Hednesford Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2

Saturday 1st October 2005
Hednesford Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2
Nationwide North
At: Keys Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 1452
Weather: sunny, windy, dry
Duration: first-half: 45:48 second-half: 48:19

Stafford Rangers moved up into third spot in the Nationwide Conference North table with a comfortable victory at local rivals Hednesford Town. Watched by the biggest Conference North crowd of the season of 1,452, both the goals came in quick succession early in the second half. Peter Thomson and 20-year-old Nathan Smith making his first start in Rangers’ colours both found the net within the space of two minutes.

Stafford (in red), who got the game underway attacking the seated Hednesford end in the first half, weathered some early pressure during which Lee Downes cleared a header off the line from former Stafford skipper Lee Barrow. But Rangers soon got more into the game and created the majority of the scoring opportunities in a tense first half.

The lively Smith, signed from Rushall Olympic during the summer, made an impressive start and volleyed against the bar on the quarter hour. Further chances fell to Kevin Street, Thomson and Paul Groves as Rangers gained the upper against their midtable neighbours.

Just before the break, however, former Stoke and Stafford midfielder Robert Heath drove an increasingly rare chance for Hednesford straight at Dean Williams.

Stafford noticeably upped the tempo at the start of the second half. Within a minute of the restart, Barrow pulled down Smith inside the area but referee Mellor turned down appeals for a penalty.

Robin Gibson curled a shot wide of the near righ-hand post and Grayson fired over from 30 yards out before the visitors turned pressure into an opening goal scored in the 55th minute. Thomson cleverly stayed on-side to latched onto a throughball from Gibson, got clear and slotted home after rounding goalkeeper Tommy Whittle.

The lead was extended within two minutes. Thomson turned provider for Smith who lashed home an unstoppable right-foot shot into the bottom left corner which Whittle had no chance of stopping.

Groves got on the end of a Gibson corner and shot wide and Whittle tipped over a rising 25-yard shot from Gibson as Stafford went close to scoring a third.

Hednesford threw on Paul MacMahon in a bid to get something out of the game and the introduction of Hednesford player-manager Chris Brindley as an extra striker forced Stafford to defend during the last twenty minutes.

Brindley, a former Stafford player who excelled as a determined central defender, saw a header cleared off the line by Nathan Talbott in the closing stages, arguablt the Pitmen’s best chance of the whole game.

Manager Phil Robinson considered this an excellent result and performance. He added: “In derbies you have got to be brave and strong, and play with passion and pride, which we did. I think the Rangers fans can be proud of the effort the players put in.

“I felt we had just a little bit too much quality for them and going forward we always looked like we could create (scoring opportunities). We had a number of efforts on goal, had a good penalty claim turned down and a few other incidents went against us as well. I’m delighted with the 2-0 victory and thought we were worth another goal.”

Robinson highlighted the contribution of two players at Keys Park. He said: “I though Craig McAughtrie was excellent at the heart of the defence and Nathan Smith was a livewire up front. He created a lot of opportunities for himself and scored a goal that he thoroughly deserved.”

Hednesford Town (white/black/black): 1. Tom Whittle, 2. Ross Adams, 3. Mark Branch, 4. Lee Barrow (capt), 5. Richard Teasdale, 6. Lee Williams, 7. Grant Beckett, 8. Rob Heath, 9. Steve Anthrobus, 10. Andy Bell, 11. Colin Hunter. Subs: 12. Paul McMahon (for Anthrobus, 60), 14. Steve Brannan (not used), 15. Tom Marshall (not used), 16. Chris Brindley (for Hunter, 67), 17. Craig Marshall (for Bell, 80).

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Neil Grayson, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Peter Thomson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Alan Dodd (for Daniel, 85), 14. Phil Robinson (for Smith, 77), 15. Dave Walker (not used), 16. Liam Murray (not used), 17. Danny Edwards (for Gibson, 77).

Referee: G. Mellor (Derby).
Assistants: J. G. Adcock and C. J. Marshall.

0-1 Peter Thomson (55)
0-2 Nathan Smith (57)

Hednesford: Steve Anthrobus (YC, 28)
Stafford: none