Stamford 1 Grantham Town 3
THE Daniels saw what it takes to win the league on Monday, when champions Grantham Town won 3-1 at the Premier Kitchens Arena.
Grantham, who had sealed the Evo-Stik First Division South title two days earlier, gave a confident performance allowing Stamford little space to express themselves.
There was far less at stake for both sides since Stamford’s recent dip in form but after being given a guard of honour by Stamford’s players and the match officials, the visitors put in a faultless display.
Stamford played with Robbie Maddox in front of the back four, and Stamford’s rearguard were soon under early pressure.
A good spell of play by Grantham on their left wing led to Sean Cann bursting into the box and to fire low and hard at Stamford’s goal. The ball was deflected wide but from the resulting corner the visitors went ahead. There was a strong hint of the ball going in off goalkeeper Ross Whalin but Grantham striker Jamie McGhee, who looked threatening throughout, claimed the goal.
Stamford strikers Bruno Holden and Scott Mooney were given little time or space as the Daniels tried to draw level. Both were frequently frustrated by the offside flag, and when the Daniels did get to have a crack at the target, they were often forced to rush their strike. Jared Holmes had one of Stamford’s best chances in the first half but fired over the bar after excellent work between Joe Pheasant and Nathan Watson on the left.
Shortly before half time Grantham made it two. Tony Battersby turned in McGhee’s powerful free kick, driven at pace into the Stamford box, and Stamford had a mountain to climb after the break.
Sean Cann made it three for the visitors, 19 minutes into the second half with a low shot, capitalising on the kind of freedom in the penalty area that Stamford’s strikers were denied all game.
Stamford’s management threw on Danny brooks, Nick Ghislanzoni and Matt Baxter, and the Daniels reduced the arrears with a quarter of an hour remaining. Mooney deftly lifted the ball over the Grantham defence for Ghislanzoni to slide the ball under Rob Murray.
Whalin made an excellent double save late on but Stamford never looked like clawing back a three goal deficit.
Grantham didn’t play scintillating football but they did the simple things very well and, combined with some strong tackling, rarely looked like making mistakes.
Stamford’s assistant manager Gary Stones said: “We were not good enough to win the league but we are well up there with most of the teams. I don’t think we are that far behind where Grantham are but they kept a steady core of 20 players.
“It is disappointing, coming to the end of the season to slip out of the play-off places but I don’t think it has been a bad season after all the changes at the club.”
He added: “A few of our players looked nervy on Monday. Perhaps in the back of their minds was the thought that we are too far behind the play-offs now.
“But we have two games left and we will try to get as high in the table as we can.”
Stamford travel to play Lincoln United tomorrow and face Rainworth Miners Welfare in their final game of the season, at home, on April 21.
Stamford: Ross Whalin, Luke Garton, Joe Pheasant (Danny Brooks), Wayne Diuk, Dean Whiley, Robbie Madox, Jared Holmes, Harry Deane (Nick Ghislanzoni), Bruno Holden, Scott Mooney (Matt baxter), Nathan Watson. Sub unused: Mark Harvey.
MoM: Robbie Maddox.
Match sponsor: Westside Gym.
n Stamford beat Shepshed Dynamo 4-1 on Good Friday.
Turn to page 118 for a full report.