Daniels Fail To Hold Lead
By Richard Curtis
Seething Stamford manager Graham Drury slammed his side's play-off prospects after the Daniels let victory slip from their grasp for the second successive Saturday.
The Daniels had put themselves in control of the Evo-Stik League Division One East clash when a second-half Joe Burgess double gave them the initiative against a visiting Sheffield side who had taken the lead just after the interval despite being reduced to 10 men midway through the first half.
However, Stamford were only able to hold onto their lead for seven minutes before Sheffield substitute Luke Rawson took advantage of some indecision in the Daniels defence to score with his first touch and earn the visitors a share of the spoils.
The draw left Stamford 11 points away from the play-off places with eight games remaining and Drury admitted his side didn't deserve to be considered as promotion candidates any more.
He said: "I'm absolutely fuming.
"We've changed the game by giving ourselves width from deeper areas instead of high width.
"We've tried to play into pockets and we've got ourselves into a commanding position at 2-1, but again we can't see the game out.
"For the first goal their player has run 60 yards, through the heart of us and past six players to make our defenders give a penalty away.
"The second goal was comedy of errors. Dan Haystead has shouted for it, Mike Armstrong has left it and their player has nipped in. It was a poor effort.
"It's so frustrating because we have been in so many commanding positions, but we can't see games out and it's happened again.
"It was naive to be open from the kick-off for the first goal and then the lad runs on the pitch and scores with his first touch to equalise. We haven't been organised at all. He's come on from the dug-out and he's got in between us.
"I thought tactically I got it spot on. I changed it and I could see the plan.
"I got the plan right. It went perfectly, exactly how we wanted to play. We got ourselves into a commanding position, just like we had at Brighouse last week with a game-plan.
"I'm over the moon with my job and then the players go and let me down like that. I'm fuming.
"We're out of the race for the play-offs now and we don't deserve to be in them - it's as simple as that.
"We've not been good enough to make the play-offs. I'm front of the ship and it hasn't been good enough.
"It's over now, the play-offs are over. It's gone.
"I had said to them today that they were playing to be in big games.
"We want to be in big games, but the only way we could stay in big games was by winning the game in front of us to go into the next one and make it a big game.
"But now we're just playing for three points and a win. We should do that every week, but there ought to be an end product from it but I'm afraid we haven't got that."
Stamford were boosted by the return from suspension of Gregg Smith who went straight back into the starting line-up which was missing the Grantham-bound Kern Miller.
With the strong wind in their favour in the opening period, Stamford peppered the Sheffield goal with numerous early shots from distance.
Burgess and Rob Morgan were both denied early on by Sheffield goalkeeper Jordan Amissah while Jake Duffy saw a striking effort matched by an equally impressive block from Stuart Ludlam.
The visitors were then reduced to 10 men after 25 minutes of the contest when Darryl Winter got himself involved in a fracas after fouling Smith and was sent off for violent conduct.
Stamford looked to make the most of having a one-man advantage while the elements were in their favour with Burgess blasting a sweet strike narrowly wide and Duffy seeing a low shot palmed by Amissah.
The Sheffield custodian then had to make an acrobatic stop to keep out a swirling shot from distance by Mike Armstrong before Jordon Cooke tried his luck only for Amissah to push his effort away and ensure the opening half finished goalless.
The 10-man visitors though took the lead almost immediately after the restart as Newsham went down in the box within 45 seconds of the kick-off and Andrew Gascoigne took advantage of the slightly generous award of a spot kick to send Haystead the wrong way and put Sheffield ahead.
This stung Stamford back into action and, following a double substitution, they equalised after 57 minutes.
Duffy's cross into the box held up in the wind and Burgess nipped in ahead of Amissah to loop his header over the Sheffield goalkeeper.
The same combination then joined forces again three minutes later to put Stamford ahead as Duffy's corner picked out Burgess who powered home a header to give the Daniels a 2-1 lead.
However, they could only hold onto the advantage for seven minutes as the introduction of Rawson had an immediate impact on proceedings.
He chased down a long punt forward and, as Haystead and Armstrong left it for each other, the Sheffield striker managed to get the crucial touch to restore parity.
Stamford piled forward in search of regaining the lead but, despite creating some half decent openings, they failed to really trouble Amissah again and were left to rue more dropped points which could have hammered the final nail in their hopes of reaching the play-offs for a second successive season.