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Lovell late winner breaks Hemsworth’s hearts!

It was an absolutely stunning game of football, this Toolstation NCEL Premier Division clash between Hemsworth Miners Welfare and Penistone Church at the Distant Futures Stadium yesterday afternoon; and when all had been said and done, the men from the DSM Memorial Stadium came back from 2-0 down at the break to secure a crucial 3-2 win with a last–minute free-kick from talisman Brett Lovell to maintain their chase of leaders Yorkshire Amateur. It capped an outstanding second-half display from the visitors; one which denied Wayne Benn’s crestfallen side, who weren’t quite at their free-passing best, but who also showed why they occupy such a lofty place in the table. The contest lived up to pre-match expectations – and then some. Penistone are just a solitary point adrift of leaders Yorkshire Amateur, on whom they have a game in hand, and Hemsworth are fourth level on points with Worksop Town, writes Colin Muncie. (Main photograph by The Dribbling Code @dribblingcode)

The late arrivals in a fine crowd of 176 were still paying their six quid admittance fees when Brad Dockerty wriggled his way down the left. His cut back evaded everyone but found the onrushing Sam Jones on the edge of the area, and he absolutely rifled in the opener for Hemsworth after thirty seconds. What followed was end-to-end, hard fought, no-quarter-asked-or given Non-League football with not a little skill thrown in and every ball contested as if lives depended on it. Both technical areas were easily audible from the opposite touchline, with Wells’ Wayne Benn pleading with his players to take more care in possession, and Church’s Ian Richards encouraging every pass and move from his side. Hemsworth were forced into an early change when defender Stephen Wakefield suffering a knock immediately after the goal. Penistone’s Lovell had established a close rapport with the home support, treating them to a mazy dribble on the left wing before being on the end of every high ball heading for his own box. He missed nothing, and centre back colleague Tom Caldow didn’t miss much either. 

It’s easy enough to say that Penistone are well organised and get the ball forward as quickly as they can, but they play some excellent, fast football too, and in Lovell and Andy Ring they have two experienced campaigners able to exert great influence on proceedings and on the young team – Scrivens, Keightley and the outstanding Coduri – around them ; but just when it looked as though the one goal would separate the sides at the break, the skilful  Dockerty again supplied some fine ammunition from the left for Nash Connelly to plant home a brilliant near post header (41 minutes) to give the home side a two-goal cushion at the break. Half-time arrived with Wells still two to the good, and Wayne Benn escorted the officials off at the break, clearly unhappy with some of the more robust treatment his players had received, despite the scoreline and an early caution for Penistone’s Ryan Johnson.

The second half started as the first had finished, but Penistone were offering a threat almost every time they went forward, and after home ‘keeper Jordan Greaves had produced a miraculous save from a close range Andy Ring header, Wells failed to clear their lines, and Eddie Cass turned the resulting right-wing cross into his own net to reduce the deficit to 2-1 on 55 minutes and give the travelling supporters something to get behind – which they did.

Wells pushed on in an effort to restore that two-goal cushion, with Dockerty going close twice, denied on both occasions by Church’s keeper Chris Snaith; but Church continued to look dangerous on the counter, and after a hitting the inside of the right hand post, another lightning-quick switch from front to back saw Ring slide home a left-wing cross to level the contest after 67 minutes; a well-deserved strike to cap a clever display from the wily forward.

Lovell smashes home the late winner. Credit: Penistone Church Football Club.

Another view from Brett Lovell’s last gasp goal. Credit: Colin Muncie.

Both sides were going for the win, and Wells went close with a header from a right-wing corner from sub Richard Collier almost immediately, but Greaves was the busier ‘keeper, with several fine saves, and an amazing last minute point-blank defensive block from Higgins to deny Sam Scrivens, who would otherwise have scored.

The referee signalled for four minutes of added time, and with just one of the minutes left, Penistone were awarded a free kick for a foul on Coduri right on the edge of the box. Lovell stepped up to send a right-footed shot low under the jumping wall and into the net past Greaves’ right hand, before running half the length of the pitch to celebrate with the fifty or so travelling supporters – and in front of the home support with whom he had built such an intimate relationship in the preceding 93 minutes. It had been a thrilling comeback from the South Yorkshire side, and only the most hardened home supporter would argue with the win.

So that was that. A wonderful game and a credit to the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division. Both sides were deservedly applauded off as they made their way back to the dressing rooms, having made it pretty clear why they are both at the business end of the table.

Victorious Penistone Manager Ian Richards was understandably delighted with the win. “It’s another exceptional day in the recent fabric and history of Penistone Church Football Club,” Ian told the Club Website. “We’ve come away from home to a very, very good side in Hemsworth, who are well-organised and well-disciplined. They had a clear game plan to try and expose us defensively and stop us offensively and the way we performed – not just the second half but the first half as well – was superb.”

“It was an even game in the first-half and we probably had clearer cut chances. They were just very, very clinical in their finishes. The first goal we could have prevented it getting out there but it was in the first minute so the game wasn’t settled and the lad’s hit it from twenty/twenty-five yards out and Chris Snaith can’t do anything about it. And the second one we should have done better on the throw in. We stopped the cross but again [Nash] Connolly got across Brett [Lovell] brilliantly where it means Brett can’t touch him and it’s a good header. So, take these goals out of the game in terms of performance it’s very even and, for me, I’m thinking we edge it. So, at half time it’s very much about being constructive, making some tactical tweaks and changes, which worked and they work only if your players go and play it and execute it.”

After Andy Ring had levelled up the contest, Ian wasn’t content to take a point. “It’s two-all and you’re thinking, “well, at the start of the day we were five points ahead of Hemsworth, we were 2-0 down at half-time and now we’re back to 2-all. We’re not going to sit back and take that but you’re happy with that,” Ian admitted. “Then Jordan Coduri’s bravery on the edge of the box gets us the free kick and Brett takes seniority and the rest is history. Hits it, puts in hard and low to the bottom corner and everyone celebrates on the side-lines, on the touchline and on the pitch brilliantly and we get… it’s a great feeling! It’s a great three points.”

(Many thanks to Penistone Church for their kind permission for the use of excerpts from Ian’s interview.) 

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