Daniels Move Closer To The Edge
Stamford’s premier league status hangs in the balance after narrow defeat away to league leaders Darlington. Writes Chris Bond
Stamford started the game with a clear game plan, with two solid banks of four and Jake Duffy playing just behind focal point Gregg Smith. Darlington started the game with lots of possession and peppered Stamford’s area with crosses but nothing to trouble Paul Bastock. The home side were then forced into an early substitution as Phil Turnbull pulled up and was replaced by Paul Weldon.
A glorious chance was then gifted to Stamford; Taron Hare made a bursting run down the right hand side and put pressure on the Darlington left back who proceeded to try and pass the ball back to his goalkeeper but got it horribly wrong, and sent Duffy through one on one, but he was to be denied by an excellent sliding tackle from the home keeper, Peter Jameson, as he looked to take the ball round him.
The game went quiet for the next 15 minutes or so with Stamford’s defence marshalled by the excellent Tom Batchelor holding firm, and the tenacious Duffy working hard on the counter attack. The next opportunity came in the 25th minute and again fell to Duffy, he scuffed his shot when in a good position and when he, Jordan Smith, and several Darlington defenders lunged for the loose ball it turned into a goal mouth scramble which was eventually cleared.
However, the deadlock was broken soon after. Stamford won a corner which Duffy floated into the area, and with all Darlington’s attention being taken by Batchelor, Sam Hill had a free header which he sent beyond Jameson and into the net to give the visitors a surprise, but well deserved, lead.
This silenced the size-able 1707 crowd, although they were up in arms in the 40th minute when they were convinced of a Greg Smith elbow and from then on were calling for sending off whenever a Stamford player challenged for the ball. This, combined with a weak referee, meant there were lots of breaks in play as free kicks were given each and every time a player went down. Darlington started to increase the pressure and had their first real opportunity of the half when Stephen Thompson sent in a powerful drive which was destined for the bottom corner but was to be denied by a fine save from Bastock, diverting the ball behind for a corner.
Right on half time Darlington drew level through Kevin Burgess; a high ball was played into the area by Leon Scott, Bastock came out to claim what should have been a routine catch but at the last second was bundled out of the way by a Darlington forward and the ball fell to Burgess at the far post who couldn’t miss.
The second half started much like the first with lots of Darlington possession but nothing clear cut. The first chance came on the hour mark when Terry Galbraith sent a volley flying towards the Stamford goal via a slight deflection and somehow Bastock managed to re adjust and get a strong hand on the ball to send it over the bar.
On 68 minutes Stamford made their first change with Jake Newman coming on in place of Duffy and he was soon in the action. Following a corner from the home side Stamford looked to hit on the break and after Newman had held the ball up he laid it back to Lee Beeson who sent a delightful through ball to Curtis Hartley who was in on goal but still had thirty yards to run; with defenders bearing down on him Hartley chose the wrong option and skewed his shot wide of the near post when a return ball to Beeson would have resulted in a tap in. Beeson let him know what he thought of his decision.
With twenty minutes to play the Quakers began to carve out some good opportunities; from one of their numerous free-kicks Liam Hardy rose highest, only to watch his looping header come back off the crossbar. Darlington took the lead soon after; a corner from Adam Mitchell was whipped into the penalty area and with goalkeeper Bastock clearly being held by one of the home side’s defenders the ball bounced into the unguarded net. Somehow, the referee deemed this to be a fair challenge and the goal stood, the player himself admitted it was a foul post-match, but when your luck is out at the bottom of the table it really is out.
Stamford made a double change to try and get back into the match with Jack Wightwick and Callum Rzonca taking the place of Curtis Hartley and Ollie Luto respectively. Stamford pushed for an equaliser but with Darlington players going down like they’d been shot every few seconds it meant for a very disjointed end to the game. Stamford finally created a chance in the 95th minute and what a chance it was; they were awarded a freekick close to the corner flag which Beeson curled into the area, it was headed back across goal where a Darlington defender volleyed the ball into Sam Hill’s stomach causing the ball to spin back across goal where Newman was waiting to head into an empty net from 2 yards out, but somehow, somehow he connected with it poorly and it came off his shoulder and went over the bar. This proved to be a huge missed opportunity for the Daniels with the referee’s whistle coming moments later.
It goes to show how well Stamford played that they were applauded off by the home supporters, in particular Bastock who had shared lots of jokes with the massed home fans behind his goal throughout. All 14 players who appeared and manager Graham Drury deserve credit for outstanding effort and endeavour throughout, you could see just how much it meant to every single one of them and everyone in the ground recognised that Stamford had pushed the league leaders all the way, and couldn’t have argued if they’d come away with a valuable point.
The result leaves Stamford staring relegation in the face. Mickleover are six points ahead with a superior goal difference, Whitby are four points ahead and have a game in hand and Hyde sit one place and one point above The Daniels. With two games left to play 6 points is an absolute necessity if Stamford have any chance of staying up.