Hednesford Town 2 Warrington Town 1

Saturday 30th July 2011
Hednesford Town 2 Warrington Town 1
Pre-season Friendly
At: Keys Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Admission: free; Programme: none; Press teamsheet: free (A4)
Weather: hot and sunny
Attendance: 650 (headcount/estimate)
Duration: first-half: 46:37; second-half: 51:18

A pre-season friendly between Hednesford and Warrington may seen an unlikely combination especially with a team from Evo-Stik League Division 1 North travelling around 70 miles south to face a team one step higher in the Evo-Stik League Premier Division. I wondered why, unless there was a connection between the two teams I wasn't aware of.

My curiosity to get an answer took me to the Hednesford forum where a posting by 'Billy' shed some light on the puzzle: ‘At the recent HTFCSA meeting Terry said both teams had [an] empty Saturday on the 30th July and were looking for a game. They are also [an] Evo-Stik Division One North outfit, so be a good chance to play against a team from "oop north" before the real thing and see how we fare.’

So this friendly was the result of some clever thinking to give Hednesford some match practice against a northern team following their switch from the Southern League during the summer. As part of the launch of this season’s Hednesford kit, no admission was charged today.

While Keys Park doesn’t yet have the charm that made the old Cross Keys ground one of my favourites, Hednesford new ground is certainly an impressive stadium. I say ‘new’ but probably Keys Park no longer needs the ‘new’ tag as it was opened some 16 years ago in 1995. It boasts cover on all four sides, an impressive main all-seated stand, more seats behind the goal at the Hednesford end and large covered terraces on both the Wimblebury side and Heath Hayes end. The best non-league stadium in Staffordshire?

Today was my 12th visit to Keys Park to follow 16 visits to the old Cross Keys.

So far this pre-season Hednesford have played six games with defeats coming just in the opening game at Halesowen (2-3 on July 12th) and the most recent at home to Mansfield Town (also 2-3 last Tuesday). The trip to Keys Park was Warrington’s third pre-season friendly to follow victories over Burscough and Newton.

Teamsheets were available to those who asked and the Hednesford line-up included two familiar names to me in Mark Danks and Nick Wellecomme, both ex-Stafford Rangers forwards.

Warrington Town (wearing yellow shirts with blue sleeves, blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the Heath Hayes Terrace in the first half but were soon under pressure. And Hednesford (in all white) took the lead in the 10th minute. Chris Clements drilled a low angled shot towards the far left pots where Mark Danks fired home at close range.

The visitors were encouraged both vocally and by a drummer, and the small group of travelling fans on the Wimblebury Terrace were rewarded with a 26th minute equaliser. A quickly-taken free-kick, awarded for handball by Cheyenne Dunkley, was threaded through to Sam Finlay who rounded keeper Dan Crane and slotted home from a narrow angle.

It was substitute Nick Wellecomme who scored the winner in the 79th minute. He latched on to a ball down the right and lifted it over advancing keeper Paul Pritchard into an empty net.

Warrington thought they’d scored a late equaliser when Jamie Henders converted a pass from Michael Brown, only for the ‘goal’ to be crossed off by a raised flag for offside.

Referee Dragan Kuzmanovic was clearly enjoying himself in the sunshine as he decided to play 6 minutes and 18 seconds injury time before bringing this entertaining friendly to a conclusion.

Referee: Dragan Kuzmanovic.
Assistants: Lance Blackwood and Neil Faunch.

1-0 Mark Danks (10)
1-1 Sam Finlay (26)
2-1 Nick Wellecomme (79)