FOOTBALL: Salt strikes to earn Stamford a share of the spoils on Boxing Day
Stamford AFC showed great spirit to come back from a goal down and earn a point against high-flying Rushden and Diamonds on Boxing Day.
The Daniels stopped the rot on their travels, having lost their last four Evo-Stik NPL First Division South games on their travels, as they battled back to share the spoils at a packed out Dog and Duck Stadium.
Diamonds were always going to be favourites going into the game, riding high on a 17-game unbeaten run. And when former Stamford striker Nabil Shariff put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute things were not looking bright for the struggling Daniels.
But just five minutes later Chris Salt, normally a centre back but playing in defensive midfield on Monday, smashed the ball in to restore parity and that is how it stayed.
Both sides gave it everything in front of a crowd of more than 600, and it was the visitors who started strongest, striker Grant Ryan seeing a shot deflected off target. From the resulting corner Ryan then put a header just wide of the mark.
Jamie McGhee then drove the ball over the crossbar and Jake Duffy delivered a killer ball from a free kick into the box and it looked to be heading in after hitting a Diamonds player but was just cleared.
But with Diamonds’ first significant attack they scored, with Shariff hitting the ball past Stamford stopper Sam Donkin.
Stamford responded well after going behind and it was Ryan at the centre of things again, shooting from distance - the ball was blocked but fell to Salt who smashed it home from the edge of the box.
As expected from a side sixth in the league, Diamonds came back strongly. Just before the break Brad Harris was close to getting on the end of a dangerous cross with the goal begging.
Early in the second half former Stamford striker Jake Newman fed the ball to Fazel Koriya in an advanced position but he could only find the side netting.
At the other end of the pitch Jordan Smith pushed an effort wide for the Daniels.
Both sides threatened from free kicks with Duffy delivering dangerous balls for the visitors. And it was from the dead ball set-piece that Diamonds almost won the game late in the day. Another former Stamford player, goalkeeper Matt Finlay, pumped the ball long and it fell to Ben Farrell but Donkin saved to keep the scores level.
Olly Brown-Hill and Duffy had two late efforts from free-kicks for the Daniels, but the first effort soared over the bar and the second struck the wall.
Rushden and Diamonds: Matt Finlay, Kyal McNulty, Sam Brown, Brad Harris, Liam Dolman, Ben Farrell, Nabil Shariff, Fazel Koriya (Taylor Orosz), Jake Newman (Tom Lorraine), Lewis Leslie (Joe Curtis) Richard Bunting. Subs unused: Ben Heath and Lewis Wilson,
Stamford AFC: Sam Donkin, Curtis Hartley, Chris Hollist, Chris Salt, Kern Miller, Delroy Gordon, Jamie McGhee (Elliot Sandy), Jake Duffy, Grant Ryan (Olly Brown-Hill), Jordan Smith, John King. Subs: Olly Luto, Josh Nodder and Jevani Brown.
Referee: Tom Reeves