Saturday 29th September 2007

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stafford Rangers 1
Blue Square Premier
At: Nene Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 1533
Weather: dry, mild

Rangers extended their unbeaten run to three games with a hard-fought draw at Rushden & Diamonds. Marco Adaggio (78) headed Stafford into the lead but Simeon Jackson (84) levelled for the home side

Phil Robinson made one change with Chris Flynn coming in for Ross Draper.

A long throw from the left by Fred Murray, early in the game, delivered into the area caused problems for the home defence.

Stafford almost took the lead in the 8th minute. Djoumin Sangare rose at the far post to head Kevin Street’s left-wing corner towards goal. Defender Wayne Hatswell (or was it Martin Foster) cleared off the line with keeper Paul Nicholls beaten.

Rushden got forward and created a couple of scoring opportunities. Andy Burgess drilled a low shot wide of the right-hand post from 20 yards while Michael Malcolm sent an overhead kick into the arms of well-positioned Scott Loach.

Curtis Osano delivered a dangerous cross into the Stafford area from the right and Wayne Daniel needed to head the ball clear.

In what was becoming an entertaining end-to-end game, Street fed the overlapping Richard Sutton on the right who curled a shot wide of the near post.

Loach raced off his line in the 18th minute and collided with Simeon Jackson just outside the area. The keeper was unlucky to be booked but nothing came of Burgess’ free-kick.

Rushden, unbeaten in their last seven games, looked to apply pressure and were twice thwarted by a raised flag for offside.

In the 22nd minute, Burgess looked to put Malcolm clear down the right but Sangare got back to make a vital tackle to prevent the Rushden striker having a run on goal.

The referee gave a free-kick 27 yards out for a foul by Sangare on Malcom. Chris Hope drove the ball against the wall.

Kelly’s cross from the left was headed out to Burgess who juggled the ball 25 yards out before volleying over the Stafford bar.

In the 37th minute, Burgess skipped past Flynn and drilled a low shot wide of the right post through a crowd.

As the interval approached Asano was allowed to dribble all the way to the right bye-line. He pulled the ball back across the face of goal but no one got on the end and Sutton cleared.

In stoppage time, Sutton found Street with a throw. The midfielder worked a chance and sent a left-foot shot wide of the target from just outside the area.

Dean Howell sent a 25-yard shot flashing past the Stafford goal six minutes after the restart. Burgess delievered a deep corner to the far post where Hatswell headed over though the defender was penalised for pushing.

Rangers made the game's first change with Neil Grayson replacing David McNiven just after the hour mark and was soon booked for a foul on on Burgess.

In the 68th minute Paul Nicholls pulled off a fine diving save to turn round an acrobatic volley from Adaggio. From the resulting corner Adaggio bravely got in a header and sent the ball wide.

Jackson almost put Rushden ahead in the 72nd minute when he sent a dipping volley against the top of the Stafford bar.

Rangers got foward and Street was brought down by Foster just outside the home area. Grayson drilled the free-kick through the wall and just wide.

However, a low cross from the left by Howell found its way to the far post where Murray headed over the bar to concede a corner.

The deadlock was broken in the 79th minute. Fred Murray’s long throw was flicked on to the far post and Adaggio sent a header into the opposite top left corner of the net.

Adaggio could have scored again when put clear by Chris Flynn. He tried to flick the ball past Nicholls who in the end saved comfortably.

But Rangers held their lead for just five minutes before Rushden levelled in the 84th minute. Burgess’ long ball caught out the Stafford defence and Jackson forced the ball home.

Diamonds pressed for a winner but the well-organised Stafford defence stood firm during some six and a half minutes of stoppage time.

Rushden & Diamonds(white/white/white): 12. Paul Nicholls; 2. Curtis Osano, 5. Chris Hope (capt), 6. Wayne Hatswell, 24. Dean Howell; 11. Andy Burgess, 25. Simon Rusk, 17. Martin Foster, 18. Marcus Kelly; 23. Michael Malcolm, 10. Simeon Jackson. Subs: 4. Phil Gulliver, 7. Jon Challinor (for Foster, 80), 14. Michael Rankine (for Kelly, 80), 15. Lee Tomlin (for Malcolm, 84), 16. Tom Shaw.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes with white sleeves / black / black): 12. Scott Loach; 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 26. Cedric Avinel, 6. Djoumin Sangare; 2. Richard Sutton, 8. Kevin Street, 7. Chris Flynn, 28. David Oldfield, 25. Fred Murray; 10. David McNiven, 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 9. Neil Grayson (for McNiven, 61), 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 1. Danny Alcock.

Referee: S Creighton (Berkshire).
Attendance: 1533 (88 away fans).

Thursday 27th September 2007

Stafford Rangers Youth 0 Stone Dominoes Youth 1
A Youth Cup First Qualifying Round
At: Marston Road

Tuesday 25th September 2007

Stafford Rangers 1 Histon 1
Blue Square Premier
At Marston Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 705
Weather: showers

Stafford Rangers fought back to earn a point against ten-man Histon who has Roscoe Hipperson sent off (65). The visitors took an early lead though John Kennedy (3) and Stafford turned pressure into Neil Grayson's (75) equaliser.

