TEN man Warrington Town slumped to a third defeat in their last four league games as they were beaten 1-0 by Hednesford Town.
It was Warrington-born striker Daniel Cockerline, a former Yellows youngster counts Sheffield United and Southport amongst his former clubs, who was credited with the winner 20 minutes from time to decide a scrappy game at Keys Park.
In a heated final 10 minutes or so, plus eight minutes added time, Adam Carden was shown a straight red card for an off the ball incident with Hednesford striker Daniel Sweeney, who counted himself fortunate not to go the same way before he was substituted off.
But the lacklustre Yellows had struggled to create openings even with 11 men, going down with a whimper, and having been beaten by Matlock and Nantwich in recent weeks too, they have now won just one of their last seven games in all competitions.
Control of the game was perhaps earned inside five minutes of kick-off when Hednesford captain Joseph Craddock brought down Ben Garrity with what looked like a very reckless challenge, and most were surprised when he escaped a booking with the referee seemingly reluctant to use his cards until the final quarter.
Craddock would enjoy much of the play in midfield as Garrity and Shaun Beeley struggled against the three in central midfield against them, but the Yellows would carve out the best opportunity of the first half.
Tony Gray feigned to shoot before dummying his way past two defenders to create an opening for a well-struck shot that was saved brilliantly one-handed by Hednesford’s outstanding goalkeeper Josef Bursik.
But as the half hour mark approached, Hednesford started to get their tails up and they enjoyed a period of sustained pressure where Sweeney would head wide and also shoot well wide when he perhaps had better options.
A headed clearance bounced in favour of Cockerline in the box and he opened up his body to curl a shot around Charlie Albinson, who pulled off a fine one-handed save low to his left.
From the resulting corner, Albinson was called upon again, diving full stretch to his left to push behind Rudy Misambo’s unorthodox effort which he surely would have seen late.
Warrington hit the woodwork six minutes before the break, Bohan Dixon arriving late to thunder Carden’s cross against the bar, though a mysterious flag from the much-maligned assistant referee on the near side may have ruled it out anyway.
The Yellows started the second half further up the pitch, but Hednesford would soon push them back, Craddock going a long way before seeing his drilled ball in to the danger area cleared by the once-again excellent Dave Raven.
Dylan Vassallo was introduced to try and spark some life in to the visitors, and he looked to be fouled in the corner in the build-up to Hednesford’s goal as he looked to create something in the final third.
As it was, Hednesford were able to take the ball away and Sweeney would go a long way, knocking the ball in to the box and as he went to cross, Adam Hughes flung himself to the floor to block and the delivery appeared to strike his arm.
With the home fans behind the goal incensed, Hednesford got on with play and the resulting corner dropped amongst a ruck of bodies in the goalmouth, before being diverted in to the back of the net by Cockerline, with a Yellows defender stranded on the floor, to give them the lead.
Bursik claimed Garrity’s header from a deep Vassallo free-kick, but the closing quarter of an hour of the game was disrupted by an ongoing feud between Carden and Sweeney, which eventually boiled over to an off the ball incident where the Yellows full-back was alleged to have punched the striker.
That led to some unsavoury scenes with Sweeney threatening the visitors bench, and eventually the referee showed the red card and Sweeney, shown a yellow himself, swiftly withdrawn by the home manager as they sought to see out a valuable win.
The numerical disadvantage did little to aid Warrington’s hope of a comeback and the closest they got was in the third minute of injury, when Dixon got up to head Alex Whittle’s clipped ball in to the box wide of the post.
Warrington are next in action at home to Basford United next Saturday.
Hednesford Town: Bursik, Curley, Fox, Mendez-Jones, Misambo, Griffiths, Gatter, Craddock, Cockerline, Sweeney (Haabo), King. Unused subs: Abadaki, Howard, Lycett, Veiga.
Warrington Town: Albinson, Carden, Whittle, Garrity, Hughes, Raven, Mackreth, Beeley (Evans), Gray (Amis), Dixon, Kirby (Vassallo). Unused subs: Duggan, Roberts.
Pictures John Hopkins