Football: Pitmen must dig deep for recovery

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The Independent Online
Last year's FA Cup fairy-tale had not Stevenage Borough but Hednesford Town providing the principal characters, defeating York City in round three and then giving Middlesbrough a fright at the Riverside.

This season the West Midlands club has other ambitions but their quest to win a place in the Nationwide League has run into a sticky patch - and manager John Baldwin suspects the distraction of seeking another slice of Cup glory might have had something to do with it.

Hednesford led the GM Vauxhall Conference at the beginning of November after a run of eight victories in 11 matches and when they defeated Third Division Hull City2-0 in the first round of the Cup anything seemed possible. Since then, however, the Pitmen have won just two league matches, gone out of the Cup to Darlington and dropped to third place in the Conference, eight points behind the leaders Halifax, where they remain after Saturday's programme was virtually washed out by the weather.

Joe O'Connor, the 30-year-old whose two goals against Middlesbrough are among a tally of more than 200 in seven years at Hednesford, adamantly believes he can achieve his ambition of playing Nationwide League football after a career so far spent entirely in non-League. "We strongly believe we can win the title," he says.

Baldwin is less convinced. "We have got to turn things round as quickly as possible if we are going to get anywhere near promotion," he said. "The only thing that is keeping us in the hunt is the fact that other teams around us have been losing as well."

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