Phil Robinson named an unchanged starting line-up to face Histon on their first visit to Marston Road. There was one change amongst the substitutes with Chris Flynn replacing Seb Arnolin.

Histon took the lead with a spectacular strike in the 3rd minute. John Kennedy sent an unstoppable volley into the top left corner from the edge of the area giving Scott Loach no chance. He got on the end of the clearance following a long throw into the area.

The visitors did most of the early attacking. A clearance by Loach was charged down by Cliff Akurang and almost rebounded into the net.

On the quarter hour Antonio Murray sent a snap shot across the face of the Boro goal and wide of the far right post.

Stafford got forward and Ross Draper couldn't quite get on the end of a low cross from Marco Adaggio across the face of goal.

Patrick Ada was booked in the 22nd minute for a heavy challenge on Cedric Avinel on the egde of the Stafford area.

There was further danger for Rangers on the half hour. From Adrian Cambridge's corner, Akurang saw a volley at the far post blocked by Kevin Street at the expense of another corner

Fred Murray had Stafford's first serious attempt on goal, firing over from just outside the Histon area.

Rangers posed more of an attacking threat as the interval approached. Avinel played a perfectly weighted ball through to Adaggio who got in a shot on target despite the close marking of Ada.

A good move almost led to an equaliser in the 53rd minute. Ross Draper found Fred Murray on the left who in turn found McNiven. The striker, who netted two goals against Weymouth on Saturday, shot towards the far right post where Adaggio ran in and almost applied the finishing touch.

Histon immediately got forward and Kennedy fired a low drove wide from inside the 'D'.

Stafford made a first change in the 56th minute when Flynn replaced David Oldfield.

Just after the hour mark, Akurang got in the end of a left-wing cross and sent a header straight at Loach.

Histon were reduced to ten men in the 65th minute. Roscoe Hipperson saw 'red' for a professional foul on Adaggio who bundled over just outside the visitors area latching on to a long clearance by Loach.

Before play resumed, Grayson replaced Draper and Histon sacrificed Antonio Murray in favour of an extra defender, Matthew Langston.

McNiven eventually hit the resulting free-kick against the wall and Street sent the rebound wide of the right-hand post.

Stafford got back on level terms in the 75th minute. Fred Murray's cross made its way to the far right post where Grayson fired home for his first goal of the season.

Histon made a second change with Danny Wright replacing Akurang and also had Erkan Okay booked for timewasting.

Stafford laid seige to the Histon goal as the well-organised visitors kept plenty of bodies behind the ball.

Fred Murray pulled the ball back for Adaggio to fire a left-footer straight at Danny Naisbitt. Then Grayson's shot from outside the area was blocked by Ada at the expense of a corner.

Histon brought on Jamie Barker in place of Okay at the start of injury time and Rangers kept up the pressure.

Avolin, Djoumin Sangare and Fred Murray all had shots blcoked by defenders inside the area while Flynn drove wide from some 30 yards out.

Stafford tried as hard as they could to find a winner, without joy, but the point builds on the win at Weymouth.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes with white sleeves / black / black): 12. Scott Loach; 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 26. Cedric Avinel, 6. Djoumin Sangare; 2. Richard Sutton, 28. David Oldfield, 17. Ross Draper, 8. Kevin Street, 25. Fred Murray; 10. David McNiven, 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 7. Chris Flynn (for Oldfield, 56), 9. Neil Grayson (for Draper, 66), 16. Tom Ingram, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 1. Danny Alcock

Histon (sky blue/navy blue/sky blue): 21. Danny Naisbitt; 24. Craig Pope, 15. Roscoe Hipperson, 30. Patrick Adayc, 25. Gareth Gwillim; 3. Erkan Okayyc, 7. John Kennedy, 6. Adrian Cambridge (capt), 18. Nathaniel Knight-Percivalyc; 14. Cliff Akurang, 10. Antonio Murray. Subs: 2. Matthew Haniver, 5. Matthew Langston (for Murray, 66), 11. Jamie Barker (for Okay, 90), 23. Danny Wright (for Akurang, 77), 20. Mark Osborn

Referee: S P Cummins (Cheshire).
Attendance: 705 (inc 33 away fans).

This match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Saturday 22nd September 2009

Weymouth 1 Stafford Rangers 3
Blue Square Premier
At: Wessex Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 1217
Weather: warm and sunny

An early strike from Marco Adaggio (15) and a goal in each half from David McNiven (41, 59) earned Stafford Rangers a deserved first victory of the season. Weymouth scored early in the second half through Nick Crittenden (56).

With Chris Flynn and Greg Stones both unable to travel, Phil Robinson brought David Oldfield and Richard Sutton into the midfield. David McNiven also started up front in a third change to the starting line-up. Weymouth boss Jason Tindall made five changes following last Tuesday's home defeat at the hands of Rushden & Diamonds.

