Rebels can draw comfort from West and Stapleton goals

Slough Town

Slough Town

Stapleton (43), West (61)
Hednesford Town

Hednesford Town

O’Connor (20), Street (50)
League Attendance: 1120 Gary Abbott
Slough Town discovered it's tough at the top on Saturday, twice having to come from behind against Hednesford to grab a share of the points at Wexham Park, a result not enough to keep them ahead of Stevenage.

Although the match featured the sort of football and commitment expected of a top of the table battle, it took two individual errors from Slough to allow the Pitmen to take the lead in either half.

The Rebels' responses in turn came from an opportunist strike from Simon Stapleton, his first for the club, and another minor masterpiece from the Mark West collection. The Rebels should have gone ahead from their first corner in the seventh minute, as Scott Cooksey parried away Robert Smith's shot, and then watched Mark West's second effort blocked on the line, before tipping Steve Bateman's blast over the bar.

However it was Bateman's error in the 16th minute that led to the opener, as the centre-half slid to cut off Paul Carty's through ball down the right, only to make no contact and give Joe O'Connor a clear run on goal. The Hednesford ace, with nearly 200 goals to his credit for the club, tucked the ball low inside Ben Miles' near post.

Slough, still missing Cliff Hercules and Gary McGinnis at the back, were finding little joy with a more direct approach to their attacks, while the same method was reaping dividends for the visitors, as O'Connor's pace constantly troubled the Rebels' defence.

Ironically it took a long ball two minutes before the break to bring Slough back into the game, as Steve Essex stretched to clear Danny Bolt's hoof upfield, but only succeeded in weakly toeing it to Stapleton.

The former Wycombe man, poised in front of goal and 25 yards out, fired a right foot blast just inside the top right corner as Cooksey stood rooted to the spot.

Having worked hard to draw level before the break, Slough saw it slip away five minutes into the second half as Ben Miles, who had not conceded a goal in four hours of football, jumped for Steve Devine's comer only to fumble it down in the six yard box. Essex's initial effort was blocked, but Tyrone Street lifted the rebound into the net.

Miles made up for his error soon after by denying Street with his feet, a chance which came only seconds after Cooksey saved West's poke from Micklewhite's measured cross. Slough levelled once again on 61 minutes, and while Brian McDermott remains unhappy that his side's best football only comes in patches, this was another patch worth waiting for.

Gary Abbott held the ball up well on the edge of the box before playing it into the path of the onrushing Bolt on the left. The pass didn't fall perfectly for a shot, so Bolt crossed for West at the near post to turn the ball home on the volley.

The celebrations for that West goal - his 28th Conference goal beating Paul McKinnon's club record - were so ecstatic that one almost feared what might have happened three minutes later if West's diving header from Gary Blackford's cross had not been disallowed for offside.

The Pitmen also had a goal cancelled out, a repeat of their second strike except that Miles was unfairly challenged before the ball spilled out and Andy Comyn scrambled it in.

Both sides had chances to win it, Fitzpatrick hitting the bar in the 79th before Abbott's glancing header from Blackford's cross flew just wide of the far post, but the Rebels' final attacks were a little too frantic to force a clear opening.

A draw was certainly a fair result, and although their defence was stretched on many occasions, the understrength Rebels showed that they are more than capable of mixing it with the Conference's more ambitious clubs.

Hednesford Town Lineup

Cooksey, Carry, Devine, Simpson, Essex, Comyn, Fitzpatrick, Lambert, Street, McNally, O'Connor. SUBS: Cotterill, Taylor, Collins,


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