The Coppice Colliery Ground is on the Southern edge of the village of Heath Hayes, just to the East of Cannock. The ground is accessed by a service road which leads onto a fairly large car park. Access to the football pitch is through a path and a gate that brings you in adjacent to the corner of the playing surface. All along this side of the ground are the various facilities. There are three covered spectator areas running down this side of the pitch, two seating areas and a standing area at the far end. Sandwiched between the seating stands is the players and officials changing block. Between the main stand and he covered standing area there is a small bar and snack building. The dugouts are on the opposite side of the pitch and also feature a small dugout between the main two, presumably for extra officials if required. The whole of this side of the pitch is backed by trees. The pitch looked to be pretty flat and in good condition.
Heath Hayes and Dudley were coming into this game at opposite ends of the table. The Robins sat proudly on top of the league whilst Hayes were still marooned in the relegation zone. Hayes started the season very badly but, in recent weeks, had started to show more promise taking 10 points from the previous 15 available, including the superb last gasp win at Coton Green that I had the pleasure to witness (Hayes Fever). On top of that, Dudley were beaten 4-1 by OJM Black Country in their last game, so maybe this wasn't going to be the walk in the park that it may have appeared on paper? Last season, both games ended as away victories. An Ashley Smith goal saw The Robins leave Coppice Colliery with all three points in August, a game that saw both Town's Jake Sharman and Hayes's Jamie Brown see red. The March meeting at Noose Lane ended in a 3-0 win for Heath Hayes with goals from Jordan Dodd, Nick Wellecomme and Will Whieldon.
The visitors were into their stride very quickly. As early as the second minute Kyle Montague fired just over from the edge of the box, signalling Dudley's intent from the off. That intent didn't take too long to become actuality. Hinesh Patel got onto a loose ball some 25 yards out and, with the keeper off his line, went for the lob. Bills had to back-peddle furiously but mananged to get a hand to it and tip it over for a corner. The ball was delivered towards the near post where Owen Massey had timed his run to pefection to put Dudley ahead. 0-1
Dudley's travelling support probably thought they would kick on from this good start and take control of the game. However, Heath Hayes may be near the bottom, but they have shown recently that they are made of stern stuff. They responded to going behind by immediately going on the front foot themselves. Before the quarter hour mark had been reached, Nick Wellecomme made sure that Ethan Hawkes was awake when the keeper had to stretch to tip his deflected header over for a corner. Unlike Dudley's earlier effort however, the Hayes corner came to nothing.
At this point in the game, I think it is fair to say that Heath Hayes were on top and, whilst they weren't unduly stressing Hawkes, Dudley didn't look as if they were going to be increasing their lead. Sure enough, two minutes past the half hour pint, Heath Hayes were awarded a penalty for a trip in the box. No complaints from Dudley as Nick Wellecomme stepped up to drill the ball past Hawkes. 1-1 and no more than the hosts deserved.
HT Heath Hayes 1 Dudley Town 1. A great start from The Robins but credit to Heath Hayes who came back at the league leaders, matched them and, at times, looked the better team before grabbing a well-deserved equaliser. A great game to watch as a neutral. Some good football on show and a little bit of an edge creeping in towards the end of the half, especially between Wellecomme and Dudley captain Alex Perry.
There didn't look to be a way back for Heath Hayes now but they kept trying, even making a triple substitution, but Dudley were now managing the game perfectly. On 76 minutes Robins substitute Sam Yankson got clean through but somehow managed to mis-control the ball and present it straight to Bills. Three minutes later, Ryan Connor shot over from the edge of the box for Heath Hayes and that summed up their second half. With four minutes to go Dan Danks almost signed the game off in style when he hit a curling drive from just outside the box. It beat Bills all ends up but crashed back off the post.
FT Heath Hayes 1 Dudley Town 3. A dominant and solid performance from the league leaders in the second half. This came on the back of Hayes more than matching them in the first period and certainly showing enough to point at them getting out of the drop zone soon. Dudley now have a seven point lead over Bilston, who have a game in hand on The Robins. Ashby are a point further back with two games in hand. Hayes are in the drop zone, third from bottom, four points adrift of AFC Bridgnorth. Coincidentally, Dudley travel to AFC Bridgnorth on Saturday and Heath Hayes face a trip to Queen Street to take on Bilston, so both sides could do each other a favour.
Heath Hayes: Bills, Marshall, Hallam, Phillips, Brown, Ray, Ryan, Moore, Wellecomme, Williams, Ball. Subs: Burns, Sheppard, Whieldon, Greenshill, Cockrill
Dudley Town: Hawkes, Archer, Boswell, Smith, Colley, Perry(c), Danks, Massey, Montague, Patel, Crook. Subs: Bedall, Yankson, Hanna, Sherwood, Dubem
Ground Number: 335