Weymouth created the game’s first scoring opportunity. Stuart Beavon’s lob hit the bar but, had the ball dropped in, the goal would have been disallowed because of a raised flag for offside.

Chances were created in what was a bit of an end-to-end start. Sutton played the ball into the area where Djoumin Sangare got in a shot but the diving Jason Matthews saved.

From Paulo Vernazza’s near post corner, Kyle Critchell got in a header which was blocked by a Stafford defender. Jefferson Louis also fired wide from 10 yards from a pass by Crittenden.

A well worked goal led to Stafford taking the lead in the 15th minute. Adaggio exchanged a one-two with McNiven to pierce the home defence and comfortably slotted past the Weymouth keeper.

A saving tackle from Critchell prevented Kevin Street connecting with a low cross from McNiven and Matthews tipped over from Fred Murray (though another raised flag for offside will have ruled out a goal). Wayne Daniel also ran in to connected with a corner delivered by Street and sent a header over the bar.

Stafford deserved to double their lead in the 41st minute. McNiven lifted the ball over Matthews who could only palm it into the roof of the net.

After Stafford won a corner shortly after the restart, Weymouth went on the attack as they had to do. And they reduced the deficit in the 56th minute. Crittenden, wide on the right, punted a diagonal ball forward which cleared Loach and ended up in top left corner of the net. It didn't mattter whether he meant it - the goal momentarily got The Terras back in contention.

However, McNiven struck again three minutes later to restore the two-goal advantage. He stayed onside to break clear and sidefooted past the helpless Matthews.

Louis headed over while Paulo Vernazza and substitute Gavin McCallum both went close without troubling Loach. The Stafford goalkeeper pulled off a fine diving save to push away a low drive from Crittenden but Weymouth found it tough going against a well-organised Stafford defence.

Late on, Sangare got forward and fed Adaggio who fired wide.

Weymouth (terra/terra/sky blue): 17. Jason Matthews; 13. Simon Weatherstone (capt), 26. Joel Kitamirike, 14. Ashley Vickers, 2. Kyle Critchell; 7. Nick Crittenden, 22. Paulo Vernazza, 21. Conal Platt, 6. James Coutts; 9. Jefferson Louis, 10. Stuart Beavon. Subs: 25. Gavin McCallum (for Couts, 66), 23. Justin Roberts (for Platt, 71), 1. John Stewart (gk), 8. Danny Phillips, 12. Scott Doe.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes with white sleeves / black / black): 12. Scott Loach; 26. Cedric Avinel, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 25. Fred Murray; 2. Richard Sutton, 28. David Oldfield, 17. Ross Draper, 8. Kevin Street, 10. David McNiven, 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 9. Neil Grayson (for McNiven, 79), 16. Tom Ingram, 19. Sebastian Arnolin, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 1. Danny Alcock.

Referee: Keith Yeo (Essex).

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Saturday 22nd September 2009

Sturminster Marshall 3 Cobham Sports 4
Dorset Premier League
At: Churchill Close
Kick-off: 10-30 am
Attendance: 171

Tuesday 18th September 2007

Salisbury City 1 Stafford Rangers 0
Blue Square Premier
At: Raymond McEnhill Stadium
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 1302
Weather: cold and dry

One defensive slip in the 29th minute allowed Salisbury City's Marvin Brown to volley home the only goal of the game at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.

Stafford gave a debut to 19-year-old goalkeeper Scott Loach, signed on loan from Watford. Kevin Street and Greg Stones were both recalled with Danny Alcock, Richard Sutton and David McNiven dropping to the bench.

Both keepers were called into action early on. Loach held a looping header from defender Luke Oliver and Salisbury’s Ryan Clarke dived to his right to keep out a shot from Djoumin Sangare who stayed up after a corner. Marco Adaggio headed straight at Ryan Clarke and moments later Loach got down at his near post to claim a low shot from Robert Matthews.

Salisbury scored what proved to be the winner just before the half-hour mark. Defender Jonathan Bass lofted the ball forward into the area where Brown had the time and space to chest down and volley past Loach.

Just before the break both Wayne Daniel and Sangare headed over the Salisbury bar.

Stafford enjoyed a good spell of pressure at the start of the season half. Street cut in from the left and fired just wide of the far post. Chris Flynn sent a couple of rising shots over the bar. He first drove over from 28 yards after Street's free-kick was headed out. Flynn then curled a free-kick over the wall and just over the bar following a foul on Agaggio on the edge of the area. But Salisbury’s well-organised defence proved difficult to penetrate.

Just before the hour mark, Loach’s clearance was charged down by Robert Matthews. The ball headed towards an unguarded goal and hit the left-hand post. Matthews got to be rebound but Sangare’s tackle prevented the striker from doubling the lead. Stafford kept pressing forward with both Flynn and Cedric Avinel going close. Adaggio’s on-target shot was gathered up by Ryan Clarke. Late in the game Salisbury should have put the outcome beyond doubt. Matthews lifted the ball over from 15 yards and forced a good block out of Loach, who also saved from substitute Matt Tubbs.

