Daniels Hit Four To Stay Alive - Reports Chris Bond
On a night when nothing but a win would do, Stamford showed just how good they really are by smashing Skem for four and sending a message to the rest.
With Sam Hill unavailable due to work commitments, Jake Newman came into the side to partner Gregg Smith up front, with Jake Duffy moving to a deeper midfield role than the one he occupied at Darlington just 48 hours previous.
The game got off to the worst possible start from a Stamford perspective as the home side took the lead after just three minutes; a corner was played into the box and although there were several opportunities to do so, the ball was never properly cleared, and Max Hazeldine was only too happy to poke the ball under Paul Bastock to open the scoring.
This acted as an immediate wake-up call for Stamford and they hit back straight away; after some clever interchanges down the right hand side Curtis Hartley curled in a superb ball to the back post which Jordan Smith met perfectly with his head, to send the ball into the far corner and pull the away side back into the game.
The game settled down after such a whirlwind start, but Stamford were pressing high up the pitch and making Skelmersdale work for every ball. This tactic paid off in the 25th minute; the ball was won in the middle of the park and Greg Smith flicked a clever through ball over the top to an onrushing Newman, he took the ball in his stride, before cutting across the defender and smashing home with his left foot on the half volley.
It got even better for Stamford just 8 minutes later. A quick free kick was taken by Duffy which caught the home sides defence napping, and found Greg Smith in on goal; his first touch was slightly heavy which meant he improvise and lob the keeper with his head as the ball bounced up, the keeper made a fine save and it looked as if the danger had gone as the defence regrouped and pushed Lee Beeson wide who had collected the loose ball. However, Beeson had other ideas; he jinked his way to the byline before putting over the most perfect cross you could hope to see, curling over the keepers head to the far post, and there was only ever going to be one winner there as Greg Smith powered his header into the net.
The first half ended with a flurry of attacks from the home team but nothing with any substance and the teams went in at the break with the score at 3-1. Skelmersdale started the second half with lots of intent to try and get back into the match, but were given absolutely no encouragement by the no nonsense defending of Tom Batchelor and skipper Jon Challinor, Batchelor was very rarely beaten in the air and if he was you could rely on his partner to be sweeping up all the second balls.
Newman was a thorn in Skem’s side all evening regularly using his pace to get in behind the back four and with better decision making could have added to the scoreline. Stamford did extend their lead in the 61st minute; Duffy attempted a through ball and it was inexplicably missed by the full back as he went to clear it, this left Beeson with a clear sight of goal which he duly accepted smashing the ball past a vulnerable keeper. Special mention must go to Lee Beeson who had a hand in all four goals and was a threat the whole evening; tonight he looked every bit as classy and intelligent as he did in his first spell at the club, back in 2009.
The rest of the game played out in similar fashion with Skelmersdale playing into Stamford’s hands, constantly pinging ball after ball onto Batchelor’s head which seem to be magnetised. They did have one chance as the game drew to a close, when a cross was directed goal wards and it looked as if Bastock had made a terrific save, tipping the ball onto the top of the crossbar. However, the referee gave a goal kick and Stamford weren’t about to argue.
Stamford were keen not to concede again, as goal difference may potentially be crucial in staying up, they therefore sat back towards the end and held onto their lead. The final whistle was greeted with muted celebrations as it was an undeniably satisfying performance and a crucial win, but still a long way from safety.
Whitby beat Barwell to go four points clear of Stamford with one left to play and are therefore uncatchable. Consequently, the only way the Daniels can survive is if Mickleover lose their game in hand tonight away to Nantwich; and Stamford beat Mickleover on Saturday while also turning over their inferior goal difference, which is currently six worse than Mickleover’s.
This sounds like a tall order but is very possible; Nantwich are one of the highest scoring teams in the division and they beat fellow strugglers Hyde United 4-0 on Monday night, if they were to repeat this feat against Mickleover then Stamford would only need to win by any scoreline and they would avoid relegation. So in short, come on Nantwich!