STAMFORD will be without four key players when they take on Boston United in the final of the Lincolnshire Senior Shield at York Street this evening.
Adam Millson and Harry Deane have both played for the Boston side earlier this season, and Matt Evans and Ryan Oliver are also cup-tied.
Sutton Coldfield 2 Stamford 1
STAMFORD faced Sutton Coldfield, who needed to win to maintain their fight for a play-off place, on a rock hard pitch on Saturday.
Ryan Oliver was back so it was the usual line-up with Evans was back in the squad but on the bench as Matt Cook kept his place.
The first chance went to Sutton Coldfield and Stamford were lucky not to be a goal down when Stuart McNaught completely missed a cross from Matt Dodd. A minute later McNaught first controlled the bouncing ball and then spun to let fly from just outside the box but his shot didn’t dip enough and clipped the top of the bar.
A long ball forward from Nick Jackson set up Dean Oliver who did well to first hold the ball under pressure from a defender and then get in a shot to the near post which was well held by Sutton keeper Karl Lewis.
At the other end, another good run from Dodd set up Jonathan Jones but his curling shot away from Chris Wright curled too much and past the far post.
Stamford took the lead in bizarre fashion on 16 minutes when Lewis let a 40 yard free kick from Dan Cotton go over his head expecting it to carry on over his goal but was stunned when the ball dipped and went in off the underside of the bar.
The game then became tight with Sutton trying to press forward but the Stamford defence holding firm and Millson working hard in midfield to break up their play.
Despite the Sutton pressure, Cotton was close to putting Stamford further ahead when a fiercely hit shot took a deflection and Lewis had to get down very quickly to shove the ball out for a corner.
The ball was bouncing high on the firm pitch and Chris Wright was nearly caught out misjudging the bounce but just got finger tips to the ball to steer it away from goal for a corner. Ed Booth jumped highest to head the corner but the direction was wrong and the ball went a yard wide.
Stamford conceded a free kick when Liam Parker was judged to have nudged a Sutton forward as he tried to control another high looping delivery into the Stamford half. From the free kick the ball was only half cleared to McNaught who hit the ball home from the edge of the box. Wright got finger tips to the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
Dodd had caused Stamford problems when the ball was played out wide but as the half went on Sutton switched to more direct high balls at the Stamford defence for them to try and control as the ball bounced high in front of them and that tactic had led directly to the equaliser.
It was more of the same in the second half and five minutes in Stamford were forced to concede a corner which was headed goalwards by Booth bringing a great save from Wright as he stretched to tip the ball over from just under the bar.
Stamford led a charmed life and breathed a sigh of relief when a shot from Craig Marshall thumped against the cross bar. Next a shot from Mark Bellingham looked certain to give Sutton the lead but it came back off the post.
Eventually the pressure told and it was a well worked set piece when Nick Dodd came from nowhere to meet a corner played to the edge of the box and he smashed the ball home.
It should soon have been 3-1 but two yards out, Booth managed to put the ball over the bar.
Sutton Coldfield used the condition of the pitch well to their advantage but, needing to win for a play off place, they also had more urgency about their play than Stamford.
Stamford: Chris Wright, Matt Cook, Nick Jackson, Andy Toyne, Miles Chamberlain, Liam Parker, Harry Deane (Matt Evans 85), Adam Millson, Ryan Oliver, Dean Oliver, Dan Cotton. Subs not used: Seth Burkett, Stuart King, Ben Sedgemore, Jake Walton.
Man of the match: Adam Millson