Point keeps Stamford’s play-off push on track

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Stamford picked up the point manager Wayne Hatswell had called for at Halesowen, one of the sides chasing the Daniels for a play-off spot.

Both goals were scored within a minute in the first half of an entertaining 1-1 draw yesterday evening with Jordan Hempenstall on target for Stamford.

With Tom Batchelor and skipper Richard Jones missing at the heart of the defence Hatswell was forced to juggle his squad and Lewis Chalmers, signed on the transfer deadline day from Droylsden, was drafted into central midfield while Danny Brooks started in an unfamiliar left back role.

Halesowen had the best of the early play but 10 minutes had gone before they created a chance. That came when a cross was deflected to Neil Barnfield but his shot hit Robbie Maddox, playing at centre back, and was cleared.

A minute later Stamford’s first real move forward ended with a cross from James Ozmen to Jordan Hempenstall but he went down much too easily and the referee ignored his appeals for a penalty.

Ben Hasely has scored 33 league goals for Halesowen and when a mishit clearance from Tom Byrne gave Hasely a free run at Matt Finlay, it looked certain that Halesowen would take the lead but he was denied by a superb block from the Stamford keeper. From the resulting corner, Finlay denied Hasely again this time turning away his header.

Already fielding a patched up squad, Hatswell was forced to make a change after only 14 minutes when Sam Saunders limped off to be replaced by Dan Marshall, forcing Brooks into an even more unfamiliar centre back role.

With 17 minutes gone, a tussle between Maddox and Tom Warner ended with a Halesowen free kick just outside the Stamford box. The free kick came back off the bar but Stamford couldn’t clear the ball and it was forced home by Jean Gueyes.

Any fears that Stamford supporters had about the rest of the game were allayed just moments later. Straight from the kick off, Stamford were level. The ball was moved forward quickly and finished by Hempenstall with the help of a deflection.

After scoring Stamford probably had the better of the play but Halesowen always looked threatening. With

30 minutes on the clock, Aaron Griffiths wasted a great chance to put them ahead again firing well wide from the edge of the box. At the other end Ricky Miller had a great chance for Stamford when the ball broke to him just outside the box. He eased himself past two defenders but delayed his shot allowing another defender to get back and block when it did come.

As the game moved into stoppage time, Miller was fouled just outside the box in the perfect position for a Brooks free kick. He hammered the ball which Halesowen keeper Paul Evans could only parry but Halesowen scrambled the loose ball away.

It was a superb first half and both sides level at the break reflected the play in the half. Stamford had a shaky start but got better particularly after their equaliser.

Halesowen wasted another chance to go ahead again seven minutes into the half when a long throw caused problems in the Stamford defence ending with the ball at the feet of Mitchell Botfield. Unmarked on the six yard line he smashed the ball past the far post.

The game was end to end with both sides getting the ball forward as quickly as they could. Despite this, the defences held strong and 70 minutes had gone before either side had another chance with Halesowen’s Hasely blasting over. At the other end a great save from Evans saved Halesowen when a shot from James Ozmen looked destined to give Stamford the lead.

Chances were on the increase and Halesowen stepped up the pressure on the Stamford defence with Guyes pulling a good chancer wide and Hasely heading into the arms of Finlay.

A desperate tackle from Maddox conceded another free kick just outside the Stamford box. Botfield floated the ball towards the top corner of the Stamford goal but Finlay stretched to tip the ball over the bar.

In the last minute, Stamford won a corner but Ben Saunders’ header ricocheted out to Chalmers and his shot hit Meacham on the Halesowen goal line.

Halesowen had put Stamford under tremendous pressure in the last 15 minutes but Stamford might have snatched all three points right at the end. What a contrast to the performance against Rainworth a few days earlier.

Stamford: Matt Finlay, Sean Wright, Danny Brooks, Robbie Maddox, Sam Saunders (Dan Marshall 14), Lewis Chalmers, Andy Hall, James Ozmen, Ricky Miller (Ben Saunders 89), Jordan Hempenstall, Tom Byrne. Subs not used: Shawn Richards, Sam Watkins, John Swales.

Halesowen: Paul Evans, Gavin Winsper, Adam Meacham, Mitchell Botfield, Dan Parker, Brendan Kelly, Aaron Griffiths, Neil Barnfield, Tom Warner, Ben Hasely, Jean Gueyes. Subs not used: Ricky Baker, John Hill, Tom Tonks, Dan Waldron, Simon Flower.