By Ryan Batty:
Five second half goals from Hednesford Town condemned Nantwich to a 5-1 defeat at the Weaver Stadium, despite the Dabbers leading at the break.
A scrappy first half showed all signs of going into the break scoreless, but a late penalty from Harry Clayton gave Nantwich a half-time lead.
However, the Pitmen came out in the second half all guns blazing, as James Lawrie grabbed two and Callam Mendez-Jones, Tom Thorley and Danny Glover all got one apiece.
There was just the one change to Nantwich’s starting eleven from the side that beat Barwell on New Year’s Day, as Fabian Spiess had picked up a knock that required him to sit out for a week, and was replaced by Krystian Burzynski, who made his first league start since early October.
The first talking point of the game came after five minutes, as Sean Cooke almost put Jordan Cole in on goal but he just couldn’t find the ball and Hednesford were able to clear.
However, Cole was down after the chance and had to be substituted, Steve Jones his replacement.
The first twenty minutes or so were rather scrappy and tight, with neither team able to hold possession for more than a few passes. However, the first clear-cut chance came for the visitors just before the twenty-minute mark, as Fitzgibbon was played through, but oncoming pressure from Joel Stair forced the attacker to force a weak shot to Burzynski that the Pole easily saved.
A few minutes later, Nantwich came close to taking the lead as Jones found the ball in the box, cut inside as if going for a snap-shot, but the Hednesford defence dealt with the chance well and cleared before Jones was able to get the shot away.
After twenty-eight minutes, Nantwich earned a free-kick a few yards into the visitors’ half. All signs indicated that Hall was going to fire one into the box for a header closer to goal. However, Hall caught the keeper off his line and lobbed one towards Wren. The keeper dropped it in front of Clayton, but the Pitmen shot-stopped dived on top of the ball before the striker could get a shot away.
Ten minutes later, Cooke capitalised on a mistake in the Hednesford defence as they allowed him to race away towards goal, but he took one touch too many an as Wren dived at the midfielder’s feet to take the ball and make a fine last ditch challenge.
Clayton nearly gave the Dabbers the lead as he was inches from converting a fine right wing cross from Caspar Hughes but his effort was past the post.
Nantwich wouldn’t have to wait too long after to take the lead though as Jones received the ball in the box, and on the turn, was dragged down, giving the referee no choice but to give the Dabbers a penalty.
Up stepped Clayton who fired into the left hand corner despite Wren guessing correctly as the striker netted his third goal in as many games and gave the hosts the lead at the break.
The Pitmen came close grabbing an equaliser moments from the restart as Troy Bourne and then Courtney Wildin cleared efforts off the goal line.
However, Hednesford levelled the score soon after from a penalty of their own as the referee adjudged Bourne to have brought Joey Butlin in the box with the man in the middle pointing to the spot despite no real appeals from the visitors.
James Lawrie stepped up to make no mistake sending Burzynski the wrong way and bringing his side level.
Just three minutes later, the visitors took the lead as a free-kick on the right was whipped into the box by Lawrie, and Callam Mendez-Jones ran in at the far post unmarked to slam home from close-range.
One of the more controversial talking points of the game came soon after the hour mark as Stair was brought down in his own box, but an exchange with the referee saw Stair bizarrely shown a straight red card for dissent.
The second substitution for the Dabbers came after sixty-six minutes as Steve Jones was brought off for Joe Mwasile. This was followed by another change for each side as, for the visitors, Danny Glover replaced Joey Butlin, and Nathan Cotterell came on for Sam Hall for Nantwich.
With fifteen minutes left, Hednesford extended their lead as Lawrie fired a thunderbolt of a strike that ripped into the net for the attacker’s second goal of the game.
After eighty minutes, Thorley added another to Hednesford’s lead as he took the ball around Burzynski and slotted home into an empty net.
The Dabbers weren’t able to push for a consolation and the Pitmen sealed the deal with five minutes to go as Danny Glover stabbed home after a low cross into the box.
There was little time for any more chances or attempts for Nantwich as they fell to their first defeat of 2018.
The Dabbers are back in action on Wednesday as they make the short trip to Sandbach for the first game of this year’s Cheshire Senior Cup campaign.
Nantwich: Burzynski, Morgan, Wildin, Stair, Bourne, Hall © (Cotterell 70’), Hughes, Bell, Clayton, Cooke, Cole (S. Jones 7’ (Mwasile 66’))
Subs not used: Phillips, Forbes
Hednesford: Wren, Mendez-Jones, Curley, Fitzpatrick, Oji (Bailey 78’), Gatter, Walsh, Thorley ©, Butlin (Glover 68’), Lawrie, Fitzgibbon (Graham 81’)
Subs not used: King, Mutton
Referee: Mr D Issawi
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