Hopeful Pitmen build for future

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The Independent Online
Once again, the quest for elevation to the GM Vauxhall Conference will be influenced as much by off-field factors as performances on the field of play, and it is possible that at least one of the eventual bottom three in the Conference may escape relegation, due to a lack of promotion candidates with suitable grounds. However, the leaders of the Beazer Homes League, Hednesford Town, are doing their best to climb to the top of the non-League pyramid.

Hednesford, known as the Pitmen, will win the title for the first time if they win their last three games - whatever second- placed Cheltenham achieve with their two games in hand. Hednesford's current home, the Cross Keys ground, which is leased from the National Coal Board, has been sold for redevelopment, so they are building a new stadium 200 yards up the road.

"We're bang on schedule to meet all major requirements by the Conference deadline of 6 May," Richard Murning, Hednesford's secretary, said. Keys Park will have a capacity of 3,500, with 950 seats, and scope to increase the capacity to 7,000; the development has been financed by the club and their sponsors.

Last term, Merthyr Tydfil escaped the drop from the Conference because the Northern Premier League (now the UniBond League) could not provide a suitable candidate, and this may happen again. Marine are four points clear, but their inadequate ground means that they have not applied for promotion.

The same applies to second-placed Guiseley - in all three feeder leagues the runners-up are eligible for promotion if the champions fail to make the grade. Third-placed Morecambe, five points behind Marine with a game in hand, have applied to go up, but according to Peter Hunter, the GMVC secretary, they have "a fair amount of ground work to do" prior to 6 May.

In the Diadora League, Enfield have a nine-point lead over Hayes and need to complete only a small amount of work at their stadium, so the Middlesex side are looking good for a return to the Conference, from which they were relegated in 1990.