Leigh RMI 1 Stafford Rangers 3

Saturday 22th October 2005
Leigh RMI 1 Stafford Rangers 3
Nationwide North
At: Hilton Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: £2 (32 pages)
Attendance: 301
Weather: sunny, dry
Duration: first-half: 49:06; second-half: 48:15

Stafford Rangers returned to second position in the Nationwide Conference North table, and within two points of leaders Northwich Victoria, with a deserved victory at Leigh RMI.

Like their two victories last week, Stafford all but wrapped up the victory during the first half – veteran Neil Grayson and youngster Nathan Smith both found the net during the opening 20 minutes. Peter Thomson made sure of maximum points with a third goal on the hour after Leigh had reduced the deficit within two minutes of the restart with Chris Simm's penalty.

Before kick-off, Stafford manager Phil Robinson faced a difficult decision as ever-present central defender Craig McAughtrie failed to recover from a calf injury. He opted to start with Alan Dodd, who had an excellent game, alongside Wayne Daniel.

Stafford got the game underway attacking the Atherleigh Way end in the first half and enjoying plenty of possession. Grayson saw an early header held by Leigh goalkeeper John Lamb. They almost took the lead in the 10th minute from their first corner as Paul Groves had a shot cleared off the line by home skipper Andy Roscoe.

But Stafford then survived a couple of scares. Neil Smith fired straight at Dean Williams but should have scored with his next chance. The striker got past Daniel and broke into the Stafford area only to be thwarted by an excellent save by the Stafford goalkeeper.

After home goalkeeper John Lamb pushed away a shot from Thomson, it was no surprise when Stafford took the lead in the 17th minute. Thomson headed Groves’ cross on to the far post where Grayson drove the ball home.

Leigh had begun the game wearing red and white striped shirts alongwith black shorts and socks. The clash with Stafford’s black and white striped shirts made it difficult for those watching from the stands, and presumably the referee and players as well. So before play resumed after the goal, the Leigh players changed into a plain yellow shirts.

Back to the action and Stafford’s advantage was extended four minutes later. Defender Lee Atherton was forced into a mistake by Thomson on the edge of his own area. The ball fell to Nathan Smith, 25 yards out, who fired into the top-right corner for his third goal in just four starts for Stafford.

Well on top, Stafford should have increased their advantage before half time. Grayson sent a dipping shot over the bar and Lamb made an excellent save to keep out a shot from Nathan Smith. Thomson also headed wide. Leigh were perhaps fortunate to be trailing by only two goals at the interval.

Leigh got back into the match within two minutes of the restart. Steve Brockley made a penetrating run into the Stafford area only to be brought down by Groves. Chris Simm converted the resulting penalty (photo right).

But Rangers soon got into gear and scored a vital third goal just after the hour mark. A back-pass from Liam Coyne failed to reach Lamb who had advanced to the edge of his area. Thomson intercepted and pushed the ball past the Leigh goalkeeper before helping the ball into an empty net.

Stafford were content not to concede another goal during the last half hour. They could have further increased their advantage in injury time when substitute Levi Reid drilled a low shot inches wide.

This was my third visit to Hilton Park. Originally, during the 1980s, I saw Leigh host Hull FC at Rugby League then watched football between Leigh RMI and Lancaster City in May 1996.

Leigh RMI (red and white stipes / black / black; yellow/black/black): 1. John Lamb, 2. Mark Drew, 3. Steve Brockley, 4. Ryan McDowall, 5. Liam Coyne, 6. Lee Atherton, 7. Lee Shillito, 8. Steve Smith, 9. Neil Smith, 10. Chris Simm, 11. Andy Roscoe (capt). Subs not used: 12. Tony Dunne (for Atherton, 31), 15. Lee Thompson (not used), 16. Ian Tyalor (for Brockley, 77), 17. Graham Tench (for Simm, 59), GK. James Mann (not used).

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / red / red): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Alan Dodd, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Neil Grayson, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Peter Thomson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Danny Edwards. Subs: 12. Alex Gibson (not used), 14. Phil Robinson (not used), 15. Dave Walker (for Smith, 79), 16. Liam Murray (not used), 17. Levi Reid (for Edwards, 73).

Referee: Darren Lee (Morecambe).

0-1 Neil Grayson (17)
0-2 Nathan Smith (21)
1-2 Chris Simm (47 pen)
1-3 Peter Thomson (62)

Leigh: Andy Roscoe (YC, 8), Neil Smith (YC, 56), Mark Drew (YC, 79)
Stafford: none

Stafford Rangers Youth 1 Kettering Town Youth 3

Wednesday 12th October 2005
Stafford Rangers Youth 1 Kettering Town Youth 3
FA Youth Cup Second Qualifying Round
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Programme: free teamsheet
Attendance: 71
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 45:38; second-half: 51:45

Stafford Rangers produced a brave batting performance at rain-soaked Marston Road but ended up going out of the FA Youth Cup at the Second Qualifying Round stage. They took an early lead through Richard Haynes and held it until the last fifteen minutes when the visitors scored three late goals.

