Loss leaves Stamford in a tight race for play-offs

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The race for the play-offs got an awful lot tighter on Saturday with the chasing pack making up ground on the Daniels.

Stamford lost 2-1 at Sheffield FC - rarely a happy hunting ground for the Daniels - leaving Wayne Hatswell’s side looking over their shoulders at Sutton Coldfield, Chasetown and Halesowen Town who all won on Saturday.

Jordan Hempenstall put Stamford ahead just after the half hour mark with his 15th goal of the season but Jamie Hadfield soon levelled and Andrew Gascoigne sealed the points for the home side with 18 minutes remaining.

Stamford were without Andy Hall due to a groin strain. He was replaced by Shawn Richards with Sean Wright at right-back in place of Mitchell Rose, who was recalled by Rotherham United last week.

The hosts could have been down to 10 men in just the second minute when Wright was the victim of an over-the-top-challenge from Wes Hill. The referee spoke to Hill for a long time but decided on just a caution while the Stamford full-back received lengthy treatment before being able to continue.

When he came back on he caused trouble for the Sheffield defence with a deep cross that was almost heading into his own net by a Sheffield defender. Stamford had the best of the opening minutes and Ricky Miller did well to set up Tom Byrne whose shot was high and wide.

Hempenstall put Stamford ahead after 31 minutes, taking down a long ball forward from Richards and driving the ball past Liam Flynn to give Stamford a deserved lead.

However, the lead lasted only six minutes. Finlay could only steer a deep cross from James Gregory straight into the path of Hadfield and he had a free header to make it 1-1.

Sheffield had a great chance to take the lead in the last minute of the first half when the ball broke to Warren Burrell on the edge of the box but his shot flashed just wide of the post.

Stamford had played the better until Sheffield scored ended the half under pressure. They needed to get back in the game quickly in the second half but both sides started poorly with the game strewn with errors.

Eventually Sheffield who took control and they almost took the lead on the hour but Joel Purkiss’ shot from the edge of the box was just wide with Finlay stranded.

Gascoigne should have done better after taking the ball from deep in the Sheffield half past a couple of tame tackles to the edge of the Stamford box but then fired well over the bar. Two minutes later, Gascoigne did give Sheffield the lead after being picked out unmarked in the box with a perfect cross from Matt Roney and having time to place the ball past Finlay.

Stamford immediately made two substitutions with Robbie Maddox replacing Wright and Ben Saunders replacing Richards but Sheffield still had the better of the play and a fierce shot from Purkiss was well held by Finlay.

With five minutes left, Stamford finally threatened the Sheffield goal when Miller picked up a loose ball and wriggled past two defenders. But he shot straight into the arms of Flynn.

In the last minute a 30 yard pile-driver from Danny Brooks forced a stretching save from Flynn but that was as close as Stamford had got to a goal since taking the lead in the first half.

After two good performances against the top two in their last games, it was a disappointingly poor performance against only marginally better opponents but there was no doubt that the right team won.

It was a result that leaves Stamford looking behind them in the play-off places rather than at the teams above them. They play bottom side Hucknall Town at Kettering Road tomorrow evening.

Stamford: Matt Finlay, Sean Wright (Robbie Maddox 73), Sam Saunders, Tom Batchelor, Richard

Jones, Liam Richardson, Shawn Richards (Ben Saunders 73), Danny Brooks, Jordan Hempenstall, Ricky Miller, Tom Byrne. Subs not used: Dan Marshall, Sam Watkins, John Swales.