Salisbury City (white/black/white): 1. Ryan Clarke; 2. Jonathan Bass, 29. Luke Oliver, 4. Aaron Cook (capt), 3. Matthew Robinson; 18, Darrell Clarke, 7. Wayne Turk, 25. Ian Herring, 28. Andrew Sandell; 15. Marvin Brown, 16. Robert Matthews. Subs: 19. Liam Feeney (for D. Clarke, 69), Matt Tubbs (for Brown, 69), 8. Scott Bartlett (for Sandell, 81), 17. Daniel Clay, 5. Tim Bond.

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 12. Scott Loach; 26. Cedric Avinel, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 25. Fred Murray; 8. Kevin Street, 23. Greg Stones, 7. Chris Flynn, 17. Ross Draper, 9. Neil Grayson; 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 2. Richard Sutton (for Draper, 62), 10. David McNiven (for Street, 73), 28. David Oldfield (for Grayson, 82), 16. Tom Ingram, 1. Danny Alcock.

Referee: John Hopkins (Wickford).
Attendance: 1302 (inc about 40 away fans).

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Saturday 15th September 2007

Stafford Rangers 0 Grays Athletic 2
Blue Square Premier
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 649 (inc 37 away fans)
Weather: warm and sunny

Walking up to the ground from my roughly my usual parking spot, I pondered a couple or three questions:

Stafford v Grays Could this game against 13th-placed Grays Athletic, a team without a win or a goal in their previous three games, provide Stafford Rangers with their first league win of the season?

Where will the new loan signing from Watford, Cedric Avolin, fit into the defence?

In the week when Craig McAughtrie departed for Tamworth, who would be captain in the unlikely event that Wayne Daniel also missed out to make way for the new Frenchman?

The teamsheet arrived around 2 pm and showed that Daniel was in the starting line-up with the new question being: ‘who would partner him in the heart of the defence’. I guessed wrong!

The Secretary's Assistant asked me who I thought the dangermen were in the Grays side and I picked up number 16, Charley Hearn. I’d never seen him play but was aware his was highly rated.

My suspicions about the impact Hearn could have on the game came true in the 35th minute when he put Grays ahead direct from a free-kick played calmly into the area from around 30 yards out. Amazingly No one got a touch and the ball went in by the right-hand post. Gavin Grant made it 2-0 to the visitors and once again an incident just before half-time proved costly – goals by Oxford and Torquay and the sending off at Stevenage.

Stafford created enough chances to win the game, around 20 attempts on goal, but had to suffer a blank scoresheet and another defeat.

Manager Phil Robinson, as you can imagine, was not pleased. In the post-match press conference in the manager’s office, I had to ask the first question. “Thoughts on the performance, please?” I asked to which Robinson replied: “Oh, that’s an essay question!” He went on to give me the quotes I needed, as did a happier Grays boss, Justin Edinburgh.

Later I was cheered a bit when checking my predictions made for the Blue Square Premier Prediction Competition. Three points are awarded for a correctly predicted scoreline and one point for a correct result with an incorrectly predicted scoreline. I scored 12 points in total (two correct predictions – York v Stevenage and Farsley Celtic v Exeter – six correct results including a point for forecasting a Grays victory but not by a 0-2 scoreline). The only games I scored ‘nul point’ for were Aldershot’s win at Oxford and the goalless draw between Rushden & D and Burton). I moved up to 16th position, my highest ever, and more importantly, ahead of arch rival, 'srfcgazh'.

Stafford boss Phil Robinson made two changes. Cedric Avinel, a 21-year-old defender signed on loan from Watford, made his debut and David McNiven returned to the attack.

Both sides looked to get forward in the Marston Road sunshine with unduly worrying the opposing goalkeeper during the opening exchanges.

McAllister fired wide from outside the area and gave Danny Alcock a comfortable diving save from another low effort. McNiven sent a dipping volley just over the Grays bar.

Gavin Grant had the ball in the back of the Stafford net but his effort was disallowed for offside.

Djoumin Sangare, played against his former club, was booked in the 27th minute for a stiff challenge on Jon Ashton. In a very good natured contest, this was the first foul of the game.

Hearn should have put the visitors ahead just after the half-hour mark. Murray crossed low from the right to the far post where Hearn put the ball over from just a couple of yards out.

But the midfielder made up for the miss four minutes later with a goal out of nothing. With his side temporarily down to ten, men, Hearn delivered a harmless looking free-kick into the Stafford area from 30 yards out. No one got a touch and the ball crept into the bottom right corner past the diving Alcock.

David McNiven almost got Stafford back on level terms. He fired across goal from the left side of the area, only to see the leaping Ross Flitney push the ball away for a corner.

Grays punished Stafford again in first-half injury time. Grant burst into the area from the right and drove low across the face of goal and into the far corner of the net.

Stafford tried to put Grays under pressure at the start of the second half and McNiven flicked a pass from Grayson across the face of goal.

