High scoring end to the season
Stamford’s league season ended just as it began way back in August with a high-scoring feast of goals at the Vic Couzens Stadium.
Back at the start of their Evo-Stik Northern Premier League season, The Daniels had put six past Frickley Athletic in a ten-goal thriller. The difference this time was that Stamford lost by the odd-goal in seven against an evenly-matched Blyth Spartans.
Stamford made a good start in front of a big home crowd swelled by plenty in green and white who had made the long trip down from Northumberland to cheer on the visitors. But after a close range Paul Malone header had tested Blyth’s rearguard, it was Spartans who took the lead with Matthew Wade heading into the top corner of the net virtually unchallenged in the centre of the Stamford box at an 11th minute corner.
With Stamford secure in the knowledge that their Northern Premier League place was already secure for next season and Blyth already secure in the top half of the table, there was little at stake for either side and as if in the spirit of end-of-season friendliness, Blyth allowed Stamford right back in the game.
Dan Lawlor’s free kick from the right was wonderfully bent between the defence and keeper, and Jordan Smith’s timing perfect to power his header past Conor Grant but the Blyth marking was no better than Stamford’s had been ten minutes earlier.
Lawlor had a good chance to add his own name to the scoresheet after an excellent exchange of passes with Nabil Shariff but Lawlor’s final shot, dragging the ball from an awkward position, was palmed to safety by Grant.
The Daniels were creating more openings and were rewarded on the half hour when Ash Robinson tucked the ball past Grant to round off a scintillating counter-attack, which began with Smith winning the ball on the edge of the Stamford box and breaking at speed with Jon Challinor and Ryan Robbins playing their part in a swift move upfield.
A minute later and one of a series of Robinson’s long throws paid off with Challinor bundling in Stamford’s third at the far post. But Stamford’s two-goal cushion lasted barely a minute with Daniel Maguire, who was a handful for the hosts’ defence throughout, side-footing home a cross from the left into The Daniels’ net.
Stamford, who were already without skipper Richard Jones die to an injury sustained in training, then lost top-scorer Robbins, who limped off with what looks like a recurrence of his hamstring troubles but Stamford should still looked like going in ahead at half-time.
Yet just three minutes to hold out until halftime, Stamford were pegged back with generous defending again partly to blame for Blyth’s leveller. Maguire had wriggled free inside the penalty area to test Will Jones but the Stamford keeper could only parry the ball into the path of Arran Wearmouth who slotted the ball into the empty net. Stamford had the ball in the net again before the half-time whistle but the referee blew for a foul on the keeper and no Stamford players appeared to disagree.
The second 45 was subdued by comparison with only the one goal, scored by Paul Robinson 19 minutes into the second half. It was a tidy finish from the substitute, who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes, sliding the ball low past Jones from a tight angle after cutting in from the left.
Keeper injured as Stamford hit woodwork
Robinson had come on after Blyth keeper Grant went off after an injury apparently caused by a collision with the post as he covered a Challinor header which itself came back off the woodwork. It later emerged he had dislocated his shoulder.
Blyth winger and skipper Robert Dale pulled on the gloves and goal keeping jersey and looked assured throughout the remaining time.
Stamford pressed hard for an equaliser but Spartans defended resolutely in numbers with just Maguire remaining up front and when Shariff beat the offside trap Dale foiled the Stamford striker who chose to round the stand-in keep rather than test the him with a shot.
Spartans hold out to frustrate Daniels
Punching the ground, Shariff revealed his frustration which reflects The Daniels’ third loss on the bounce by the odd goal - a result which leaves Stamford a respectable 18th in their first season at the higher level. But that should not hide the fact that - with a decent cup run already recorded early in the season and with the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy final against Brigg Town to play on Tuesday - the 2013-2014 season already look like a triumph for David Staff and his team.
Man of the Match – JON CHALLINOR