Eze’s equaliser earns Daniels a point after stirring Stamford finale
A lasp-gasp equaliser from Henry Eze earned Stamford a vital point in their promotion quest and maintained this season’s unbeaten home Evo-Stik League record on Saturday.
Eze pounced to volley home with just a minute remaining to pocket a point against Division One South promotion rivals Stocksbridge Park Steels after a stirring Stamford finale.
The visitors had taken a 66th minute lead through Richard Stirrup which sparked Stamford into life as they created a flurry of chances which both frustrated and pleased manager Graham Drury.
Drury said: “I’m frustrated we’ve only got a point because we created a lot of chances towards the end.
“Their keeper has made two world-class saves while Liam Adams has had a good chance at the back stick.
“We’ve gone with three at the back and put Henry up front late on and we’ve got our rewards as the big man has come up with a great finish. It shows the character of the boys.
“I was frustrated with the goal that we conceded because, although it was a good finish, we have left him unmarked at the back stick which is out of character.”
Drury also felt the introduction of Pearson Mwanyongo as a second-half substitute added extra impetus to Stamford who stayed in fourth spot in the standings after the draw.
Drury added: “Pearson caused them plenty of problems and injected some pace and guile.
“We showed great character because we didn’t want to lose. The boys are a very together group and just kept going. They raised their game when we went behind and deserve credit for that.
“A draw’s enough to keep us in the play-off places, but it will only be a good point if we then follow that up with three at Peterborough Sports on Monday.”
With club captain Jordan Smith suspended, the Daniels were also without injured duo Ben George and Joe Burgess.
They played into a fierce head wind in an opening period where clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Todd Jordan headed straight at home goalkeeper Dan Haystead from close range following a long Stocksbridge throw into the penalty area while Mike Armstrong did well to clear under pressure after a dangerous cross into the home box.
Stamford’s best chance saw Jon Challinor picked out by a Rob Morgan cross, but his goalbound effort that was destined for the bottom corner brought a fantastic reaction save out of Park Steels goalkeeper David Reay.
The second half continued in the same cagey vein until the visitors broke the deadlock just before the midway mark.
A cross from the right was fizzed to the back post where the unmarked Stirrup rifled home a fine finish past Haystead for the first league goal Stamford have conceded at home since the end of November.
The setback seemed to inspire Stamford though and they quickly set about finding a way back into the contest.
Jake Duffy, who was at the heart of Stamford’s best moves, produced a sublime turn and first-time shot that beat Reay but clipped the top of the crossbar.
Mwanyongo then skilfully created an opening to cross for Adams at the far post, but he headed a great chance over.
Reay then produced a fine save to keep out a stinging shot from Morgan before Haystead made a smart stop at the other end to deny Brodie Litchfield.
Stamford’s pressure finally paid off with just a minute remaining as Duffy swung in a cross to the back post where Eze threw himself forward to power home the equaliser.
The initiative might have been with Stamford after their late leveller, but it was the visitors who came closest to snatching the points in injury-time.
The home side twice conceded free-kicks in dangerous positions and, although Rory Coleman blazed the first one high and wide, his second effort brought an excellent save from Haystead with Matt Reay firing the rebound over from close range.
The draw leaves Stamford firmly in the play-off mix and only two points off the second automatic promotion place ahead of Monday’s trip to Peterborough Sports.
Stamford: Haystead, Challinor (Fortnam-Tomlinson), Putman, Armstrong, Gordon, Eze, Morgan, Duffy, Wells, Adams, Hollis (Mwanyongo). Not used: Peasgood, Darby.
Stocksbridge: D Reay, Rhodes, Grayson, Jordan (Warren), McFadyen, M Reay, Litchfield (Osgathorpe), Stirrup, Ruthven, Salmons, Coleman.