Stamford Suffer Penalty Disappointment
Stamford were the architects of their own downfall for the second successive game as they were beaten in the final of the Lincolnshire Senior Cup by Cleethorpes Town following a penalty shoot-out on Tuesday night.
The Daniels again squandered a two-goal lead, just as they had three days earlier in the league draw with Lincoln United, after a flying start had put them in control of the contest at Ashby Avenue.
Excellent efforts from Jake Duffy and Josh Egginton inside the opening 13 minutes had given them the perfect start against their Evo-Stik League Division One rivals.
However, the unmarked Scott Vernon halved the deficit with a free header after 20 minutes before two goals in four second half minutes gave the Owls the initiative.
Josh Batty brought them back on level terms after 57 minutes with Vernon then scoring his second just past the hour mark when he tapped home from close range after Dan Haystead had spilled a long range shot.
Substitute Ollie Brown-Hill then equalised for Stamford with eight minutes remaining to send the tie straight into penalties.
Brown-Hill, Liam Adams and Grant Ryan were all successful from the spot for Stamford, but Joe Boachie's effort was saved as Cleethorpes converted all five of their penalties to win the Senior Cup for the first time in their history.
Stamford manager Graham Drury admitted the loss of leads was a cause for concern after his side failed to learn their lessons from the weekend.
He said: "We seem to get in front and try and sit behind the ball for some reason. At 2-0 up we should be taking some silverware home with us.
"We are a front foot side and, if we go deep, we just give too much room in midfield and teams then get a lot of joy down the sides.
"We got to be braver and be higher and go and squeeze on. If we're not on the front foot then teams put you under pressure.
"We've allowed Cleethorpes to suck us deep again and I thought we had learned the lessons from Saturday.
"We got ourselves in front and we needed to be brave and play high because space has never scored a goal in its life.
"We've got to let the midfield go and lock on and not sit in front. It allows us to get closer to the forwards and put teams under pressure.
"But teams have got us on the back foot again. We just don't seem to have that leadership.
"It's just basic things that has allowed us to get sucked in. I'd rather lose a game by having a real go rather than sitting behind the ball and inviting it.
"The players are not getting told them instructions at all. We mentioned about what happened on Saturday and I told them that in the second half we had got to be on the front foot.
"It was the exact same conditions with a bit of wind so you've got to get out, get your lines connected and find that next pass forward.
"Credit to Cleethorpes. They've come out after half-time, got the goal which has rocked us.
"It gone two then three and we've had to show a lot of character to get back in it. We've then hit the bar so we could have won it because a penalty shoot-out is just a lottery. I thought their keeper nearly got all four of them."
Stamford made a couple of changes from Saturday's league draw at Lincoln United with centre-half Kern Miller cup-tied which allowed Mike Armstrong to return to defensive duties.
Recent recruits Ryan Seal and Boachie both made their first starts with Boachie being named man of the match by county officials.
It took Stamford just six minutes to break the deadlock as Cleethorpes failed to clear a long throw into their box and Duffy rifled home into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
The lead was doubled seven minutes later with Egginton then showing his shooting prowess from similar range with a sweet strike as Cleethorpes attempted to scramble away another set piece.
The deficit was reduced though within seven minutes as Vernon found himself unmarked at the back post to loop home a header from a Batty cross.
Boachie clipped a shot just wide for the Daniels while Lewis Collins dragged an effort past the post as the two sides traded chances.
Ryan Seal then sent a dipping strike narrowly over the bar as Stamford finished the half with their lead intact.
However, within 16 minutes of the second half restarting Stamford found themselves behind following a quick-fire Owls double.
Batty bundled home a cross at the back post to bring Cleethorpes level before Vernon put the Owls ahead three minutes later when he tapped in from close range after Haystead had fumbled a shot from Danny North into his path.
Collins could have increased Cleethorpes' lead further but he miscontrolled when clean through which allowed Haystead to smother at his feet.
Stamford threw on extra attacking options to try and force an equaliser with Joe Burgess just failing to turn home a headed cross from Adams following a Duffy free-kick.
The equaliser eventually arrived with eight minutes remaining as substitute Reece Morris showed excellent skill to create the opening for fellow replacement Brown-Hill to latch onto the through ball and apply a cool finish.
Adams then rattled the crossbar with a thumping strike as Stamford came narrowly close to snatching victory before the penalty shoot-out.
Vernon successfully converted the first Cleethorpes penalty with Brown-Hill bringing Stamford level immediately.
Paul Walker and Adams were both successful with their efforts before Tim Lowe put Cleethorpes into a 3-2 shoot-out lead.
Boachie then saw his penalty turned away by David Birch to give Cleethorpes the initiative which was increased by Liam Dickens' successful conversion.
Grant Ryan kept Stamford's hopes alive, but Alex Flett kept his composure to net the winning spot kick for Cleethorpes.
Boss Drury added: "There were some good performances from our players and it's only two defeats in the last eight games so it's not all doom and gloom.
"I thought Mikey Armstrong had a great return. Joe Boachie had a good game and he's got to take confidence from that. I thought his and Liam Adams' work-rate was really good.
"We scored three goals again away from home and got two on Saturday. We are scoring goals for fun at the moment. It's now just about shutting up shop.
"It's just that period where we sit off and teams exploit and punish us."