The Daniels’ place in the play-offs rests on the final day of the season after Saturday’s defeat at home to Loughborough.
Just a few weeks ago, Stamford had looked comfortably clear of the sides chasing them but their inconsistent form – coupled with injuries, illness and suspension - has given the teams below the chance to move above them tomorrow (Saturday).
Stamford are due to play second-bottom Mickleover Sports away from home but Chasetown, Sutton Coldfield Town and Halesowen Town will all be battling for the final two play-off spots and hoping Stamford slip up. The Daniels boast the best goal difference but need three points to be sure of holding onto fourth.
Last weekend’s defeat to Loughborough Dynamo was the Daniels’ second 2-1 loss at home on the trot and left manager Wayne Hatswell visibly irritated by his side’s failure to kill off a side well below them in the Evo-Stik League First Division South.
“For all the possession we had, the final ball let us down. They had three shots in the entire game and scored from two,” complained the Stamford boss, whose side took a good point at Halesowen a few days earlier when they could have secured their place in the play-offs with a victory.
Speaking after the defeat to Dynamo, he said: “I felt the result on Tuesday would only be great if we took the points today. Now we have made it difficult for ourselves.
“We knew it would be in our hands - and it is still in our hands - but we have to take our opportunities.
“We are making it difficult for ourselves and we should not be in this position where we have to win the last game to be sure.”
Stamford dominated Saturday’s game against Loughborough for long periods.
Goalkeeper Matt Finlay barely touched the ball in first half but for all the Daniels’ dominance, Dynamo’s tactics were spot on defensively and Stamford worked few openings.
Richard Jones’ header, wide of the right upright from an Andy Hall cross, was the closest the home side came in the first 20 minutes.
Stamford’s next opening came when Loughborough’s Kahil Mann-Kler spilled a Danny Brooks’ free kick but Robbie Maddox, playing at centre back in place of Tom Batchelor, was unable to capitalise on the loose ball.
Two minutes into the second half Ricky Miller came close, breaking from the centre circle but striking the foot of the Loughborough post with a shot across the keeper from the edge of the box.
Seven minutes later, the Daniels were made to pay for the miss. Robert Norris found space in the Stamford half and his shot from outside the box was deflected high past Finlay to put the visitors ahead.
It got worse midway through the half when poor Stamford defending was punished by ex-Stamford man, Jamie Clarke, who drilled the ball low past Finlay for a two-goal lead.
Stamford pulled one back with quarter of an hour to go when Loughborough failed to clear another Brooks free kick and substitute Ben Saunders slammed the ball home. The goal gave Stamford hope but Loughborough’s defence was disciplined and held on.
Stamford: Matt Finlay, Sean Wright (Ben Saunders), Dan Marshall, Robbie Maddox, Richard Jones, Danny Brooks, Andy Hall, James Ozmen, Ricky Miller, Jordan Hempenstall, Shawn Richards (David Staff). Subs: Sam Watkins, Tom Batchelor, John Swales.