Sat 18
Mens First Team
Sporting Khalsa
R Morgan (13'), J Margetts (77'), M Willock (86')
J McKenzie (55' Sent Off), L Armstrong (57' Sent Off), A Parsons (81')
Stamford Secure Playoffs

Stamford Secure Playoffs

By Richard Curtis
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Stamford stormed nine points clear at the top of the Northern Premier League Midlands Division table after extending their unbeaten run to 12 games on Saturday.

The Daniels were 3-1 home winners at the Zeeco Stadium over a play-off chasing Sporting Khalsa side who finished the match with nine men after two quick-fire sendings off in the second half. Goals from Rob Morgan, Jonathon Margetts and Marshall Willock secured a 10th win of the 12-match undefeated streak which has yielded 32 points for the Daniels.

The victory also enabled them to take advantage of second-placed Halesowen losing at home to Shepshed Dynamo while Spalding, in third spot, were held to a goalless draw at Bedworth United. There was just one change to the Stamford starting line-up following last week's home win over Bedworth with Isaac Currie coming in for the injured Joe Burgess.

Both sides went into the contest with impressive goalscoring records and it was Stamford who went close to taking the lead in the opening exchanges as Cameron Johnson dragged a shot wide. Home goalkeeper Dan Wallis safely held onto a shot from Harry Cunningham before the Daniels broke the deadlock after 15 minutes.

Connor Bartle's long throw into the penalty area was flicked into the path of Morgan who turned the ball home from close range. The opening goal sparked a strong spell of Stamford pressure and they created enough chances to have put the contest beyond their visitors.

Margetts and Jack Duffy linked well to send Stamford's top scorer clear but, for once, he fired his shot wide of goal. Bartle's cross to the back post was headed over by Morgan who then teed up Johnson with an astute pass but the Stamford striker shot wide.

Jake Duffy's corners were causing concern for the Khalsa back-line and Tesfa Robinson was forced to head over his own crossbar before a second succession set piece found Margetts who was again off target with a close-range effort. Johnson then sent Margetts clear of the Khalsa defence but, with just goalkeeper Sam Arnold to beat, he shot wide of the goal.

The squandered chances kept Khalsa in the contest and they showed their attacking intent towards the latter stages of the first half but Stamford staved off their threat to hold the lead at the break. Stamford came out for the second half determined to double their lead and they piled on the pressure in the early exchanges. They created a flurry of chances in the opposing penalty area but Khalsa put their bodies on the line to keep Stamford at bay.

Johnson then found himself in a one-on-one with the last Khalsa defender who he burst past only to be thwarted by Arnold who then recovered superbly to keep out the follow-up with a fine double save. Khalsa then lost their composure as the game reached the hour mark by having two players dismissed in three minutes.

Stamford had been awarded a free-kick but, when Harry Vince bent down to pick up the ball, Liam Armstrong needlessly tried to kick it out of his hands. It sparked a mass melee between both sides as tempers boiled over with Khalsa striker Josh McKenzie seeing red for violent conduct once order had been restored. Vince and Armstrong were both booked but, while the Stamford midfielder maintained his control for the rest of the contest, his Khalsa counterpart sent Jake Duffy flying a couple of minutes later with a rash challenge which resulted in his second caution and a red card.

The double dismissal allowed Stamford to further dictate the contest but Khalsa defended well in numbers and were always a threat on the break. Jack Duffy rose highest to head narrowly over before Arnold got down well to deny Johnson again. A second goal was on the cards and it duly arrived with 12 minutes remaining when the impressive Bartle saw his cross swept home by Margetts for his 30th goal of the season in all competitions.

That should have been game, set and match to the Daniels but, to their credit, the nine men of Khalsa continued to plug away and they cut the deficit with nine minutes remaining. A corner picked out the unmarked Andrew Parsons and he guided his header into the far side of the home net as Stamford momentarily let their concentration slip.

However, the two-goal lead was soon restored as Stamford avoided a nervy finale when Jake Duffy's pinpoint free-kick was headed home by Willock at the far post. With news filtering through of Halesowen's home loss, the final whistle was greeted with scenes of jubilation both on and off the pitch. With just six matches of the season remaining, Stamford now look in a strong position to claim the coveted crown.

They are on an excellent run of form while their title rivals are wavering and it will now be a case of maintaining that momentum and their high standards in the all-important run-in.

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Match details

Match date

Sat 18, Mar 2023






Northern Premier League - Midlands

League position

Sporting Khalsa