Heanor Town 5
Clay Cross Town 1
Reserve team goalkeeper Sean Pickworth enjoyed a splendid debut for the seniors with a confident display on Wednesday in the Derbyshire Senior Cup, which included two brilliant saves.
But Heanor were uncomfortable with the visitors’ tough tackling and trailed to Carl Whiteford’s low shot from 20 yards on the half hour, until things changed dramatically in the last minutes of the first half.
Pickworth began and ended the game superbly. On six minutes, he came splendidly off his line to catch a corner and disbribute the ball, which put Heanor on the attack and ended with Chris King shooting inches wide from Gary Webster’s run and pass.
Webster then shot wide from a Nathan Benger cross which once again come from Pickworth’s excellent distribution.
Left with only Pickworth to beat, Aqualino Degirolamo, brother of Heanor’s Nicolantoni, failed to find the net, and this saw play transfer to the other end, where Benger’s overhead fly kick from Jordan Hall’s cross was a tad wide.
James Rushby’s lack of control from a half-cleared corner on the half-hour mark allowed Carl Whiteford to hit a low 20-yard shot which deceived Pickworth coming through a ruck of players.
Former Lion Rockie White tested Pickworth with another shot moments later, and when Heanor hit back, Richie Holmes shot over from a corner.
The minutes leading up to the interval became dramatic.
On 41 minutes, Jordan Hall was sent clear, drew Matthew Bradwell, and shot wide. Seconds later another ex-Lions Julian Capuano was shown a straight red for a two-footed tackle on Hall, and, after the protests had fallen on deaf ears, James Rushby at the far post, volleyed home Webster’s resultant free kick to restore parity to the scoreline on 44 minutes.
The second half was virtually all Heanor. Down to ten men, playing a team two divisions higher up the pyramid, and having given everything in the first half, Clay Cross began to tire.
Despite a Benger shot on the turn, smartly saved by Bradwell, and Webster’s delightful chip which hit the inside of an upright and rebounded into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms, Clay Cross held on bravely.
They even survived a grand run from substitute Graham Wells, whose shot flashed just wide of the far upright and might even have turned the game their way when a spirited breakaway saw another ex-Lion, Phil Lowry, race clear only to see Pickworth spread himself to splendidly save again.
Tiredness showed vividly when Heanor gained the lead on 62 minutes. A high Benger cross from the right saw Whiteford’s attempted clearance hit James Rushby and fly into the net. Fortunate, yes, but you have to be there to do it.
Bradwell then stood between his team and possible capitulation, saving twice in quick succession from Benger. But Heanor’s leading scorer made it third time lucky by turning in Graham Wells’s cross on 65 minutes and Rushby (pictured) completed his first hat-trick for the club with a delightful header from Webster’s cross five minutes later.
Hall and Wells both went close before Pickworth again showed his qualities with the save of the night from Jody Green’s free kick with nine minutes left.
The final minutes were all Heanor and three times harassed visiting defenders hoofed the ball off the line before Nico Degirolamo cut in from the right onto a Benger pass to make it 5-1.
HEANOR TOWN: Pickworth, Foster, Austin (Fields 45), Stevenson, Holmes, Degirolamo (N), Webster, King (Wells 55), Benger, Rushby (Grayson 74), Hall. Substitute not used – Langford.
CLAY CROSS TOWN: Bradwell, Shaw, Davey (Hollis 74), Beatson, Green, Capuano, Whiteford, Smith, Lowry, White, Williams (Hollis 74). Substitutes not used – Hallam, Ingall, Thornton.
REFEREE: Liam Sneddon (Derbyshire)
YELLOW CARDS: Wells (Heanor) 66 minutes, Shaw (Clay Cross) 45 minutes
RED CARD: Capuano (Clay Cross) 42 minutes.