Daniels unable to cement play-off grip

Bruno Holden is crowded out by the Hucknall defence on Tuesday evening''Photo by Geoff Atton

Bruno Holden is crowded out by the Hucknall defence on Tuesday evening''Photo by Geoff Atton

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THE Daniels threw away a golden opportunity to cement their position in the play-offs on Tuesday evening.

Stamford were leading 10-man Hucknall Town 1-0 but conceded a sloppy equaliser in the final minute of regular time.

Bruno Holden had given Stamford the lead at the Premier Kitchens Arena with a deflected shot from a tight angle that looped up over keeper James Lindley in the 14th minute.

Before that Stamford had ridden their luck when a Hucknall header crashed back off the bar from a corner but once ahead the Daniels had chances to double their lead.

Danny Brooks’ ferocious shot, unleashed from 35 yards on the half hour, was the closest Stamford came to adding to their tally and Lindley did well to fingertip the ball away from the top left corner.

Hucknall’s biggest threat was at set pieces when they packed the box but Ross Whalin had few saves to make.

An open first half led to a scrappier second and Phil Massingham’s straight red for elbowing Dean Whiley in the 50th minute should have given Stamford the advantage they needed to seal the three points.

However, instead of spreading the ball wide and stretching the opposition, the Daniels played too casually and failed to capitalise on their extra man.

Holden rounded Lindley midway through the half but his final shot was too weak and bundled out for a corner by a recovering defender.

Shortly after a stinging Brooks free kick was punched clear by Lindley.

The introduction of Jake Gibson, with Nathan Watson switching to the right flank, offered greater width but too often Stamford were caught offside or failed to weight the final pass accurately enough.

Then, in the 89th minute, Stamford were caught out at the back. A ball into the box was poorly cleared and right back Kieran Walker nodded the ball over Whalin into an unguarded net.

A draw doesn’t help either side greatly, with Stamford looking to seal their position in the play-off places and Hucknall still chasing the play-offs themselves. Fortunately for Stamford, play-off rivals Loughborough Dynamo and Carlton Town lost, while fifth-placed Sheffield were also held to a draw.

Daniels’ assistant manager Gary Stones said: “It feels like a loss to be honest.

“I knew it would be a tight game. I think they’ve been in our box twice in the second half but if you switch off, you can get punished.

“We created chances and put in crosses; but couldn’t get on the end of them.

“In the second half we slackened off when we should have punished them. That is disappointing. But at the end of the day we go to Romulus on Saturday with a good run still going.”

Stamford: Ross Whalin, Luke Garton, Joe Pheasant, Wayne Duik, Dean Whiley, David Staff, Nathan Watson (Kieran Watson), Jarred Holmes (Jake Gibson), Bruno Holden, Scott Mooney (Nick Ghislanzoni), Danny Brooks. Subs: Adam Hewitt, Harry Deane.

M-o-M: David Staff. Match sponsor. Martin ‘Wolfie’ Adams.