Impressive Stamford AFC draw with FC United of Manchester
Stamford AFC are a frustrating side - for 90 minutes on Saturday they not only matched Evo-Stik NPL leaders FC United of Manchester but out played them.
So how are they in a relegation scrap at the bottom of the league?
The final result at the Zeeco Stadium was a 1-1 draw which at the end of the day was about right.
Shelton Payne opened the scoring for the visitors with a swerving shot which fooled Stamford keeper Andy Stevens but big Daniels defender Tom Batchelor levelled from a corner to make it all level at half time.
Despite the Daniels putting in one of their best displays of the season they rode their luck at times, surviving a late penalty shout and benefitting from the visitors having a goal disallowed.
The point did little to pull Stamford out of the mire at the bottom of the table, they are now in 19th place and still just three points clear of the relegation zone, but the performance was so impressive that it could just spark the winning run required.
The Daniels key leaders in the team were excellent. Jon Challinor was in combative mood in the midfield, controlling the middle of the park. He was only surpassed by the excellent skipper Richard Jones who shut down the Manchester attacks from centre back time after time.
Other notable performances came from new signing Kurtis Revan, goal-scorer Batchelor and Nathan Fox.
Revan attacked down the wing with pace and skill and was a real outlet for Stamford on the counter-attack. Fox had a busy day in defence but marshalled the FC United attack well from left back.
Stamford were dangerous with their set-pieces all day and it was a throw-in from Jon Challinor which created the opening chance of the match.
He launched the ball in and big new signing Greg Smith hooked the ball goalwards but could not get the power required on his shot.
Daniels manager David Staff signed Smith late last week from Spalding United to add to his attacking options with top-scorer Ryan Robbins unavailable for five games through international duty and suspension following his red card at Trafford.
With Nabil Shariff leaving the club for Belper Town earlier this year the manager was in need of another striker to support Jordan Smith during the vital run in as Stamford fight to avoid relegation.
Smith previously played for the Daniels in the 2012-13 season, leaving for league rivals Grantham. Earlier this season he moved to Kings Lynn, scoring in their 1-0 win over Stamford, before switching to Spalding.
Despite the Daniels having more of the ball FC United showed flashes of what makes them such a dangerous side. They went agonisingly close to opening the scoring with a brilliant piece of technical football.
Moving the ball quickly with one touch passes it was laid off into the path of Greg Daniels whose curling shot was only just off target.
The Daniels were struggling with their distribution at the back with the vocal travelling fans appearing to get to struggling Stamford stopper Stevens.
Stamford were by far the bigger team and used their size to their advantage. Again Challinor launched the ball in with a throw and 6ft plus defender Tom Batchelor flicked the ball on for Jordan Smith to head at goal but again the effort was lacking significant power and was stopped with ease by David Carnell in the Manchester net.
The goal came in the 23rd minute and it was a howling error by Stevens. It was a powerful drive from Payne from outside the 18 yard box but Stevens had two hands on it, but somehow let the ball finish in the back of the net.
Stamford responded well, Dan Clements darted behind the Manchester defence and pulled a cross back towards Jordan Smith but it was just cut out.
Batchelor levelled the scores in the 36th minute, nodding in a corner in a congested penalty box.
Batchelor’s height was causing real problems for the visiting defence and just before half time he flicked the ball on to Greg Smith who had a close range shot saved bravely at his feet by Carnell.
After the break Stamford should have taken the lead. Jordan Smith charged down a kick from Carnell and it feel to Greg Smith but the new man hit a tame effort wide with the net unguarded.
FC United were coming into the game and Jones and Stevens were called upon to block and save respectively.
Then came the controversy. First Lewis Carr made light contact with Payne in the area and he went down but referee Geoff Law waved away the appeals.
Not long after Payne had the ball in the back of the net but Law judged that it hit a hand in the build up so scrubbed the goal off.
In the closing moments Stamford looked the more likely to claim the win and late in the day Jordan Smith volleyed narrowly over with the last real chance of the encounter.
Stamford: Andy Stevens, Lewis Carr, Nathan Fox, Tom McGowan, Richard Jones (c), Tom Batchelor, Kurtis Revan, Jon Challinor, Greg Smith (Ryan Clarke), Jordan Smith, Dan Clements (Dan Lawlor). Subs: Gareth Jellyman, Courtney Meade, Dalton Bettles.
FC United of Manchester: David Carnell, Liam Brownhill, Greg Daniels, Dean Stott (c), Lewis Lacy, Chris Lynch, Matthew Wolfenden (Rory Fallon), Tom Brown (Callum Byrne), Shelton Payne, Jerome Wright, Craig Lindfield (Tom Greaves). Subs: Nia Bayunu, Joe Fox.