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Stamford go top of the BetVictor Northern Premier League South East Division with victory over Newcastle Town at the Zeeco Stadium

Manager Graham Drury praised the unbelievable desire within his squad which helped drive Stamford to the top of the BetVictor Northern Premier League South East Division on Saturday.

Stamford saw off the challenge of Newcastle Town with a 3-1 home succcess at the Zeeco Stadium which moved them into pole position.

Cosmos Matwasa's first half goal had given Stamford the lead but Newcastle - whose performance throughout the fog-bound contest defied their bottom of the table league position - equalised after the break through Ryan McLean.

Stamford celebrate Cosmos Matwasa's opening goal. Photo: Dan Allen (22987295)
Stamford celebrate Cosmos Matwasa's opening goal. Photo: Dan Allen (22987295)

Stamford needed some crucial saves from goalkeeper Dan Haystead to keep the scores level before a superlative strike from top scorer Tom Siddons with 15 minutes remaining put the Daniels back in front.

Tendai Chitiza then capped his man-of-the-match performance by sealing the Stamford success six minutes later to the delight of boss Drury.

He said: "I thought we created lots of chances in the first half, but didn't really take them.

"We deserved the lead at half-time because we were by far the better side. It was important we kept the momentum going, but we then gave away a real sloppy goal.

"Dan's made two really important saves to keep us in the game and he's showed why he's the best keeper in the league.

"He can be out of the game for long periods, but his concentration levels were really good which was very pleasing.

"The one thing about this group and, you see it time and time again, is that they have an unbelievable desire to win.

"The gears went up again when we went 1-1 and we was on the attack straight from the off.

"We had quality coming off the bench. James Hicks has had a great game, but we felt Olly Brown-Hill would give us that little bit of pace and guile running at them and we could then shut up the shop with Mike Armstrong and Cleveland Taylor.

"It's a fantastic squad and I'm really pleased for the group that they have got that desire to go and push on when the chips have gone against you.

"It was a sticky period at 1-1 and all credit to Newcastle, but we turned it on again and got out of the game what we deserved.

"This group deserve to be top of the league. Every week they are showing that desire and I'm really chuffed.

"Every minute gets harder now because teams want to shoot you down but, if you ask me if I want to be on top of the league at this time of the year, then it's a 100 per cent yes. We want to stay there as long as we can."

Tendai Chitiza is denied. Photo: Dan Allen (22988803)
Tendai Chitiza is denied. Photo: Dan Allen (22988803)

Stamford, who fielded an unchanged starting line-up following last week's draw at Leek Town, had to be patient for their first breakthrough.

They had the lion's share of the play in the opening period, but it wasn't until the 42nd minute that they breached the Newcastle back-line.

Siddons, Rob Morgan and Hicks all saw early efforts go wide while Jordon Cooke's shot from distance was safely gathered by Rajaan Gill in the Newcastle goal.

Haystead had to make an excellent block to deny McLean while Gill did equally as well at the other end to thwart Matwasa after a slick Stamford move involving Jon Challinor and Chitiza.

Harry Vince hit a decent opening wide while Siddons blazed over at the back post before Gill saved bravely at the feet of Chitiza.

Just as it looked like Stamford wouldn't find a first half breakthrough Taylor Attrell slipped in possession and Matwasa pounced to race clear and slot home.

Jack Van Der Laan then found himself through on goal for the visitors early in the second half, but his effort was matched by an excellent save from Haystead.

Morgan looped a header just wide from a Chitiza cross before Siddons skewed a shot past goal after some impressive wing play from Matwasa.

Gill produced a fantastic fingertip save to thwart Hicks after a strong run and cross from Morgan before Stamford were stung by Newcastle's 63rd minute leveller.

James Askey eased forward in possession before picking a pass through the Stamford defence which the lively McLean ran onto and slotted home past Haystead.

Tom Siddons. Photo: Dan Allen (22988793)
Tom Siddons. Photo: Dan Allen (22988793)

McLean then came close to giving Newcastle a shock lead as his excellent driving run and low shot smashed against the upright.

But Stamford reasserted their authority on proceedings and regained the lead in style with 15 minutes remaining as Siddons thundered home a sweet strike into the bottom corner of the Newcastle net from outside the box.

Chitiza then crowned the performance with a third goal on 81 minutes as he prodded home from close range after Gill had saved Brown-Hill's initial effort.

Haystead still had to prevent a nervy finale with another good stop to deny Sam Bradbury in injury-time as Stamford made the most of previous leaders Carlton having their match postponed, high-flying Cleethorpes and Ilkeston both losing and Belper seeing their unbeaten record ended by Leek.

Drury added: "We scored some great goals again. Tendai's man-of-the-match was well deserved. He's worked his socks off and his goal was just reward. It was nice to have the wingers both scoring.

"Tom Siddons has probably missed three or four chances in the first half, but it's the sign of a good striker that, no matter how many they miss, they always believe they will score and he's hit a wonder goal.

"It was important we took the opportunity with teams around us losing because we haven't done that in past seasons.

"We've had four or five chances in previous years to either jump into the play-offs, go second or be top of the league and we've blown that.

"We even blew the chance of having home advantage by losing at Sutton Coldfield in the season we reached the play-off final.

"All of us have a different mind-set this year though. I'm hungrier this season with something to prove, the coaching staff are hungry because they want success and everybody in the changing room has got this drive and long may it continue."

Stamford: Haystead, Cooke, Challinor, Vince (Armstrong), Wright, Blunden, Chitiza, Morgan, Siddons (Taylor), Hicks (Brown-Hill), Matwasa. Subs not used: O'Hare, Mwanyongo.

Attendance: 288.

Tendai Chitiza is grounded. Photo: Dan Allen (22988796)
Tendai Chitiza is grounded. Photo: Dan Allen (22988796)

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