Daniels Share Points In Goalfest
By Richard Curtis
Stamford remain top of the Evo-Stik League Division One East despite dropping their first points of the campaign after a thrilling 4-4 draw with Cleethorpes Town on Saturday.
The Daniels twice let two-goal leads slip away before Cleethorpes snatched a late leveller from the penalty spot.
Stamford boss Graham Drury highlighted two big turning points in the match which saw both teams finish with 10 men following the dismissal of the Daniels' Rob Morgan and Cleethorpes' Oli Donald.
Drury felt the loss of influential midfielder Joe Burgess after a nasty clash of heads at the start of the second half allowed Cleethorpes back into the contest with the visitors' late equaliser from the penalty spot following a hand-ball also frustrating the Stamford manager.
He said: "We had a two-goal lead twice and we haven't managed that well enough.
"But the ultimate change though was Burgess having to come off.
"It was giving Rob Morgan the chance to drive forward so we lost his energy going that way.
"It gave them a little foothold in the game and I think that's what hurt us more than anything.
"I am prepared to win games 4-3 this year because clean sheets didn't get us promotion last season.
"But I think the referee has killed us for the penalty. There is no way Liam Adams can get out of the way of it. He's so close to the ball.
"It's a yard or two yards and the ball has just struck him. He hasn't pushed it away.
"It's never a penalty and we would have won the game 4-3.
"We've got to control games better though and not let things rock us because we were in control until the Burgess injury.
"We still had chances, but all in all we're eight points clear of Cleethorpes at this stage and that's something I could only have dreamt about at the start of the season.
"We're five games unbeaten, still to lose at home and scoring plenty of goals which was something we had to remedy.
"We've got 11 goals in the league now which is good going, but we just need to tighten up in a couple of areas.
"It's a new back four playing together and, through all the good defending we do, there are going to be mistakes as that's what happens in non-league football.
"It's just if you make one mistake, you hope it doesn't happen twice but today it has."
It took the Daniels just six minutes to break the deadlock when Jordon Cooke turned home Eliot Putman's effort from a short Jake Duffy free-kick.
Jonathan Oglesby dragged a shot wide from the visitors' first opening before they drew level midway through the first half.
Josh Batty produced a neat piece of skill on the edge of the box to create an opening and, although Dan Haystead was down smartly to turn away the effort, the unmarked Oglesby was first to the rebound to tap home.
Parity lasted just three minutes though with Stamford going back in front through the goal of the game.
Burgess, who had been excellent in the centre of the park, picked the ball up and drove forward before unleashing an unstoppable effort that flew into the Cleethorpes net from outside the box.
Stamford now had their tails up and their third goal followed four minutes later when Taron Hare's long throw was headed into his own net by Cleethorpes defender Mark Gray.
The visitors made two changes at half-time as they sought a way back into the contest.
And the Daniels suffered a setback early in the second half when Burgess was stretchered off after a nasty clash of heads with Cleethorpes substitute Laurence McKay as both players went for the ball.
The loss of Burgess saw Cleethorpes enjoy their best spell of the game with Oglesby and Lewis Collins both going close while Morgan fired wide for the Daniels after a swashbuckling surge forward.
The visitors then reduced the arrears after 66 minutes when Collins found himself in space to fire home.
However, Stamford struck back three minutes later to restore their two-goal advantage as Reece Morris' persistence to hassle the visiting defence allowed Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson to pounce on the loose ball.
The Stamford striker then showed classy composure to round the advancing Dylan Parkin before firing home the Daniels' fourth goal.
Fortnam-Tomlinson twice went close to extending Stamford's lead with a couple of well-struck strikes that flew narrowly wide.
Cleethorpes then took advantage of finding more space in the home rearguard when Oglesby headed in his second and the visitors' third with 15 minutes remaining.
Stamford were then reduced to 10 men when Morgan, who had been booked moments earlier, saw his attempt to keep the ball in play construed as kicking it away by referee Jacob Lehane.
And Cleethorpes took advantage of having the extra man by piling on the pressure before Adams was adjudged to have handled with three minutes remaining after blocking a cross at close quarters.
Scott Vernon stepped up to convert the resultant spot kick before an eventful afternoon was ended in injury-time by the sending off of Donald for a reckless tackle on Morris.