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Stamford AFC defeated by Grantham Town after missing two penalties in the first half of pre-season friendly

Stamford paid the penalty for missing two first half spot kicks as they concluded their pre-season preparations with a 1-0 home defeat against higher level Grantham Town on Saturday.

Strike duo James Hicks and Tom Siddons both failed to hit the back of the net from 12 yards on what was a highly-promising performance ahead of next weekend's BetVictor South East League opener at Glossop North End.

Craig Westcarr's 74th minute strike eventually settled the wind-swept contest in the favour of the Premier Division visitors.

Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049316)
Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049316)

But, despite the narrow defeat, Daniels boss Graham Drury was able to take plenty of positives from the display against his home-town club.

Drury said: "I thought we blew them away and I think Grantham know that, although they've gone away with a 1-0 victory which is all that counts at the end of the day.

"It's about victories, but we've made eight changes in the second half which has disrupted us. We've changed the whole back four and the goal which we conceded was sloppy.

"But, if we had gone in 4-0 up at half-time, I don't think anybody could say any different to that.

"I asked the players at half-time if they could repeat what they had done in the first half with a bit more quality in the final third.

"We kept the ball down in the second half and played some good football against the wind.

"It could have been a perfect pre-season game for us to see how we could have set up behind the ball with two banks of four and then played on the counter-attack, but it hasn't happened like that.

"At 0-0 it's always going to be difficult, but I'm really encouraged with this group of players.

"I said to the starting eleven that we've won 4-0 and kept a clean sheet on Tuesday and the starting line-up has then drawn 0-0 with people who are spending a lot of money to try and get promotion from the division above us.

"That's the key for me and it bodes well, but the bottom line is that it's about results and we haven't won this game.

"I did pull the lads over who went on and said that their attitudes have got to show that they want to take the shirt off the players that are in the starting line-up.

"They've got to want to try that little bit harder and I felt a couple had a little bit of attitude and they won't last because we're going to have to have a 16-man squad pushing all the way."

Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049275)
Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049275)

Stamford were boosted by the return of midfield maestro Rob Morgan in their 20-man squad which was missing injured duo Mike Armstrong and Sam Hill as well as the unavailable Liam Adams and Ollie Luto while Louis Danquah has been released by the club.

Morgan was quick to make his mark with a stinging shot inside the opening 30 seconds which was palmed to safety by Gingerbreads goalkeeper Tom Nicholson.

Former Stamford striker Gregg Smith then went close with a header at the other end only to be denied by a fine save by home custodian Dan Haystead.

Morgan fizzed another effort narrowly wide after good link up play by Hicks and Siddons while Harry Vince lifted a shot just past the far post after winning possession on the edge of the box.

Stamford were awarded their first penalty just past the half-hour mark when Tendai Chitiza was felled in the box, but Nicholson went the right way to save Hicks' spot kick.

The prolific frontman then just failed to get enough on an inviting Jon Challinor cross before firing another effort wide from Cosmos Mathwasa's centre.

Grantham, who had been defending the fierce elements in the opening period, then went close to breaking the deadlock when Westcarr thumped a free-kick against the post after Challinor had brought down Danny Racchi on the edge of the box.

Stamford responded and were awarded their second spot kick shortly before the interval when Chitiza's shot was handled, but this time Siddons struck his effort against the post.

Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049310)
Match action from Stamford's pre-season clash with Grantham Town. Photo: Lee Hellwing (15049310)

Despite playing into the strong wind in the second period, Stamford still enjoyed plenty of possession with clear-cut chances for both sides in short supply.

Connor Bartle's long throw-ins were an asset for the Gingerbreads and Tom Ward saw his header from one of those deliveries punched away at full stretch by Haystead.

Siddons sent a decent strike just over after strong wing play from Chitiza had created the opening before the Gingerbreads got their noses in front with 16 minutes remaining.

Bartle's long throw wasn't dealt with by a Stamford side which had now made eight changes and Westcarr was able to convert from close range.

The visitors then came close to doubling their lead when Rob Atkinson smashed a sweetly-struck volley against the home upright.

Stamford had chances to snatch a share of the spoils in the latter stages with Siddons seeing a goalbound shot blocked while Dec O'Hare fired over at the back post after a burst into the box.

Haystead then made a couple of fine saves in injury-time to deny Jacob Green from distance before thwarting the same player from close range having made another solid stop from the initial effort from outside the box.

Pre-season may have ended in defeat, but Drury feels there has been enough signs in recent games to suggest that this new-look Stamford side will hit the ground running in Saturday's league opener.

Drury added: "People perhaps think that I'm a Grantham lad so why did I change it when we were so dominant, but I'm not interested in the Grantham result - I'm interested in next Saturday and that's all about us going to Glossop and getting a result.

"We've got some tremendous players and now it's all about next Saturday.

"I always knew it was there. You get people asking what you've put together and if it's good enough, but I've always known it was good enough.

"We've got to make sure that we take our chances when they come around because we're creating plenty. We've got pace and power and I'm really encouraged."

Stamford: Haystead, Taylor (Dawson), Challinor (Keeble), Vince (Setchell), Wright (Ward), Blunden (Egginton), Mathwasa (O'Hare), Morgan, Hicks (Mwanyongo), Siddons, Chitiza (Brown-Hill). Not used: Tarris.

Grantham: Nicholson (Andrew), Green, Bartle, Atkinson, Ward, Adelekan (Tweed), Berrett (Baldwin), Racchi (McGovern), Westcarr, Smith (Goncalves), Broadhead (Bell-Toxtle).

Attendance: 274.

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