.
After that, all that remained for the players was the long and introspective journey home.
Paul Wood in action
Gareth Hall clashes with Chris Brindley
Neil Champion and the tenacious Mark Jones
Jones tries one of many shots
Louis Savage on his Hawks debut
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