Hednesford Beat Rebels

| League
Att: 971
Slough Town
0 - 2
Hednesford Town
Carty (3), O’Connor (69)
Barry Rake
Slough’s threadbare home form looked the worse for wear after the first ever visit to Wexham Park by Hednesford Town for whom a goal in each half proved enough to demonstrate a big gulf between two clubs with avowed ambitions to move upwards following their admission to the Vauxhall Conference this season.

The Rebels ended the day with only seven points from seven games at home, with 19 of their 25 goals against - three more than bottom club Dover - in front of their own fans.

It was, admitted manager Dave Russell, a black day.

"It was the worst we have played this season," he said. "Our players lacked the desire - too many had an off day at the same time. Take Rake out of the side and we had nothing. They were not a great side, but we never looked like scoring against them."

The Pitmen were handed the initiative in the third minute when Paul Carty was left unattended to take Joe O'Connor's cross from the right and bury the ball past stand-in keeper Delroy Preddie.

O'Connor then showed why he is currently the Conference's leading goalscorer in the 69th minute, beating Preddie, who mistimed the run out of his area, to a long ball from his keeper, then leaving Brian Lee helpless on the goal-line as he sidefooted home from eight yards with an optional striker outside him.

Preddie, deputising for injured first choice keeper Trevor Bunting, may fairly disclaim some of the responsibility for conceding Slough's second.

It was touch and go whether he would return after the break following a first half fall which left him unable to run properly or kick the ball.

He nevertheless pulled off two fine point blank saves, from sharpshooters Carty and O'Connor, to limit the damage to two goals.

His opposite number Scott Cooksey had only one serious save to make, in the 66th minute when Mark West headed on a Barry Rake chip for Ansil Bushay. But Bushay's volley from 10 yards lacked bite, as did the entire Slough attack which dried up for the second match in succession despite a busy afternoon.

Besides their all-round tidiness and efficiency - the Pitmen have the league's best defensive record as well as the top marksman - the encounter invited some other interesting comparisons.

They have in manager John Baldwin a man who has rescued them over the past four years from potential oblivion in the Southern League Midlands Division. A bold policy of `speculate to accumulate' has recently included the purchase of striker Dave Hanson from Halifax and his subsequent sale to Leyton Orient for £50,000, the profitable transfer to Rushden & Diamonds of midfielder Brendan Hackett and a potential six-figure deal with a league club for former Eire U20 international Gary Fitzpatrick who was injured for Saturday's game. The presence of one of the Conference's all-time top strikers, Steve Burr, as the club's commercial manager and occasional player, gives Baldwin - a man with no experience at this level - a solid back-up.
The Staffordshire club is now on a sound financial footing, attracting good support and investment. It is, above all, a football club.

The Rebels do not visit the Pitmen's brand new home, the £1.2 million Keys Stadium, until the end of the season.

Playing a compact and composed game, Hednesford looked altogether the tidier outfit and did all they needed. Come April there may be more daylight between the two unless Slough smarten up.

But after seeing Martin Stone - a player who headed off into obscurity at the end of last season - given his debut in the Conference after returning to the club just a week before, one wonders whether this is likely.

Hednesford Town Line up

Cooksey, Yates, Collins, Simpson, Essex, Carty, McNally, Devine, Street, Wright, O'Connor. SUBS: Jennings, Titterton (for McNally 89), Williams.

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