Five minutes after the restart, Richard Sutton thumped a shot straight at Flitney after a long free-kick from Alcock was flicked on by Grayson.

Adaggio should have scored in the next attack. Put clear, the striker drove at the legs of the advancing Flitney.

Robinson made a couple of changes, one enforced due to an injury to Sangare, but found at hard to make a real impact in the final third. Grays remained confortable without troubling Alcock.

Crosses from Chris Flynn almost led to goals around the 72-minute mark. Greg Stones rose inside the area to sent a free header over from the midfielder's free-kick. Kevin Street headed straight at Flitney from a narrow angle at the far left post.

Late in the game, Street had a go with a shot from outside the area but, again, the luck just didn't run for Stafford.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes/black/black): 1. Danny Alcock; 26. Cedric Avinel, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 25. Fred Murray; 2. Richard Sutton; 17. Ross Draper, 7. Chris Flynn, 9. Neil Grayson; 20. Marco Adaggio, 10. David McNiven. Subs: 23. Greg Stones (for Draper, 66), 8. Kevin Street (for Sangare, 71), 24. Steve Hopkinson 28. David Oldfield, 27. Robert Duggan (gk).

Grays Athletic (yellow/yellow/yellow): 1. Ross Flitney; 2. Andy Sambrook, 14. Jon Ashton, 4. Jamie Stuart, 3. Adam Gross; 11. Karl Murray, 6. Stuart Thurgood (capt), 16. Charley Hearn, 7. Dennis Oli; 9. Craig McAllister, 23. Gavin Grant. Subs: 8. Aaron O'Connor (for Grant, 78), 18. Ben Watson (for McAllister, 90), 10. Danny Kedwell, 30. James Lawson, 12, Danny Knowles (gk).

Referee: Dean Moharab (Stockport).

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Monday 10th September 2007

Stevenage Borough 3 Stafford Rangers 0
Blue Square Premier
At: Broadhall Way
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 2424
Weather: dry, mild

The respective records of Stafford Rangers (23rd position, no wins, one point) and Stevenage Borough (3rd position, unbeaten with five wins, 12 goals scored, thee goals conceded) suggested that it might turn out to be a difficult evening for Phil Robinson’s side.

This game was originally scheduled for the previous Saturday but put back two days before of Stafford's live Setanta TV game with Halifax Town. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this trip – in particularly getting home after midnight and having to write a couple of reports and update Stafford's official web site before going to bed.

And after arriving at the large car park next to the dual carriageway opposite the ground, there was plenty of time to chat with a couple of other Stafford fans who had arrived roughly the same time as me. There were varying degrees of optimism and even myself, who tries to look for something positive, couldn’t come up with anything other than a prediction of a 3-0 win to Stevenage.

The Press Box at the Broadhall Way ground is located in the main stand, right of centre near to the seated stand behind the goal which houses the away fans. The view is good and red pull-down tables provide a good working surface. With a fellow Rangers correspondent sat next to me, off the field things were set up well. One thing to remember when reporting this game – you can’t refer to Stafford as ‘the Boro’ this time!

Stevenage's Broadhall Way ground, which I was visiting for the fourth time, had changed beyond recognition since my first trip there is 1990(when a crowd of 350 saw Borough defeat Saffron Walden Town 2-1 in a Knight Floodlight Cup tie when I was living in Wimbledon). Today, there is a large seated stand running the entire length of what is the north-western side of the ground. This side of the ground also had the changing rooms, club shop, hospitality and other main club facilities. Looking at the pitch from the stand, there is an all-seater stand behind the right-hand goal housing the away fans – SBFC stands out in red amongst the predominately white seats and there is an electronic scoreboard above. Along the opposite touchline is a covered terrace fir Stevenage supporters with a camera gantry high above the half-way line. Behind the left-hand goal is another covered terrace again housing home fans.

The team news sprang a surprise with striker David McNiven on the bench. The action got under way with Stafford taking to the field with a completely different formation to the one predicted from the eleven players in the starting line-up. The tactic certainly worked well throughout the first half with the feared Stevenage attack not managing a single attempt on goal throughout the first half. In fact Stafford created the odd chance to take the lead. Could the lads gain a point or even a win? Things went up in smoke, sadly, just before half-time.

But just like last season, Stafford were reduced to ten men with the scoreline still goalless. In 2006/07, Ged Murphy saw ‘red’. This time is was on-loan Matthew Hazley for a challenge of Stevenage's John Martin. The first half was almost up, the ball was away from the Stafford goal, etc. An unnecessary dismissal.

Stevenage took full advantage of their numerical advantage to take the lead within two minutes of the restart. Just like 2006/07 I feared the worse but full credit to the remaining ten men (and three subs) for the way the battled through the second period. The home side added two more goals on the hour and near the end. My prediction was correct (three valuable points in the Blue Square Premier Prediction Competition) but somehow I felt deflated especially after hopes of a point or even a win had grown stronger as the first half went on. Speaking to Phil Robinson after the game, you could see how disappointed and frustrated he was.

