So the Pitmen of South Staffordshire will be pitting themselves against some of South America's finest in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Hednesford, ninth in the Vauxhall Conference, earned a tie against Middlesbrough - Juninho, Emerson, et al - by virtue of Keith Russell's first-half spot- kick last night.
Russell, a 24-year-old decorator, stepped up to score after the York midfielder, Gary Himsworth, had handled on the line. The penalty against the Second Division side was two-fold, for with Himsworth also being ordered off they struggled to put Hednesford under any pressure in the second half.
When Hednesford embarked on this season's Cup campaign, in a goalless draw at Wednesfield before 480 spectators back in September, they had not reached the first round proper for nearly 80 years. Last month's second round victory at Blackpool brought them their first-ever League scalp. Now they can look forward to meeting Premiership opposition for the first time.
Financial considerations dictate that Hednesford will almost certainly switch the match to the Riverside Stadium. Keys Park holds barely 3,000, and on this occasion hundreds of ticketless locals gathered on a grass bank overlooking one terrace. Bryan Robson, the Boro manager, had a rather better view from the stand and can only have been impressed by the part- timers' performance.
After weathering strong early pressure, during which Scott Cooksey made three outstanding saves, they began to live up to the promise of their manager, John Baldwin, that they would attempt to overcome their visitors with a passing game. For York, who disposed of Manchester United and Everton in the Coca-Cola Cup in the last two years, it was a taste of their own medicine.
Cooksey was first called upon with the game only 70 seconds old. Gary Bull - cousin of Wolves' Steve, who happens to be a client of Baldwin's accountancy practice - headed goalward from Paul Stephenson's cross. But the keeper, arching backwards to touch the ball over, denied him his first goal of the season.
He then produced a fine sprawling stop to keep out Stephenson's 20-yard effort and an acrobatic tip-over as Bull arrived to meet Neil Tolson's headed flick-on. At that stage Hednes- ford were restricted to counter-attacks or shots from long range.
All that changed two minutes before half-time. In the scramble that followed a right-wing corner, Himsworth illegally blocked Paul Carty's goal-bound drive. Hednesford claimed the ball had crossed the line, Himsworth that it was ball to hand. No sooner had he departed than Russell rendered the argument academic. The final whistle was greeted by a pitch invasion which recalled that epic afternoon at Hereford a quarter of a century ago.
Hednesford Town (4-5-1): Cooksey; Fitzpatrick, Simpson, Comyn, Collins; Carty, McNally, Lambert, Lake, Russell; O'Connor. Substitutes not used: Devine, Essex, Street.
York City (4-4-2): Clarke; McMillan, Sharples, Barras, Atkinson (Tutill, 60); Himsworth, Pepper, Pounton (Murty, 66), Stephenson; Tolson, Bull. Substitute not used: Warrington (gk).
Referee: T Heilbron (Co Durham).Reuse content