Kettering (in blue) got the game underway attacing the town end in the first half.

In what was an attacking start by the young Rangers side, Darryll Johns tested Kettering keeper Aaron Cuff who failed to hold a well-struck rising shot from 20 yards. Nick Oxley got on the end of the loose ball but put it over the bar.

Rangers, however, were soon celebrating in the 12th minute. Haynes drilled a low shot though a crowd into the bottom-left corner after receiving a tapped free-kick on the edge of the area.

The lead could have been extended in the 26th minute. Full back Mike Weston dribbled into the Kettering area only to be denied a shot on goal by a tackle from Adam Randall. Cuff made a brave save at the feet of Johns as Boro continued to press forward.

Just before the interval, Johns cleverly stayed onside to latch on to a pass from Kent but sent the resulting shot wide of the target.

Kettering, who tested Rangers keeper Sam Winstanley with a couple of long-range efforts in the first half, posed plenty of problems for Boro straight from the restart. And Winstanley made a good diving save to turn round a shot from Callum Padworth.

Joe Cooper, Padworth and Andy Gould all fired wide for the visitors, and Boro skipper Ben Henderson made a great saving tackle to deny Matt Middleton a clear shot on goal.

Eventually, Kettering got back on level terms in the 77th minute. Randall crossed low into the area from the left and the dangerous Matt McCumont slid in to deflect the ball past Winstanley.

The visitors broke Rangers’ hearts by taking the lead seven minutes later when substitute Jack Hollmoore headed home a left-wing cross from Middleton. Winstanley prevented both Padworth and Emmanuel Adesico from making it three in the 88th minute.

With nothing to lose, Boro pressed forward for an equaliser and in injury time Ben Plime, on for the injured Cuff, pulled off a fine save to keep out a shot from Haynes. The resulting corner was hammered out of defence to McCumont who got clear and slotted the ball past Winstanley to put the result beyond doubt.

Stafford Rangers (black and shite stripes / black / black): 1, Sam Winstanley, 2. Will Reid, 3. Mike Weston, 4. Will Poulton, 5. Ben Henderson (capt), 6. Nick Oxley, 7. Richard Haynes, 8. Tom Kent, 9. Darryll Johns, 10. Paul Whatmough, 11. Jordan Gale. Subs: 12. Matt Marsh (not used), 14. Karl Gardinder (for Oxley, 82), 15. Craig Hulme (for Reid, 86), 16. Tom Williams (for Weston, 56), 17gk. Matt Sargeant (not used).

Kettering Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Aaron Cuff, 2. Stuart McClarty (capt), 3. Craig Peace, 4. Callum Noble, 5. Adam Randall, 6. Craig Attwood, 7. Andy Gould, 8. Joe Cooper, 9. Matthew McCumont, 10. Matthew Middleton, 11. Callum Padworth. Subs: 12. Anish Kitinder (not used), 14. Jack Hollmoore (for Cooper, 68), 15. Emanuel Adesico (for Peace, 76), 16. Curtis Jacob-Taylor (not used), 17gk. Ben Plime (for Cuff, 68).

Referee: T. Turner (Dunston)
Assistants: I. Wylie (Burntwood) and R. Powell (Stoke).

1-0 Richard Haynes (12)
1-1 Matthew McCumont (77)
1-2 Jack Hollmoore (84)
1-3 Matthew McCumont (90+3)

Cards: none

Totnes & Dartington SC 3 University of Exeter 1

Saturday 8th October 2005
Totnes & Dartington SC 3 University of Exeter 1
Axworthy Devon League
At: Foxhole Sports Ground
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £2-50
Attendance: 28
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half: 46:52; second-half: 49:14

Stafford Rangers didn’t have a game today as they were knocked out of the FA Cup in an earlier round so we headed to Devon for the weekend.

Totnes & Dartington SC (blue/blue/blue): 1. Matt Congdon, 2. Gary Amart, 3. John Payne (capt), 4. Richard Whatman, 5. John Potter, 6. Aaron Palfrey, 7. Phil Atkins, 8. Mike Bishop, 9. Tom Comyn, 10. Chris Hooper, 11. Andy Widdecombe. Subs: 12. Chris Fisher (for Wiidecombe, 73), 14. Richard Gomm, 15. Neil Johansen (for Hooper, 78).

