Saturday 29th July 2006

Stafford Rangers 0 Walsall 0
Pre-Season Friendly
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 782
Weather: cloudy, dry, windy
Duration: first half: 47:06; second half: 48:13

Stafford Rangers can take plenty of encouragement from this pre-season game as they held a full-strength Walsall side to a goalless draw.

The match was watched by former Arsenal and Stoke star Lee Chapman, his wife Leslie Ash and mother Gill who officially switched on Stafford’s new floodlights during an evening reception after the game at Marston Road. Along with a host of former players from the 1970s, all will have enjoyed the action with the only thing lacking being a goal.

Walsall took the game to Rangers early on and Hector Sam was denied a clear shot on goal by a brave saving tackle from Craig McAughtrie.

The visitors also won three corners during the opening five minutes and Sam also had the ball in the back of the net. However, the effort from the Trinidad and Tobago International striker was ruled out for offside.

Stafford took a while to settle and Lee Downes saw a curling shit drift wide of the right-hand post.

With Walsall enjoying more possession than Rangers, they should have taken the lead in the 22nd minute. Martin Butler did well to set up a chance for Sam who miskicked in front of goal.

Mark Wright sent a rising 25-yard drive flashing past the goal and he also had a header cleared off the line by McAughtrie.

Stafford weathered the pressure and certainly posed more of the threat during the closing 15 minutes of the first half.

Quickly winning two corners in quick succession, Stafford kept up the pressure on the Walsall defence and skipper Wayne Daniel headed straight at Ince.

Kevin Street, who put in an impressive performance, combined with Neil Grayson inside the visitors area. The ball fell to Robin Gibson who saw a lob beat Saddlers’ goalkeeper Clayton Ince and shave the top of the bar.

But just before the break Anthony Gerrard fired inches over the Stafford bar from well outside the area.

In the second half, Stafford continued to pose problems for the League Two visitors and the impressive Kevin Street saw a shot deflected wide.

Butler had a couple of efforts on goal either side of the hour mark but Walsall found it hard to penetrate the determined Stafford defence.

Rangers survived a scare on 67 minutes, however. A slip by Daniel allowed Sam to break forward and square the ball to Butler who saw a shot blocked by McAughtrie.

With substitutions made a regular intervals, chances became scare though Stafford goalkeeper Dean Williams did well to claim a loping shot from Butler from underneath his bar.

As full time approached, Street fired straight at Ince from 20 yards out.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Richie Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 4. Craig McAughtrie, 3. Nathan Talbott; 11. Robin Gibson, 7. Lee Downes, 6. Simon Osborn, 8. Kevin Street; 10. Guy Madjo, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 12. Brian Quailey (for Madjo, 65), 14. Danny Edwards (for Gibson, 77), 15. Dave Walker (not used), 16. Dolapo Olaoye (for Grayson, 84), 17. Ged Murphy (for Osborn, ht), 17gk. Danny Alcock (not used), 2. Alex Gibson (not used), 3. Pat Bannister (not used), 4. David Oldfield (not used), 5. Liam Murray (for Talbott, 65).

Walsall (red/white/white: 1. Clayton Ince, 2. Craig Pead, 4. Anthony Gerrard, 6. Ian Roper, 15. Kris Taylor; 14. Mark Wright, 16. Mark Kinsella, 12. Dean Keates (capt), 3. Daniel Fox; 9. Martin Butler, 10. Hector Sam. Subs: 17gk.James McKewan (not used), 19. James Constable (for Sam, 80), 20. Ishmal Demontagwal (for Taylor, 67), 5. Chris Westwood (for Keates, 77), 24. Scott Dann (not used), 25. David McDermott (for Wright, 89).

Referee: Ian Scarr.
Assistants: Nigel Day and Lance Blackwood.
Fourth Official: Phil Reade.

Tuesday 25th July 2006

Leek Town 1 Stafford Rangers 1
Pre-season Friendly
At: Harrison Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 162
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 44:54; second-half: 44:55

A headed goal from former skipper Lee Barrow, scored early in the second half, looked like to condemn Stafford Rangers to a rare pre-season defeat until Nathan Talbott scored a late equaliser.

Talbott, who played in a more attacking role at Harrison Park, tapped in at close range in the 84th minute after Leek keeper Mark Kearns could only parry a shot from Pat Bannister.

Boro Manager Phil Robinson started with Alex Gibson, Ged Murphy and Delapo Olaoye in what was a familiar line-up. Missing were Robin Gibson, Craig Lovatt, Danny Edwards and Nathan Smith.

It was Stafford who dominated the opening half and Kearns pulled off several fine saves to keep Leek on level terms.

Early on, the keeper tipped over a shot from Neil Grayson and from the resulting corner Talbott saw a shot cleared off the line by Rob Hawthorne.

Olaoye headed over from eight-yards out before Kearns denied both Wayne Daniel and Grayson with acrobatic saves.

Grayson headed over and a chip from Murphy didn’t miss by much as Boro continued to threaten the home goal with Craig McAughtrie also driving over from well outside the area.

