Only a footballing miracle can stop Stamford now
Has Nabil Shariff’s second half double secured Nothern Premier League football at Stamford’s Borderville ground next season?
Mathematically, so close! Realistically, absolutely!
In reality it will take a footballing miracle now to deny Stamford their NPL future.Frickley, beaten 2-1 at Witton Albion last night, must win all their remaining games and Stamford no more than draw a couple of their's if the 11-point deficit is to be overturned. The Daniels also have a superior goal difference.
Even that most unlikely of possibilities will evaporate on Saturday if Stamford win at rock bottom Droylsden.
So congratulations to manager David Staff and his battling squad who have ridden the highs and lows of their first NPL season to protect this proud status. There have been tough moments, like the 6-1 defeat at Worksop which was to mark the start of better things, but they have never been swamped by the dogfight at the bottom.
Ironic that three would go down so convincingly but that it would need monster 55 points to secure virtual safety.
Mind you the nerves were jangling for many of a healthy travelling support last night as Stamford trailed for half an hour to a Janni Lipka pile driver before superior class finally told against already relegated opponents with three goals in the last 25 minutes.
Until then Stocksbridge, relieved of the cares of a survival scrap, had harried like terriers on their beautiful playing surface and might even have been two to the good at half time, another rocket this time from Nathan Joynes crashing down off the bar.
Stamford were a little off colour first half against a home side, already relegated and playing with freedom. The Daniels struggled for fluidity in possession and in the face of strong wind failed to maintain pressure.
The first chance of the game was engineered by Shariff. After playing a slick one-two with Robbins, he surged into the box but blazed over. Stocksbridge then applied a bit of pressure and Paul Malone headed clear for a corner under immense pressure inside his six yard box.
Shariff was again involved in another Stamford effort but his ball across goal evaded everyone and away to safety.
The hosts then had the Daniels' bar rattling as Liam Royles' pull back was smacked against the underside of the woodwork by Joynes and then scrambled away to safety.
Stocksbridge then went ahead. Lipka, receiving a quick throw midway in Stamford territory, was allowed to stride forward and unleashed a powerful long range shot that cannoned in off the far post.
Just as the half was drawing to a close Jason Field won a 50-50 drove into the box but his shot clipped the top of the bar and away to safety. Stamford upped their intensity at the start of the second half. Robbins and Field both had shots comfortably saved and Jon Challinor grazed the side netting with another.
A Daniels' equaliser seemed inevitable but they nearly found themselves two down when a superb left foot volley by Joynes had Will Jones beaten all ends up only for the underside of the bar to come to Stamford's rescue again.
With less than 25 minutes to go some intricate work played in Challinor who, with clever footwork, got himself into the Stocksbridge six yard box and crossed for Robbins to tap home. A goal was a great way for Daniels' top scorer to celebrate his birthday on Monday and agree a new contract with the club.
Stamford sensed victory and, 11 minutes later, Shariff linked up with Robbins to stride into the box and finish well across the goalkeeper.
Right on the stroke of full time Shariff made the result conclusive. Receiving the ball from Dan Lawlor he danced his way through the home side's defence before rifling over goalkeeper Jack Ward to seal the win and a second double in the space of four days. It also lifted Stamford to a dizzy 14th in the table.
Manager David Staff's joy was clear to see and why not. Survival in this league is no mean feat and a mid table finish looks all the more possible.
STOCKSBRIDGE: Jack Ward, Tom Cadzow, Ben Turner, James Knowles, Brett Lucas, Matthew Telling, Liam Royles, Janni Lipka, Jamie Smith (Brett Bowden-Lovell), Nathan Joynes, Matthew Hamshaw. SUBs unused: Richard Haigh, Andy Ring and Darren Schofield.
STAMFORD: Will Jones, Lewis Carr, Jason Field, Paul Malone. Richard Jones, Emeka Nwadike, Nabil Shariff, Jon Challinor (Alvin Jarvis), Jordan Smith, Charlie Binns (Shawn Richards), Ryan Robbins (Dan Lawlor). SUBS Unused: Ashley Robinson and John Feetham.