Ricky Miller scored four as Stamford brushed aside a strong Belper Town side to move to second in the table on Saturday.
The Daniels were superbly disciplined throughout to win 4-1 with the recently returned striker putting in a virtuoso performance against one of the side’s that manager Graham Drury had tipped as title contenders at the start of the season.
Drury had asked for “bravery and desire” on Saturday and his players responded perfectly, sending the Derbyshire side - who were sixth at the start of play - home with nothing but a sense they had met genuine title-contenders.
The Stamford boss said afterwards: “I told them a story before the game and the key words were bravery and desire, and the need to show those qualities today - and they did that.
“Ricky took his goals fantastically but I think the referee has cost us a goal and clean sheet today.”
Stamford could easily have won by more. Gary King had a goal disallowed for offside and Andy Hall had a shot cleared off the line.
The Daniels were also aggrieved that Belper scored after goalkeeper Matt Finlay appeared to be fouled. Referee Ben Cooke felt it was a fair challenge and allowed Mark Ward’s scrambled goal to stand.
His goal brought the score to 2-1 at half-time, reducing the deficit after Miller had scored twice in the space of three minutes just before the half hour mark.
His first was headed in from the edge of the six-yard box, redirecting a powerful Danny Brooks free kick in the 27th minute.
Soon after, Miller capitalised on an error in the middle of the Belper half, showing great vision to bend the ball around Belper keeper Dave Ratcliffe from around 35 yards with a first time, left-footed strike.
The Daniels dominated the opening minutes of the second half.
Miller and James Ozmen combined well for King to have the ball in the net only for the goal to be called offside.
Hall then saw his volley cleared off the line after he timed his run to perfection to meet Robbie Maddox’ deep cross.
Right-back Maddox and Paul Mayo on the left were threatening on the wings all afternoon while the defence rarely put a foot wrong throughout.
Miller completed his hat-trick on the hourmark. David Staff did the legwork on the wing and slipped the ball to the striker who made no mistake,drilling the ball low, right-footed to Ratcliffe’s left.
Belper’s frustration boiled over soon after and Richard Adams was shown a straight red for a two-footed lunge on Miller, and from that point on there was never any doubt Stamford would see the game out despite a flurry of yellow cards to players on both teams.
Finlay had a couple of long range efforts to turn away before man-of-the-match Miller wrapped it up, turning the ball home at a corner.
Stamford are now two points ahead of King’s Lynn and eight behind leaders Coalville Town who have played a game more than the Daniels.
Stamford’s next match is at Chasetown on Saturday.
Stamford: Matt Finlay, Robbie Maddox, Paul Mayo, Michael Jacklin, Richard Jones, Danny Brooks, David Staff (Greg Smith), James Ozmen, Gary King, Ricky Miller (Jack Cotton), Andrew Hall. Subs: Tom Batchelor, Jake Gibson, Louis Hamilton.