Dean Williams was rarely troubled but, just before the interval, he held a curling free-kick from Barrow.

Rangers continued to cause problems and Hawthorne made another goal line clearance, this time to keep out a McAughtrie header.

But Leek stunned Boro by taking the lead in the 53rd minute. Barrow, who recently arrived from Hednesford Town, headed home a near-post corner delivered by Dave MacPherson.

Stafford were denied two clear-cut penalties, one for a foul on Dave Walker and another for handball, and it didn’t look as if it was going to be Stafford’s night.

However, with time running out, Talbott got into the area unchallenged to score the equaliser.

Leek Town (blue / blue / sky blue): 1. Mark Kearns, 2. Rob Hawthorne, 3. Adam Yates, 4. Ashley Wooliscroft (capt), 5. Paul Booth, 6. Lee Barrow, 7. Mark Devlin, 8. Dave MacPherson, 9. Alan Nagington, 10. Dan Booth, 11. Jordan Johnson. Subs: 12. Sam Wood (for Nagington, 78), 14. Dave Tickle (not used), 15. Tom Barnett (for Dan Booth, 70), 16. Kevin Jackson (for Wooliscroft, 85).

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams (Alcock, ht), 2. Alex Gibson (Walker, ht), 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel, 6. Ged Murphy (Osborn, ht), 7. Lee Downes (Dacres, 81), 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson (Bannister, 81), 10. Dolapo Olaoye (F. Francis, ht (A. Francis, 88)), 11. Liam Murray (Milliard, 88). Subs: 17gk. Danny Alcock (for Williams, ht), 12. Dave Walker (for Gibson, ht), 14. Francino Francis (for Olaoye, ht), 16. Simon Osborn (for Murphy, ht), 2. Christian Dacres (for Downes, 81), 15. Pat Bannister (for Grayson, 81), 3. Chris Milliard (for Murray, 88), 4. Andre Francis (for Francino Francis, 88), 17. Ed Booth (not used), x. Jemiah Richards (not used).

Referee: Nigel Day (Kidsgrove).
Assistants: Simon Bennett (Kidsgrove) and Oliver Yates (Newcastle).

Saturday 15th July 2006

Newcastle Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2
Pre-season Friendly
At: Lyme Valley Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 143
Weather: very hot and sunny
Duration: first-half: 45:00; second-half: 45:40

We spend the morning in Rugeley running the Sport Relief Mile before I set off up the A34 for Stafford Rangers' second pre-season friendly.

The Newcastle players gave Stafford a guard of honour to acknowledge the visitors' promotion into the Nationwide Conference.

Stafford's starting line-up again had a familiar look with just three changes from Rocester. Jemiah Richards, Simon Osborn and Dave Walker came into the side with former Port Vale defender Stephen Rowland continuing at right full-back.

In very hot and sunny conditions, Stafford got the game underway attacking the north/entrance end in the first half.

Stafford almost took the lead on 18 minutes. Simon Osborn’s corner was met by the Neil Grayson who saw a header rebound off the bar.

Eventually, Stafford turned their superiority into a goal in the 26th minute. Robin Gibson went down inside the area and Grayson gave Town’s Richard Froggatt no chance from the penalty spot.

Certainly in the thick of the action, the 41-year-old striker was denied again by the woodwork after combining with Nathan Talbott.

Rangers extended their lead in the 31st minute. Found in space on the left side of the area, Street sent a spectacular angled drive across the face of goal and into the opposite side of the net.

Talbott should have made it three just before the interval. Put clear by Osborn, he blasted high over the bar with just Froggatt to beat.

Newcastle’s first-half chances were limited with unmarked John Powell heading the best straight at Dean Williams.

The weather and substitutions had an impact on the second half which began with Froggatt comfortably saving from both Grayson and Talbott.

Boro’s Danny Alcock was the busier keeper after the restart. The former Accrington stopper pulled off a couple of good saves to deny Rosalind Martins and ex-Boro midfielder David Berks, who both caused problems all afternoon.

Newcastle Town (yellow / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Richard Froggatt, 2. Dean Gillick (capt), 3. Lee Duckworth, 4. Kevin Jones, 5. John Powell, 6. David Berks, 7. Paul Tortoishell, 8. Danny Hughes, 9. Nick Wellecombe, 10. Rosalind Martins, 11. Andy Bostock. Subs: 12. John Diskin (for Powell, ht), 14. Lee Talbot (for Bostock, ht), 15. Adam Vickers (for Gillick, ht), 16. Tom Fogg (for Duckworth, ht), 17. Anthony Buckle (used?), 20gk. Scott Bentley (for Froggatt, 57), 2. Trialist (for Tortoishell, 74), 3. Trialist (for Fogg, 77).

