Battling point pleases boss despite Lions losing ground in title race

John Swales continued his excellent run of form with a string of fine saves as Stamford Lions returned with a decent point from Saturday's trip to Whittlesey.
John Swales continued his excellent run of form with a string of fine saves as Stamford Lions returned with a decent point from Saturday's trip to Whittlesey.
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Stamford Lions boss James Sheehan was pleased to return with a point despite seeing his side lose ground in the Peterborough League Premier Division title race after a 1-1 draw at Whittlesey Athletic on Saturday.

On a heavy pitch against a physical home side, Lions were forced to battle for a draw which leaves them in second place, a point adrift of table-topping Moulton Harrox who have two games in hand.

Sheehan said: “It was like a different sport from last week, after playing on the 3G artificial pitch to a very heavy boggy surface. It takes some adapting to, as well as playing against a big physical Whittlesey side.

“We should be pleased with the point as our lads again showed they are prepared to dig in and battle away ugly if necessary.

“It may have cost us ground in chasing the top two and we wanted the three points, but it’s a valuable lesson in the long run.

“It was a 90-minute scrap and these games are part of the season calendar.”

With many local games being called off due to the heavy rain effecting pitch quality, this fixture was in doubt but after a pitch inspection the game went ahead.

It was no surprise then that the playing surface was difficult as the grass pitch soon cut up made a passing game difficult to muster.

The game was simply a battle, as aerial duels and tough 50/50 tackles replaced any passing and moving or slick football.

With half-an-hour played, Michael Webb stepped up and curled a free kick into the top corner to give Lions the lead.

It was an advantage they held going in at half-time as the game was mainly battled out in the middle of the park, without any real goalmouth action.

The second period opened up as Danny Sheehan got his head to a Tom Edwards free kick but sent the effort wide before Dan Aust slammed in a shot that the Whittlesey keeper parried away.

Luke Ball pounced on the rebound and toed the ball goalwards, his effort was hooked away only as far as Tom Lees who also saw his shot hacked off the line.

Whittlesey pounced on the clearance though and raced up the other end where Sheehan blocked the cross but the clearance fell to the feet of Dean Giglio whose shot was dispatched into the bottom corner to level the scores.

The equaliser energised the home side and Lions found themselves on the back foot and forced to defend.

Goalkeeper John Swales, who continued his recent run of tremendous form, pulled off an excellent save to prevent the home side taking the lead.

Neil Speck was then forced from the field with a damaged knee and the Stamford side were starting to get stuck in the mud as Whittlesey began to dominate.

Swales was in inspirational form and made two further outstanding saves to keep the Lions in the game.

The first save was at point blank range as he charged out bravely and the second at full stretch as he tipped a shot over.

The Lions soaked up pressure of high balls and in the final minute sprung a counter attack as Aust raced down the left wing and unleashed a fierce strike that the keeper parried away.

Ball then turned to shoot in the rebound but saw his shot blocked as both sides settled for a point each.

Lions are at home to Thorney this weekend where a victory will send them back to the top of the table with leaders Moulton Harrox in county cup action.