FOOTBALL: Stamford AFC march into Lincs Senior Cup final
Stamford AFC progressed to the final of the Lincs Senior Cup with a 2-1 victory over neighbours Spalding United on Saturday.
A pair of special strikes, first from striker Jordan Smith and then midfielder David Bell gave the Daniels a 2-0 lead at the Zeeco stadium and while Jonny Lockie pulled a goal back with 15 minutes left to play the Tulips could not get an equaliser to send the game into extra time.
Stamford will now meet Lincoln United in the final, on a date yet to be set, which will be the Daniels third visit to the showpiece event in four years, having won the last two editions of the competition before it was moved to pre-season last year and included the county’s top League sides.
This was always going to be an intriguing tie as the two sides will play in the same league this season, the Evo-Stik NPL First Division South, following Stamford’s relegation last season.
As such it was a good test to see where Stamford are a week before they kick-off their promotion campaign at home to Witton Albion on Saturday, and while this was not their best display of pre-season the signs are looking good.
Both teams started positively with the visitors drawing first blood when Nathan Stainfield put a header wide of the target from a free-kick.
At the other end Jev Brown played in Ryan Robbins but the St Kitts and Nevis international striker was also off target and soon after he was thwarted by Oakham-based Tulips stopper Michael Duggan after John King had set him free.
Stamford are a towering side this season and should be a threat from set-pieces, and that is how they broke the deadlock. Centre back Paul Malone caused a nuisance in the box from a free kick and the ball fell for Smith to smash it on the volley from 20 yards out, beating Duggan and going in off the bar.
Bell did not play a significant roll in early pre-season after going on holiday, but since his return he has made a real impact.
After scoring a wonder-goal last week, which few thought would be beaten all season, he did just that on Saturday to cap a fine passing performance in the centre of midfield.
Bell fired a dipping shot past Duggan, who is no slouch of a keeper, from all of 30 yards to see the net bulge.
United were struggling to find the target, and it was not until just before the break that new Stamford goalkeeper Peter Denton was called into action to save from, Brad Barraclough.
Spalding edged the second half but couldn’t do enough to get the game back on level terms. Denton saved a Stainfield header from a free kick but he could do nothing to keep out Lockie’s shot after Tom Waulmsley punished a Malone error to then play in the striker.
Stamford had their chances to add a third, King headed over and then Jordan Smith shot wide but at the end of the day it took a good block from Jake Duffey to keep the lead intact. Duffey’s block went out for a corner, providing Spalding with one last chance but after a goalmouth scramble Lockie shot wide.
Stamford AFC: Peter Denton, Lee Beeson, Niall Mather (Ollie Luto), Paul Malone, Delroy Gordon, Sam Hill, Jordan Smith, David Bell (Jake Duffy), John King, Javani Brown (Luke Thomas), Ryan Robbins (Curtis Hartley)
Substitute unused: Jon Challinor and Kern Miller
Spalding United: Michael Duggan, Paul Walker, Jason Field, Matthew Varley (Jonny Lockie), Nathan Stainfield, Neal Spafford, Chris Hamilton (Tom Waulmsley), Nathan Whitehead, Jenk Acar, Bradley Barraclough (Sidnei Costa), Sam Downey. Substitue unused: Sam Vince.
Referee: Kevin Saunby