Stafford boss Phil Robinson made four changes and named a side to do a specific job which almost came off. Danny Alcock returned in goal in place of Robert Duggan while Ross Draper came in for his debut. The addition of Neil Grayson and Matt Hazley were the other two changes to the side that started against Halifax last Thursday.

Rangers could have taken an early lead. Adaggio got on the end of a flick from Grayson and fired straight at home keeper Alan Julian from a narrow angle. Chris Flynn drove wide from well outside the area.

Alcock didn't have a save to make during the first half but there was the odd scare. Miller fired over from a great position a few yards out after John Nutter delivereed a deep cross to the far post.

On the quarter-hour mark, Barry Fuller raced down the right and crossed low into the area but no one got on the end.

Djoumin Sangare and Fred Murray both made vital tackles on Miller and Craig Dobson from getting in an attempt on goal.

Stafford went close again in the 36th minute. Murray launched a long throw into the home area where Adaggio forced a comfortable gather out of Julian.

Hazley was shown a stright red card for a stiff challenge on John Martin, just before the half-time whistle.

Stevenage took the lead against ten men less than two minutes after the restart. Nutter's shot from the left was going wide across the face of goal until Steve Morison headed it past the recalled Danny Alcock.

To their credit, Rangers kept probing forward. The lively Adaggio fired wide and Draper drove at Julian from outside the area.

But Stevenage doubled their lead on the hour when Adam Miller thumped a low shot into the bottom-left corner from 25 yards out.

Robinson made a double change and his side still preserved in attack. Kevin Street shot high and wide while McNiven got on the end of a lofted forward ball from Richard Sutton and poked it wide from 15 yards out.

Stevenage wrapped up the win with a third goal scored by Ollie Allen in the 87th minute. Alistair John delivered a right-wing cross which fellow substitute Allen headed past Alcock.

Stevenage Borough (white with red stripes/red/red): 1. Alan Julian; 2. Barry Fuller, 25. Ronnie Henry, 16. Mark Arber, 3. John Nutter; 22. Craig Dobson, 19. Stuart Lewis, 15. John Martin, 14. Daryl McMahon, 20. Steve Morison, 10. Adam Miller. Subs: 21. Ollie Allen (for Miller, 64), 26. Alistair John (for Dobson, 71), 6. Santos Gaia (for Henry, 89), 12. Lawrie Wilson, 13. James Russell (gk)

Stafford Rangers (blue/white/blue): 1. Danny Alcock; 2. Richard Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 25. Fred Murray; 17. Ross Draper; 22. Matt Hazley, 23. Greg Stones, 7, Chris Flynn, 9. Neil Grayson; 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 8. Kevin Street (for Stones, 71), 10. David McNiven (for Grayson, 71), 28. David Oldfield (for Flynn, 87), 4. Craig McAughtrie, 27. Robert Duggan (gk)

Referee: I. Cooper (Kent).

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Saturday 8th September 2007

Kirkham & Wesham 3 Worsborough Bridge 1
FA Carlsberg Vase First Qualifying Round
At: Kellamergh Park
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 187
Weather: sunny

With Stafford’s game at Stevenage being put back two days to Monday, the result was a Saturday free to choose my own destination. The family were keen for a day out too so a trip to the Flyde peninsula seemed the logical choice. Blackpool Tower, Pleasure Beach, McDonalds and... a trip for me to Kirkham & Wesham’s first-ever FA Vase tie.

Kirkham have made good progress over the past couple of years with a move in summer 2006 to a new ground and promotion during the summer as West Lancashire League champions to the Vodkat League Division Two.

Life in the Vodkat League has started well for a team who plan a name change to 'AFC Fylde' for the start of next season. They went into the Vase tie as league leaders.

In contrast, Northern Counties East League side Worsborough Bridge Athletic hadn't had the best of starts. Summer floods didn't help one bit.

The ground is located about 200 metres from the main road behind the Birley Arms pub, near the village of Warton. Purpose built, K & W moved their at the start of the 2006/07 season from their previous home at Coronation Road in Kirkham around four miles away. Previously called the ‘Birley Arms ground’, the new stadium now has the name of ‘Kellamergh Park’. Fans can use the pub car park but at the far end is a track which leads to Kellamergh Park with a car park and additional parking on adjoining grass.

Entering the ground through the impressive turnstiles at the southern corner of the ground, the changing room block is to the right behind the near goal. A £30,000 stand with three rows off seats and press box is found on the halfway line of the near touchline. There is continuous hard standing on all four sides. Next to the changing rooms which are enclosed by a fence, is a building housing a tea bar and toilets.

I wasn’t the only person at the game as a neutral – there must have been around 10-15 travellers including a Plymouth fan I recognised and another from Cheltenham who asked how Neil Grayson was doing this season.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the actual FA Vase trophy was on display before the game. Manager Mick Fuller said: “It’s the biggest game (this one against WBA) in the club’s history and we are grateful to the FA for agreeing to parade the FA Vase trophy at Kirkham. We have spent thousands of pounds to get the ground right for events such as this and it gives our boys the opportunity of seeing what they are fighting for.” WBA are, of course, Worsborough Bridge Athletic not the Baggies.

