Hednesford Town 1 Stourbridge 1
An exquisite Luke Benbow free-kick seven minutes from time salvaged a thoroughly deserved point for the Glassboys at Hednesford.
Stourbridge will be disappointed, however, not to have taken maximum points from their visit to Keys Park after holding the upper hand for good spells of the contest.
Stourbridge went in with the same starting eleven as at Buxton and with just one change on the bench with Ethan Jones recovering from injury to take the place of Jacob Wedderburn.
The Glassboys started in positive fashion and were on the front foot for the opening quarter of an hour or so. In the 4th minute Darryl Westlake played a pass inside to Tom Tonks who turned past his marker and laid the ball off square to Leon Broadhurst and he cracked in a 25-yard shot that was deflected just past the post for a corner. Four minutes later Tonks rolled a short free-kick forward into the path of Westlake and he slipped a clever pass into the area into a surprisingly unmarked Kayelden Brown, who, perhaps not realising just how much space he had, tried a back-flick that clipped the outside of Dan Crane's left-hand post. In the 12th minute the home side were almost caught napping again as a Tonks throw-in on the left allowed Brown to chest the ball down before turning and hitting a 20-yard shot that Crane got safely behind. The Glassboys threatened again in the 16th minute as a deep left wing flag-kick from Tonks was headed back across goal by Stuart Pierpoint and Tom Thorley's clearing header under pressure fell towards Tonks. He miscued his shot but the ball deflected invitingly towards Brown, but Crane was alert to the danger and narrowed the angle before spreading himself to save.
After that early flurry on the Hednesford goal, the remainder of the half was more even with the Staffordshire hosts getting more into the game. Jordan Nadat screwed a shot harmlessly wide for the Pitmen before Stourbridge responded with a fortunate ricochet off Blake Thompson breaking for Jordan Archer, however his shot on goal was well blocked by Bradley Peace-McDonald. On the stroke of half-time Archer and Darren Campion squared up like a pair of rutting bucks and were both cautioned by the referee.
Stour played down the slope in the second period and on 51 minutes Westlake sent a long free-kick into the box which was half cleared by ex-Glassboy Gavin Hurren. Brown hung up a cross from the left towards the far post where both Brad Birch and Stuart Pierpoint went up for a header with the ball dropping for Birch to fire a shot into the side-netting. Ethan Jones entered the fray on 63 minutes and his pace added new impetus to the visitors attack. In the 65th minute a quick goal-kick from Matt Gould saw Benbow give chase with Peace-McDonald. The ball bounced and sat up invitingly for Benbow to hit a dipping right-foot effort from 25 yards that hit the crossbar.
Three minutes later Gary Hackett's men went close again. Tonks supplied a shorter throw-in from the left than usual, sending the ball into the feet of Benbow. He turned and sent over a cross from the by-line, which Pierpoint then turned back towards the six-yard box and Dan Preston managed to direct a downwards header that came back off the post with Archer unable to touch home the rebound. A minute later, and against the run of play at the time, Hednesford drew first blood. Crane's goal-kick dropped to Jordan Nadat and he laid a pass off to Remeao Hutton. He sent a teasing ball into the middle that Danny Glover turned over the line with an outstretched boot.
The Glassboys sought a quick response. A throw-in from the left by Tonks was met by Preston who saw his header headed round the post by the covering Campion and with the Pitmen still pegged back, Tonks had a shot blocked before Broadhurst whipped an inswinging cross from the right into the middle that fell the way of Pierpoint. He rolled his shot past Crane, however the ball was cleared by a covering defender. Stour made a double change with Cooke and Westwood replacing Birch and Preston. After withstanding pressure from the visitors, Hednesford nearly grabbed a second on 81 minutes. A throw-in from the right by Lewis Wright bounced over the heads of Sho-Silva and Nadat, but the Pitmen striker reacted quickest to get in behind Sho-Silva, but Gould spotted the threat and smothered Nadat's attempt. Two minutes later Stourbridge got back on level terms in fine fashion. Hurren brought down Tonks to concede a free-kick and Benbow was the man of the moment again as he curled his 25-yard effort beyond Crane and into the top corner of the net. The visitors did not stop there and went all out in search of a winner. In the 89th minute Westlake laid the ball inside from the right for Benbow to hit an 18-yard first-time shot that was too close to Crane and then a minute into stoppage time Westwood fed Jones who attacked down the left before turning a low centre inside to Benbow. He back-heeled the ball off to Westwood, but his close range shot was blocked by the legs of Crane and Stourbridge were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
One point gained or two points dropped? The significance of which will become apparent on April 22nd, if not before.