DATE  7.1.2017
COMPETITION   Evo-Stik Premier League
Spennymoor Town  SPENNYMOOR TOWN (2) 4
 Henry (6), Tait (41) (penalty), Fisher (65), (77)
Hednesford Town  HEDNESFORD TOWN (0) 2
 Mukendi (53), (90)
MoTM  Vinny Mukendi
TOP SCORERS  Carline / Glover (9)
FORM GUIDE  W  W  D  L  L  L  W  W  L  L  L
1st Buxton 27 49
2nd Rushall Olympic 27 49
3rd Blyth Spartans 24 47
4th Whitby Town 27 47
5th Spennymoor Town 25 45
6th Matlock Town 24 43
7th Workington 27 42
8th Grantham Town 28 41
9th Nantwich Town 23 40
11th Stourbridge 23 40
12th Barwell 28 39
Hednesford's first game of 2017 failed to bring any New Year cheer for the hardy souls that made their way to County Durham this afternoon, as a woeful display from the Pitmen saw them comfortably beaten by play-off chasers Spennymoor Town

A weather-affected lay-off for the Pitmen had seen them go twelve days without a game over the festive period, with under-pressure manager Paul Casey moving to bring in Nuneaton Town's midfielder Iwan Cartwright to strengthen his squad in midweek. Much of the buzz around Keys Park in the last seven days had surrounded Cohen Bramall, with the left back on the verge of completing a dream move to Premier League giant Arsenal

The Pitmen arrived at Spennymoor with yet more changes to their ever-evolving squad; on-loan George Forsyth was handed a long-awaited debut, with Jamie Matthews, Lloyd Ransome and David McDermott also returning to the starting XI. There was no sign of the highly experienced trio of Ashley Sammons, Dan Crane or Tom Thorley, joining Reece Leek and Lewis Wright on the sidelines as the Pitmen fielded a side that, on paper at least, looked short of experience and knowhow at step three level

Spennymoor's first season at step three had been one of quiet progress, with Jason Ainsley overseeing a move into the play-off places courtesy of a win over Frickley athletic on Boxing Day. They did, however, arrive off the back of a surprise defeat at rock-bottom Corby Town on Monday

Ransome was on hand to deny Spennymoor in the very first minute of the game, closing down the angle to smother Adam Mitchell's shot at goal

It was Tony Clarke that was presented with the first chance of the afternoon for the Pitmenin the fourth minute as a cross from Jamie Sheldon found the big striker, who somehow failed to turn the ball into the empty net from five yards out

This was to prove costly for the Pitmen, as Spennymoor took the lead two minutes later; the visitors' defence failed to completely clear their lines, giving Kallum Griffiths send over a cross. Shane Henry rose highest to out-muscle Dan Brenan and powerfully head beyond Ransome for the opening goal of the afternoon

The Pitmen responded through a chance for Matthews on fourteen minutes, with the forward somehow diverting a Gavin Caines header wide of goal from just a couple of yards out

Spennymoor were playing with plenty of confidence and drive through the midfield, occasionally leaving the likes of Stuart McNaught and youngster Forsyth chasing shadows in the opening quarter of the game as the hosts kicked down the very steep slope at the Brewery Field

There was a break in play on twenty five minutes as both physios were summoned onto the field after a nasty looking clash of heads involving Clarke and former Gateshead man James Curtis left both players flat out on the turf

More pressure on the Hednesford defence saw the lively Nathan Fisher turn and shoot, forcing Brenan into deflecting the ball behind for a Spennymoor corner. From the resultant corner, Fisher forced Ransome into a save low down to his right from close range as the hosts pressed

More last-ditch defending from Brenan denied Glen Taylor a shot on goal on thirty six minutes, with Joe Tait heading wide of goal from the corner kick as it was swung in to the far post

Brenan was the culprit in the piece on forty one minutes, as the young centre back conceded a penalty after a clumsy, lazy trip on Fisher. Tait stepped up and fired high to Ransome's left to double the home side's advantage at the half time break

With the pressure continuing to crank up on him and his team, Casey made a bold half time double change by taking off the hard-working but limited Clarke and the anonymous Sheldon, bringing on giant Vinny Mukendi and Spencer Weir-Daley in their place up front

The half time changes had also seen the previously disappointing David McDermott move positions, as the winger switched from left wing to right wing. Linking up with Kyle Haynes, the pair started to get some joy down the Spennymoor left and finally opened up the home defence on fifty three minutes. A great cross from McDermott found the head of the 6ft 7" Mukendi, who powerfully headed past Dan Lowson in the Spennymoor goal to reduce arrears

However, all the hard work in getting back into contention unravelled in a moment of madness by Ransome on sixty five minutes, as his poorly-struck goal kick found the boot of Fisher, who held off a weak challenge from Brenan and outpaced the centre back before taking the around Ransome and slotted into the empty net

To be fair to Mukendi and We-r-Daley, they had certainly given the Spennymoor defence more issues to deal with than anything their team-mates could muster in the first half, with Weir-Daley striking a shot narrowly wide of goal on sixty seven minutes after being played in by Mukendi

The big man's trickery on the deck almost saw him jink his way through the Spennymoor defence a minute later, with his clipped cross towards Weir-Daley cleared away by Curtis for a corner

Neat build-up play from the hosts on seventy six minutes saw Griffiths force Ransome into a good save, low down to his left as the right back broke down the wing and turned Courtney Wildin inside out

The hosts wrapped up the three points with a fourth goal on eighty two minutes, highlighting once again the lack of communication, quality and experience in the Hednesford defence. Brenan - who endured a torrid afternoon at the hands of more experienced opponents - headed the ball straight into the feet of  substitute Andrew Johnson, who somehow managed to wriggle his way past Caines, Brenan and Wildin before being tackled by Haynes. The ball fell kindly for Griffiths, whose cross was turned into the empty net by a grateful Fisher at the far post

Almost immediately, the Pitmen made their final change of the afternoon as McDermott was replaced by debutant Cartwright on the right side of midfield

Forsyth tried his luck with a long range effort after being set up by Haynes on eighty eight minutes, but lifted his shot just over the crossbar

Mukendi was to have the final say in the game as we entered four minutes of added time, as a superb lofted cross from the impressive and industrious Weir-Daley found the outstanding Mukendi, who headed home once more to double his tally for the afternoon and earn an edge of respectability to the scoreline for the Pitmen

A woeful showing from the Pitmen on reflection, as they lose more ground on the play-off places with the likelihood of losing further ground as other teams play their games in hand in the next few weeks. Worryingly, despite having a whole new team this term, there are a lot of comparisons to the side that struggled in Conference North this time last year; an inexperienced, error-prone defence, an uncompetitive midfield and unsupported forwards has created a whole new downward spiral that could leave them with little to fight for come February/March. Casey has a tough job to do to turn things around, with the murmurs of discontent growing louder. The tough games don't ease up, either, as they face top-of-the-table Buxton at Silverlands next weekend
No. Player Mins On On/Off For Goals
Lloyd Ransome 90  
Kyle Haynes 90    
Courtney Wildin 90
Stuart McNaught 90    
Dan Brenan 90    
Gavin Caines 90    
David McDermott 83 Cartwright  
George Forsyth 90    
Tony Clarke 45 Mukendi
Jamie Sheldon 45 Weir-Daley
Jamie Matthews 90    
Spencer Weir-Daley 45 Sheldon  
Kyle Rowley 0    
Vinny Mukendi 45 Clarke 2
Danny Glover 0  
Iwan Cartwright 7 McDermott