In front of a crowd of 187, Kirkham raced into a two-goal lead but Worsborough pulled a goal back before the interval. The home side made sure of the win with a third goal in the second half. Former Blackpool striker Sean Paterson scored a goal in each half to set up a home Second Qualifying Round tie with Brodsworth.

After the game I returned to Blackpool, met up with the family, spent the evening at the Pleasure Beach and returned home late but it didn’t matter on what was an enjoyable day out to a club I would think will go on to greater things – may be achieve their aim of Football League status by 2022.

As a footnote, I wonder if Kirkham really thought that the FA Vase trophy would return to Fylde come the end of the season. The club played in many more ‘big games’ all the way to defeating Lowestoft Town in the final at Wembley. During the 2008 close season, Kirkham and Wesham changed their name to AFC Fylde, ready for the 2008/09 season as a promoted club in Vodkat League Division One.

Thursday 6th September 2007

Stafford Rangers 2 Halifax Town 3
Blue Square Premier
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 927 (inc 127 away fans)
Weather: mild and dry

With the video set to record the action, I set off early eager to sample the Setanta TV experience in the flesh. On arrival on Marston Road there were the expected satellite and productions vans on the car park. Inside the ground there were three camera gantries on the Lotus side and a large Blue Square logo in the centre circle.

This game was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Stafford went into it keen to record their first victory of the season – and it nearly happened. Trailing to a first-half goal from Lewis Kileen, Stafford came out fighting after the interval and scored twice within seven minutes of the restart through Matt Hazley and David McNiven. But hopes of that elusive first win were ended when Jon Shaw netted two late goals.

With Djoumin Sangare returning from his groin injury, Phil Robinson faced a difficult decision over who to leave out at the back; Craig McAughtrie was the unlucky player. Sebastian Arnolin returned in midfield in place of Kevin Street who was fit enough only for the bench.

Halifax had ex-Stafford loan player, Anthony Griffith, in midfield with Cortez Belle, who has faced Rangers before with Merthyr Tydfil and Chester City, as a central defender.

The visitors made a bright start and Sangare made a fine tackle to prevent Shaw from getting in a shot. Adam Quinn headed over in the 13th minute from a near-post free-kick. Tom Kearney also sent a well-struck shot flashing past the Boro goal.

Rangers went close to breaking the deadlock just after the half-hour mark when Adaggio headed Richard Sutton's long ball over the bar.

However, it was Halifax who took the lead in the 35th minute. They were awarded another corner when Steve Torley's low shot from the left took a deflection of Wayne Daniel. Robert Duggan failed to hold the ball delivered by the right by Torpey. Andy Campbell, at the far post, volleyed towards goal and Killeen to stooped to head home from a couple of yards out.

Rangers thought they had equalised just before the interval in the 42nd minute. Greg Stones' free-kick played forward into the went in via Adaggio's hand. The referee initially awarded a goal but changed his mind on the say so of his assistant.

There was still time for Rangers to create another chance before the whistle. Adaggio's angled shot from the right took a deflection on it's way out for a corner.

Phil Robinson made two changes at the interval with Matt Hazley and Kevin Street replacing Sebastian Arnolin and Steve Hopkinson.

And the bold move almost immediately paid dividends when Street fired over from just outside the area.

But Boro fans didn't have to wait long for an equaliser, scored 144 seconds into the second half. Adaggio exchanged passes with Street and volleyed into the bottom-right corner from 15 yards out.

Rangers were rewarded for their improved showing with a second goal scored in the 51st minute. Adaggio stayed onside to latch onto a throughball from Chris Flynn. The lively Italian crossed low into the six yard box when McNiven couldn't make clean contact with the ball. Hazley, at the far post, got in a shot which McNiven forced over the line, while laying on the ground, from a couple of yards out.

The visitors drew level in the 75th minute, again from a corner. Torpey delivered the ball which Shaw volleyed towards goal. Duggan tried to make a save but the ball crossed the line despite the efforts of Street to hook it clear.

It was Shaw who scored what proved to be the 80th-minute winner. Torpey fed Campbell on the left who crossed deep to the far post where unmarked Shaw slotted home.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes/black/black): 27. Robert Duggan; 2. Richard Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 25. Fred Murray; 24. Steve Hopkinson, 23. Greg Stones, 7, Chris Flynn, 19. Sebastian Arnolin; 10. David McNiven, 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 8. Kevin Street (for Hopkinson, ht), 22. Matt Hazley (for Arnolin, ht), 9. Neil Grayson (for Street, 88), 4. Craig McAughtrie, 1. Danny Alcock (gk)

Halifax Town (yellow/yellow/yellow) 1. Craig Mawson; 12. Ryan Toulson, 18. Cortez Belle, 5. Adam Quinn, 14. Jake Wright; 10. Lewis Killeen, 19. Anthony Griffith, 6. Tom Kearney (capt), 20. Steve Torpey; 8. Andy Campbell, 11. Jon Shaw. Subs: 2. Rob Scott (for Quinn, 89), 4. Steve Bushell (for Torpey, 90), 3. Matt Doughty, 7. Danny Forrest, 9. Darryn Stamp

Referee: Andy Hendley (Halesowen)
Attendance: 927 (inc 117 away fans)

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct

Saturday 1st September 2007

Torquay United 2 Stafford Rangers 0
Blue Square Premier
At: Plainmoor
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 2980
Weather: sunny spells

A trip to Torquay is one of those big games that stands out in the Blue Square Premier fixture list. And following on from last Saturday’s trip to Oxford it provided a difficult test for Stafford Rangers.