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Steve Rowland, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Jemiah Richards, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Simon Osborn, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Dave Walker, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 17gk. Danny Alcock (for Williams, ht), 17. Levi Reid (for Osborn, ht), 16. Pat Bannister (for Walker, ht), 15. Dolapo Olaoye (for Grayson, 58), 4. Ed Booth (for Richards, 69), 14. David Oldfield (for Street, 71), 4. Jemiah Richards (returned for Daniel, 78), 12. Danny Whittaker (for Gibson, 78), Alex Gibson (not used), Robinson (not used).

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Cheddleton).
Assistants: A Yates and S Bennett.

0-1 Neil Grayson (26 pen)
0-2 Kevin Street (31)

Rocester 1 Stafford Rangers 1

Tuesday 11th July 2006
Rocester 1 Stafford Rangers 1
Pre-season Friendly
At: Hillsfield
Kick-off: 7-30 pm
Attendance: 174
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first-half: 44:54; second-half: 44:15

With the close season over, there was no better way to start the 2006/07 season than a trip to the familiar destination of Rocester. Some 66 days ago, I was there at the Pirelli Stadium celebrating Stafford's win over Droylsden to win that covered place back in non-league's top flight.

It always seems to be warm and sunny whenever I visit Rocester and this evening was no exception. Stafford Rangers created a hat-full of chances but in the end needed a late equaliser from Dave Walker to gain at draw against a side that ply their trade in the Midland Alliance.

To reach the ground from the A50 roundabout adjoining McDonalds at Uttoxeter, take the B5030 to Rocester (also signposted for Ashbourne and Alton Towers). After approximately four miles turn right (opposite the JCB factory) over the narrow bridge into Rocester village. At the mini-island turn right into Mill Street and the ground was 500 metres on the left, just past the former cotton mill.<

here was a large car park, on grass, at the rear of the ground. Entering the ground from this side, all the facilities were to the left with a press/PA box, tea bar, social club, changing rooms and seated stand. Opposite on the Mill Street side, was a small area of cover containing benches.

Phil Robinson named a strong and familiar starting line-up lacking Danny Edwards and Nathan Smith, both sidelined by injury. In fact, the only trialist in the starting line-up was ex-Port Vale defender Steve Rowland though plenty of trailists were waiting for their chance in the second half.

Rocester (wearing amber shirts, black shorts and socks) got the game underway in bright sunshine attacking the mill end ofthe ground in the first half.

The lively Robin Gibson was inches away from giving Stafford the lead inside the first minute. He got on the end Neil Grayson’s knockdown and sent a shot flashing past the top-left corner.

Never at their best, but then again this was the first outing of the season, Rangers (wearing last season's black and white striped shirts, black shorts and socks) dominated the Romans in the first half and created a number of good chances. Amongst them, Kevin Street was unlucky to see a low shot rebound off a post while Grayson was thwarted by a brave block by keeper Brad Clark.

As expected at the interval, both teams made wholesale changes. Rocester brought on five substitutes for the second half while Stafford boss Phil Robinson replaced all his players bar Liam Murray.

Rocester replaced Mike Ruddock with Richard Owen in the 57th minute and then upset the form book by taking the lead a minute later. Jemiah Richards brought down Kyle Esplin inside the area and Rowley beat former Accrington keeper Danny Alcock from the spot.

Player-manager Robinson replaced Liam Murray in ther 62nd minute and saw his side dominate without success in front of goal. Ed Booth twice headed over from crosses by ex-Wolves man Simon Osborne while Dave Walker saw a close-range shot pushed on to the bar by Clark.

With time running out, good work on the left by Jamie Phoenix ended with Walker firing low past Clark from inside the area.

Boro finished on the attack with both Phoenix and Delapo Olaoye going close to netting the winner.

Full credit to Rocester for gaining a draw in this curtain raiser.

First half
Rocester (amber/black/black): 1. Brad Clark, 2. Pete Johnson, 3. Carl Allen (capt), 4. Mark Grimley, 5. Mick Ede, 6. Dave Brown, 7. Kevin Milward, 8. Chris Rowley, 9. Mark Ruddock, 10. Nick Ward, 11. Steve Caswell.
Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Steve Rowland, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Liam Murray, 11. Robin Gibson.

Second half
Rocester: 1. Brad Clark, 14. Matt Johnson, 17. Darren Braithwaite, 6. Dave Brown, 3. Carl Allen, 12. Martin Gadsby, 15. Liam Sowter, 8. Chris Rowley, 7. Kevin Millward, 9. Mark Ruddock, 16. Kyle Esplin. Subs: 18. Richard Owen (for Ruddock, 57).
Stafford Rangers: 17. Danny Alcock, 2. Danny Whittaker, 5. Jemiah Richards, 4. Ed Booth, 10. Liam Murray, 15. Ged Murphy, 14. Simon Osborn, 16. Stacy Caldicott, 17. Jamie Phoenix, 9. Dolapo Olaoye, 12. Dave Walker. Sub: 3. Phil Robinson (for Murray, 62).

Referee: Steve Nixon (Stoke).

1-0 Chris Rowley (59 pen)
1-1 Dave Walker (83)