University of Exeter (green/black/black): 1. Richard Mockford, 2. Mark Griffin, 3. Craig Rimmer, 4. Adam Howe (capt), 5. Richard Lewis, 6. Ted Jennings, 7. Steven Bell, 8. Mark Chester, 9. Andrew Forward, 10. John Blundell, 11. John Hewitt. Subs: 12. Tom Howe (for Bell, 18), 14. Alex Austrabury (for Rimmer, 80).

Referee: ???

0-1 John Blundell (53)
1-1 Chris Hooper, (64)
2-1 Tom Comyn (68)
3-1 John Payne (89 pen)

T&D: none
University: Ted Jennings (YC, 43), Adam Howe (YC, 90)

Hednesford Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2

Saturday 1st October 2005
Hednesford Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2
Nationwide North
At: Keys Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 1452
Weather: sunny, windy, dry
Duration: first-half: 45:48 second-half: 48:19

Stafford Rangers moved up into third spot in the Nationwide Conference North table with a comfortable victory at local rivals Hednesford Town. Watched by the biggest Conference North crowd of the season of 1,452, both the goals came in quick succession early in the second half. Peter Thomson and 20-year-old Nathan Smith making his first start in Rangers’ colours both found the net within the space of two minutes.

Stafford (in red), who got the game underway attacking the seated Hednesford end in the first half, weathered some early pressure during which Lee Downes cleared a header off the line from former Stafford skipper Lee Barrow. But Rangers soon got more into the game and created the majority of the scoring opportunities in a tense first half.

The lively Smith, signed from Rushall Olympic during the summer, made an impressive start and volleyed against the bar on the quarter hour. Further chances fell to Kevin Street, Thomson and Paul Groves as Rangers gained the upper against their midtable neighbours.

Just before the break, however, former Stoke and Stafford midfielder Robert Heath drove an increasingly rare chance for Hednesford straight at Dean Williams.

Stafford noticeably upped the tempo at the start of the second half. Within a minute of the restart, Barrow pulled down Smith inside the area but referee Mellor turned down appeals for a penalty.

Robin Gibson curled a shot wide of the near righ-hand post and Grayson fired over from 30 yards out before the visitors turned pressure into an opening goal scored in the 55th minute. Thomson cleverly stayed on-side to latched onto a throughball from Gibson, got clear and slotted home after rounding goalkeeper Tommy Whittle.

The lead was extended within two minutes. Thomson turned provider for Smith who lashed home an unstoppable right-foot shot into the bottom left corner which Whittle had no chance of stopping.

Groves got on the end of a Gibson corner and shot wide and Whittle tipped over a rising 25-yard shot from Gibson as Stafford went close to scoring a third.

Hednesford threw on Paul MacMahon in a bid to get something out of the game and the introduction of Hednesford player-manager Chris Brindley as an extra striker forced Stafford to defend during the last twenty minutes.

Brindley, a former Stafford player who excelled as a determined central defender, saw a header cleared off the line by Nathan Talbott in the closing stages, arguablt the Pitmen’s best chance of the whole game.

Manager Phil Robinson considered this an excellent result and performance. He added: “In derbies you have got to be brave and strong, and play with passion and pride, which we did. I think the Rangers fans can be proud of the effort the players put in.

“I felt we had just a little bit too much quality for them and going forward we always looked like we could create (scoring opportunities). We had a number of efforts on goal, had a good penalty claim turned down and a few other incidents went against us as well. I’m delighted with the 2-0 victory and thought we were worth another goal.”

Robinson highlighted the contribution of two players at Keys Park. He said: “I though Craig McAughtrie was excellent at the heart of the defence and Nathan Smith was a livewire up front. He created a lot of opportunities for himself and scored a goal that he thoroughly deserved.”

Hednesford Town (white/black/black): 1. Tom Whittle, 2. Ross Adams, 3. Mark Branch, 4. Lee Barrow (capt), 5. Richard Teasdale, 6. Lee Williams, 7. Grant Beckett, 8. Rob Heath, 9. Steve Anthrobus, 10. Andy Bell, 11. Colin Hunter. Subs: 12. Paul McMahon (for Anthrobus, 60), 14. Steve Brannan (not used), 15. Tom Marshall (not used), 16. Chris Brindley (for Hunter, 67), 17. Craig Marshall (for Bell, 80).

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Neil Grayson, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Peter Thomson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Alan Dodd (for Daniel, 85), 14. Phil Robinson (for Smith, 77), 15. Dave Walker (not used), 16. Liam Murray (not used), 17. Danny Edwards (for Gibson, 77).

Referee: G. Mellor (Derby).
Assistants: J. G. Adcock and C. J. Marshall.

0-1 Peter Thomson (55)
0-2 Nathan Smith (57)

Hednesford: Steve Anthrobus (YC, 28)
Stafford: none