McGowan The Hero As Daniels Escape
Tom Mcgowan scored twice as the Daniels fought from 2-0 down at half time to win at the Zeeco stadium and escape relegation.
Two goals down to strikes from Sam Barnes and Liam Goulding at half-time, a lacklustre Daniels looked doomed and it would have been a brave punter who would have put a wager on a Stamford fightback, but battle back they did with Ryan Robbins scoring from the penalty spot and Tom Mcgowan bagging a brace to secure Stamford’s Northern Premier League status for a third season.
Stamford simply had to end their long painful winless run at the Zeeco Stadium for survival while a draw would be enough for the visitors; possibly even a defeat would suffice if Frickley and Marine were to lose - the pressure showed and both defenses began nervously.
Joshua Hancock had the first real attempt on target with a shot from distance that Andy Stevens comfortably held and as the half progressed it was Witton who were creating the best opportunities.
Alex Titchiner, who was constantly first to the ball and a threat throughout, was pulling his markers out of position and the corner which led to the opening goal was forced by the number 9’s burst of pace between Stamford’s centre backs midway through the half. Ryan Clarke made a last ditch clearance but the resulting corner was headed powerfully back across Stevens by Barnes into the top corner.
In response, Stamford had two god opportunities with Tom Batchelor firing over when Jordan Smith cushioned the ball into his path on the centre spot, and Robbins who hammered the ball narrowly wide as he attempted a spectacular leveller from 40 yards which forced keeper Dean Porter to scurry back to his goalmouth.
But for the most part, Stamford look disjointed and, unsurprisingly, lacking in confidence during the opening 45. Witton’s second - dispatched by Goulding after Stevens had been left exposed and could only parry his first effort - came as no surprise as the half came to a disappointing end for the hosts.
At the start of the second half, Dan Lawlor was brought on a Kurtis Revan, changing the Daniels shape but adding another pivot in central midfield and allowing Jon Challinor more freedom to push forward.
Nine minutes into the half, Challinor went down in the penalty area and Robbins struck home the spot kick to trigger the fight back.
Stamford’s newly found energy had been rewarded and offered encouragement, and soon after Witton had a couple of close shaves, which on another day could have been converted. Robbins had a bicycle kick deflected wide, Porter did well to hold onto the ball in a crowded goalmouth scramble and Dan Clements fired a well-struck effort which Porter gathered at the second attempt.
Entering the final quarter of hour, Stamford’s second half revival was still only partly complete and their spirit was being sorely tested when Robbins took on a hatful of players before slipping the ball to Challinor who was fouled in dangerous territory just outside the box. Nathan Fox, who rarely put a foot wrong at left back, struck a fierce free kick which caused panic in the Witton area, letting McGowan slam the ball home.
Titchiner had a decent half-chance blocked at the other end but Witton couldn’t restore their advantage and with five minutes of normal time remaining, Smith, who had been quiet for long periods, drove into the box, held off his defender and slipped in a perfect low ball for McGowan to squeeze in at the near post.
Witton threw everything at Stamford in the remaining minutes, packing Stamford’s nervous penalty box with players.
Jamie Rainford fired into the side-netting but the hosts, led by Richard Jones, stood firm for their first win at the Zeeco Stadium - it could hardly have come at a better time.
The stakes had been high and it was a game that could have gone either way but Stamford had pulled off the great escape.
Stamford: Andy Stevens, Ryan Clarke, Nathan Fox, Tom Mcgowan, Richard Jones, Tom Batchelor, Dan Clements (Gareth Jelleyman), Jon Challinor, Kurtis Revan (Dan Lawlor), Jordan Smith, Ryan Robbins (Lewis Carr). Subs not used: Courtney Meade, David Staff.
Witton Albion: Dean Porter, LIam Goulding, Jonathan Dawson, John Shaw (c), Sam Barnes, Michael Simpson, Joshua Hancock, Luke Clark (Tom Schofield), Alex Titchiner, Joseph Shaw, Zac Corbett (Jamie Rainford). Subs not used: Jamie Weeder, Theo Chrisokhou, Ryan Swift.
Daniels man of the match (Sponsored by The Grainstore Brewery): Nathan Fox