Daniels climb out of the relegation zone with victory
Oh yee of little faith. Stamford AFC have pulled themselves out of the bottom four of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League for the first time since September.
The Daniels beat Matlock Town 2-0 at the Zeeco Stadium on Saturday thanks to a brace from striker Jake Newman.
The goals either side of the break, combined with Whitby Town losing 3-1 to Rushall Olympic and Mickleover Sports not in action, saw Stamford move up to 20th position in the division.
However, having played more games than the teams around them at the foot of the table, there is still plenty of work to be done if the Daniels are to avoid going down come May, but things under manager Graham Drury are certainly heading in the right direction.
There was another new face in the side on Saturday as York City right back Taron Hare came right into the side after signing on a month’s loan deal earlier in the week from the League Two club.
Whereas Stamford have looked short of confidence for much of the season, with performances improving week by week, and the results starting to come, most notably the impressive 3-0 victory away at Ilkeston on Monday, there is now belief in this set of players. And from the off the Daniels went on the attack and were close to taking the lead in just the third minute when Greg Smith got on the end of a cross by Ollie Luto, but the big striker could only put his effort wide.
Greg Smith has been excellent in recent weeks and he was a pest to the Matlock defence all afternoon. He used his size to good effect and played in Newman to test Matlock goalkeeper George Willis in the Matlock goal and the visitors scrambled clear.
The hosts had the Matlock goal under siege, winning corner after corner and after a quarter of an hour they thought they had the breakthrough, seeing the net ripple when Paul Malone converted but referee Ian Dudley scrubbed the goal off for a hand ball in the build up.
Newman twice went close for Stamford before he broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, heading home a great cross from Lee Beeson at the front stick.
Having been put under a lot of pressure Matlock reacted to going behind by upping their game and Nicky Harcourt had an attempt for the visitors but the Stamford defence shut down the danger to block the shot.
Both sides had further chances but Stamford held onto their lead going into the break. There was a feeling they perhaps should have had more than just the one goal to show for their early dominance.
If the first half was about showing what Stamford could do in attack then the second 45 minutes was about shutting up shop and holding firm. This effort was not helped by the fact that defensive midfielder Curtis Hartley had to leave the pitch at the break having injured his shoulder, causing Sam Hill to move forward from defence and Tom Batchelor to come back in on his return from injury.
Play turned scrappy in the second half with Matlock and Stamford both creating a few chances. Daniels keeper Paul Bastock was a calming presence at the back, claiming balls into the box and making the saves when he was called into action. The stopped now has three clean sheets from his last four matches for the club, which has heavily contributed to their up-turn in form.
It helped on Saturday that Matlock, who sit 14th in the table, were far from clinical with their finishing. Danny Holland, Liam Needham and Tom Burgin all missed the target with their efforts for the visitors after the break.
But with the score still at 1-0 the host’s lead was fragile and it took a good save as his near post from Bastock in the 80th minute to keep it intact.
However Stamford finished strongly, Malone, who was truly excellent in defence, shot wide following a Duffy free-kick. And it was the winger who created the second goal a minute from time to secure the points. He shot from distance forcing Willis to save but the ball stayed live and Newman was the first man to get to it, scoring to send the players and fans into celebrations.
Ted Cribley headed the ball against the cross bar in extra time and the Bastock had to save the rebound but by that point it was too little too late.
Stamford host Skelmersdale United on Saturday, kick-off 3pm.
Stamford AFC: Paul Bastock (c), Taron Hare, Ollie Luto, Paul Malone, Sam Hill, Curtis Hartley (Tom Batchelor, Lee Beeson (Chris Hamilton), Jake Duffy, Gregg Smith, Jake Newman, Jordan Smith.
Substitutes unused: Jon Challinor, James Jepson, Jack Wightwick.
Matlock Town: George Willis, Liam Gaughan, Craig Nelthorpe (Lewis Brown), Nicky Travis, Micky Harcourt, Tom Burgin, Ted Cribley, Liam Needham, Joel Purkiss, Danny Holland (Charlie Dawes), Niall McManus.
Substitutes Unused: Matt Wilkinson, Scott Maxfield and Mark Hume.
Referee: Mr Ian Dudley