I last visited Plainmoor back in 1990 and saw Colchester United play one of their final games as a Football League side before spending a couple of seasons in what as then called the GM Vauxhall Conference.

Plainmoor was easy to find with good signposting and floodlights to look out for. Parking the car was also an easy task. After chatting with some fellow Boro fans about prospects for the game and possible team news, I went through a gate next to the main stand (southern corner), obtained my press pass and made my way to the Press area in the aforementioned stand almost on halfway.

Looking out at the pitch and surrounding stands, I tried to recall what the ground had looked like in 1990. Obviously, the Main Stand hasn’t changed that much (a real traditional structure that still deserves its place), but I felt the stand behind the left-hand goal may have been built then and was certain the covered area behind the far goal (on the northern side of the ground) was new. I wasn’t sure about the covered terrace opposite, with camera gantry, which housed the home fans who preferred to cheer on the heroes stood up (later I established leafing through a copy of one of Simon Inglis’ books that the two stands that had been built since 1990 where those behind the goals). I liked the character of Plainmoor with its mixture of old and new.

Buoyed by the first point against Altrincham, Stafford looked like keeping thing all level terms until the interval. But a few minutes before half-time, just like at Oxford last week, Torquay took the lead. Rangers stayed in contention throughout the second half until Torquay added a late second to go back to the top of the table with their unbeaten record intact.

Once the action got underway, Stafford Rangers put in another encouraging performance but they were unable to prevent unbeaten Torquay United from regaining top spot in the Blue Square Premier table.

Phil Robinson made two changes. Robert Duggan started in goal for the first time this season while Steve Hopkinson came in for Matt Hazley.

Stafford made a bright start and created game's first attempt on target. Marco Adaggio, on the edge of the area, sent a right-foot shot towards goal, forcing Simon Rayner to dive to his right and made a save.

The visitors continued to create early chances. In the 8th minute, Greg Stones saw one shot from the left side of the area deflected out for a corner and Kevin Street saw the same happen to another effort from the opposite side. Rangers' lack of luck in front of goal was again evident.

Unbeaten Torquay started to enjoy plenty of possession with Matt Hockley volleying over. Chris Hargreaves, formerly with Oxford United, also drove over the Rangers bar.

Rangers were thankful to a brave saving tackle inside the area from skipper Wayne Daniel, midway through the first half, to prevent Tom Sills from getting in a clear shot on goal.

David McNiven got into a good position only to see his shot blocked by a defender.

Stafford deserved to go in level at the interval but couldn’t stop the home side from taking a 44th-minute lead. Duggan pulled off a five diving save to keep out a well-struck shot from Sills. Kevin Nicholson delivered the resulting corner to the far post where Todd headed home.

Moments before the helf-time whistle, Chris Zebroski headed over from just a few yards out.

Chris Zebroski had another chance when he fired straight at Duggan less than 30 seconds after the restart.

The visitors remained in contention for most of the second half. Stones sent one speculative shot over the bar from outside the area.

Torquay put the outcome beyond doubt with a second goal scored in the 81st minute. Nicholson crossed into the area from the left where Phillips chested the ball down. It fell to substitute Benyon who turned and fired low past Duggan.

Torquay United (yellow/yellow/yellow) 1. Simon Rayner; 5.Chris Robertson, 6. Chris Todd, 4. Steve Woods (capt), Kevin Nicholson; 19. Danny Stevens, 16. Matt Hockley, 14. Chris Hargreaves, 26. Chris Zebroski; 8. Tim Sills, 10. Lee Phillips. Subs: 18. Ishmael Welsh (for Stevens, 64), 71. Elliot Benyon (for Sills, 71), 15. Tony Bedeau (For Zebroski, 89), 17. Darron Mullins, 21. Martin Rice (gk)

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes/black/black): 27. Robert Duggan; 2. Richard Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 4. Craig McAughtrie, 25. Fred Murrayi-want-football; 24. Steve Hopkinson, 23. Greg Stones, 7, Chris Flynn, 8. Kevin Street; 10. David McNiveni-want-football, 20. Marco Adaggio. Subs: 9. Neil Grayson (for Street, 50), 18. Ramon Manak (for McNiven, 64), 19. Sebastian Arnolin, 21. Jemiah Richards, 1. Danny Alcock (gk)

Referee: S. A. Hooper (Wiltshire)

The match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct