Stafford Rangers 1 Salisbury City 5

Saturday 26th January 2008
Stafford Rangers 1 Salisbury City 5
Blue Square Premier
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 706

Marco Adaggio scored his first goal since returning from injury but Rangers couldn’t prevent visitors Salisbury City returning to Wiltshire with all three points.

The striker was introduced as a half-time substitute and found the net with his sixth league goal of the season just 57 seconds after the restart. However, at this point Salisbury had already scored three goals through Matt Tubbs in the 4th and 24th minutes and Michael Fowler just before the break. The visitors added further goals netted by substitutes Robert Matthews and Liam Feeney.

Neil Grayson and Kevin Street named an unchanged starting line-up and both Djoumin Sangare and Chris Flynn returning from respective injury and suspension with a place on the bench.

With floodlights on from the start, Salisbury got the game underway attacking the Social Club end and took the lead in the 4th minute. Andrew Sandell delivered a long throw from the right into the area and Tubbs hooked the ball home from 10 yards out. Rangers got forward and won a corner. The ball was sent over by Damion Jarrett and Jemiah Richards headed over but, in any case, was penalised for pushing. Danny Alcock needed to be alert to get behind a deflected shot from Wayne Turk after a left-wing corner was partially cleared. Jarrett was certainly lively down the right and on the quarter-hour mark he drove across the face of goal and wide of the far post. Richie Sutton and Jarrett exchanged passes on the right before the latter raced down the right. Dolapo Olaoye got forward into the area and was unlucky to see his header clear the bar. The move certainly deserved a goal.

Stafford were certainly creating more chances but the visitors struck again in the 24th minute. Sandell fed unmarked Tubbs who fired past Alcock from the edge of the area into the roof of the net. Rangers pushed forward and looked to put the Salisbury defence under pressure. Ross Draper met Sutton’s cross and headed just wide. Olaoye fed David McNiven who went for goal from 20 yards out and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke gathered up. Stafford won a free-kick 25 yards out. Matt Hazley curled the ball over the ball and into the arms of well-positioned Clarke. Just after the half hour, Jarrett crossed deep from the right to the far post where McNiven headed narrowly wide.

Stafford kept on creating chances and won two corners in quick succession. From the second, Draper fired wide from 15 yards out. Alcock pulled off a fine reaction save to keep out Marvin Brown’s close range shot, admittedly from an offside position but the Stafford keeper couldn’t have known that at the time. However, Salisbury scored a third goal in the 44th minute with only their fourth legal effort on target. Sandell was again involved as he crossed low into the area. The ball was laid back for Fowler to thump home from 20 yards out with a clean right-foot strike.

Stafford made a change at halt-time with Adaggio replacing Olaoye. And the substitution had an immediate impact just 57 seconds after the restart. Draper won the ball in the air to set up Adaggio. The striker got past Turk inside the area at the second attempt and stabbed a shot past the diving Clarke who got a hand to the ball. Adaggio remained in the thick of the action as he headed over Jarrett’s cross. In the 51st minute, Rangers appealed for a penalty after Adaggio went down inside the area under Jonathan Bass’ challenge. Jarrett hit a diagonal crossfield ball towards the far left post where Adaggio sent a well-stuck volley fizzing over the bar. Hazley was unlucky to see a shot cleared off the line.

There were no fewer than three substitutions made at the same time in the 64th minute. Flynn replaced Hazley and Sangare returned to the defence in place of skipper Wayne Daniel who reluctantly limped off with an ankle problem. Salisbury replaced Brown with Matthews. Matthews quickly made his presence felt by restoring Salisbury’s three-goal advantage in the 71st minute. He squeezed home a 25-yards free-kick in between the left-hand post and the diving Alcock. Alcock prevented Salisbury from quickly scoring again with an outstanding save. The keeper was forced to change direction and somehow kept out a header from Edward Afasu-Adjaye who nipped in to meet Sandell’s near-post free-kick from the right. Salisbury made a second change in the 76th minute with Feeney replaced Tubbs.

Stafford created another chance as Kevin Street fired wide after trying his luck from outside the area. But Rangers finished with ten men as Sutton was unable to continue through injury after the 87th minute. Richards powerfully volleyed inches wide of the target from Jarrett’s corner. But Salisbury caught Rangers on the break in the fourth minute of stoppage time to score a fifth goal. Feeney got clear down the middle and coolly slotted past Alcock.

Stafford Rangers: Alcock, Sutton, Daniel (Sangare, 64), Richards, Lynch, Jarrett, Street, Draper, Hazley (Flynn, 64), McNiven, Olaoye (Adaggio, ht). Unused subs: Ingram, Allen (gk)

Salisbury City: R. Clarke, Bass, Asafu-Adjaye, Cook, Robinson, Bartlett, Turk, Fowler, Sandell, Brown (Matthews, 64), Tubbs (Feeney, 76). Unused subs: Widdrington, D. Clarke, Weedon

Referee: W. Barrett (Worcestershire)
Attendance: 706 (inc 52 away fans)

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

Saturday 19th January 2008

Pegasus Juniors 0 Highworth Town 1
Sport Italia Hellenic League Premier Division
At: Old School Lane
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: £1
Attendance: 59
Weather: rain
Duration: first-half 45:37; secomd-half: 48:00

Stafford Rangers were due to visit Halifax Town for a Blue Square Premier fixture but it was no surprise when the waterlogged pitch at Shay Stadium fell victim to a 10-00 am inspection. So plan ‘B’ came into action and I ended up spending a very pleasurable afternoon in Hereford.

Prospects for play at Halifax looked doubtful on Friday evening, so I did some homework and knew that heading south down the M5 would be the best option if the inevitable happened in West Yorkshire. Bristol Rovers’ home game with Walsall in League One was a definite starter so with that in mind I set off in search of a game, hoping for one nearer to home. On the way I got the ‘OK’ from the Pegasus Secretary so left the M5 at Junction 8, headed along the M50, leaving the latter motorway to take the A417 and then A438 to Hereford.

Pegasus Juniors were formed in 1955 by a group of players from the Herefordshire County Boys team who wished to continue playing together. Their name was inspired by the great amateur team Pegasus FC (a well-known Oxford-based amateur side who won the FA Amateur Cup in both 1951 and 1953). Originally the club played in the local Herefordshire League, accumulating a large number of league titles and cups, until they graduated to the Hellenic League in 1982. Initially placed in Division One and playing home games at Hereford United’s Edgar Street ground, they were promoted to the Premier Division in 1985 as champions. Eight years later they were relegated back to Division One but bounced back to the Premier Division at the first attempt. In 1995 Pegasus Juniors were relegated once again due to their ground failing new guidelines at the Essex Arms ground they were now based, but in 1999 they returned to the Premier Division where they remained since.

Pegasus’ Old School Lane ground is located to the east of Hereford City Centre. Travelling as I did from the Ledbury direction on the A438, turn right at the crossroad, after passing the hospice and 40 mph signs, over the railway and left onto the A4103. At the roundabout, continue straight onto Roman Road, over the railway bridge and take second left into Old School Lane. The ground entrance is around 100 yards on the left.

Old School Lane is a relatively new venue and, indeed, the aerial photos on maps show the site as a cricket field containing none of the present-day permanent structures. Entering the ground from the car park, via a small flight of steps, you emerged in the south-east corner of the pitch. There are four floodlight pylons on each side with a neat stand containing around 150 individual black seats, which straddled the half-way line. Opposite are the dugouts and a small area of covered standing. There is a clubhouse to the right of the entrance along a path.

On the cover of the programme, a 20-pager sold for £1, was the aforementioned seated stand and inside were player profiles for both sides, editorial, league table, fixtures and a chart showing the Pegasus line-up for each game played so far in the season.

The game was played in wet and drizzly conditions with Pegasus in red shirts and shorts with white socks and Highworth in all blue. The home side went into the game in a lowly league position on the back of six league games without a win. The programme editor noted that: “recent results do not depict the quality of football the lads have produced.” Highworth had changed their manager earlier in the season with the new boss lifting them up into seventh position.

An interesting incident sticks in mind, which occurred on the hour mark when Highworth were leading 1-0 thanks to Matty Saye’s 43rd-minute shot. Pegasus striker Chris Mortlock was brought down by the last defender close to goal and the referee immediately blew his whistle. The ball continued into the back of the net but whether the keeper would have kept it out or not, we just don’t know for certain. Without any protests, the defender was red carded but the resulting penalty was saved. Highworth held on for the three points.

Pegasus Juniors (red/red/white): 1. James Morgan, 2. Lewis Jones, 3. Richard Harrison, 4. Mark Smith, 5. Bobby Aldrich (capt), 6. Ron Laurie, 7. Anthony Robbins, 8. Ben Price, 9. Chris Mortlock, 10. Cory Hyde, 11. Dave Griffiths. Subs: 12. Simon Gwynne (for Jones, 66), 14. Nick Panniers (not used), 15. Andy Mowen (not used).

Highworth Town (blue/blue/blue): 1. Ian Gill, 2, Lee Spalding, 3. Dan Hilder, 4. Gary Hill (capt), 5. Mark Jordan, 6. Andy Minturn, 7. Tony Joyce, 8. Darren Smart, 9. Phil Corcoran, 10. Matty Saye, 11. Kevin Coles. Subs: 12. Arthur Levett (for Hilder, 78), 14. Tom Dingle (for Jordan, 62), 15. Mark Belcher (for Corcoran, 81).

Referee: Kevin Howick.

0-1 Matty Saye (43)

Pegasus: Anthony Robbins (YC, 15)
Highworth: Tony Joyce (YC, 57), Lee Spalding (RC, 60)

Saturday 12th January 2008

Stafford Rangers 2 Forest Green Rovers 1
Blue Square Premier at Marston Road
Attendance: 627 (inc 97 away fans)

Stafford Rangers progressed into the FA Trophy Third Round draw thanks to goals from David McNiven and Ross Draper.

McNiven opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 26th minute after Paul Stonehouse handled inside the area. Alex Lawless levelled things up nine minute after the restart with a deflected free-kick but Draper (pictured) fired home from Damion Jarrett's free-kick as the visitors appealed for offside.

The Stafford line-up showed three changes. Richard Sutton returned to the defence after completing a one-match ban in place of the injured Djoumin Sangare. Samy Mawene's departure gave Kevin Street his first start in three games. Dolapo Olaoye started for the first time since the opening day as Neil Grayson served a one-match suspension for picking up five bookings. Marco Adaggio returned to action as a second-half substitute and new signing Alex Gibson was on the bench.

Forest Green were hit by injuries and suspensions and former Stafford midfielder Michael Brough missed out. Another ex-Stafford player Danny Carey-Bertram started alongside the Blue Square Premier's leading scorer Stuart Fleetwood.

Forest Green kicked off in dry but windy conditions attacking the Social Club end of Marston Road. They unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty when Carey-Bertram went down under Sutton's challenge inside the area. Ryan Lynch made a good tackle to prevent Fleetwood from getting a cross.

In the 10th minute, Matt Hazley's low driven cross from the left was cleared for a corner by defender Mark Preece. Damion Jarrett saw a well-struck shot blocked by a defender at the expense of another corner.

Visiting midfielder Simon Clist became the first of five players booked for a foul on Draper around the half-way line. Draper was able to continue after treatment.

As the midpoint of the first half approached, Fleetwood beat several defenders on a run down the middle towards the Rangers area only to be penalised for a foul on Sutton.

The lively Paul Stonehouse slipped a pass through to Mark Beesley inside the area down the left who aimed a low angled shot towards the far post. Danny Alcock got down well to hold.

Stafford took the lead in the 26th minute. Stonehouse was perhaps unlucky to handle Hazley's deep cross inside the area after the ball reared up off the surface. McNiven sent Ryan Robinson the wrong way with the resulting penalty.

Rangers looked for a second goal. Hazley tried his luck with a curling free-kick which just cleared the bar though Robinson appeared to have the ball covered. Sutton's 25-yard drive was blocked and Jarrett latched onto McNiven's throughball but couldn't take advantage.

Just before the break, Fleetwood broke clear and Wayne Daniel did well to force the striker wide. Fleetwood still managed to pull the ball back towards goal and Alcock claimed as Beesley looked to pounce. Carey-Bertram fired straight at Alcock in injury time after good build-up play involving Fleetwood and Beesley.

Stafford got forward at the start of the second half and Olaoye forced Preece to concede a corner.

But it was the visitors who did plenty of attacking as they looked to get back on level terms. Stonehouse's shot was blocked by Jemiah Richards while Alcock held another deflected shot from the same player.

Forest Green equalised in the 56th minute. Following a foul by Jarrett, Lawless scored direct from a 28-yard free-kick which took a deflection of the unfortunate Lynch on the way past the deceived Alcock.

After Lawless was booked, Les Afful tried to exploit a mix-up in the Stafford defence. He broke into the area and Alcock did enough to prevent the substitute from getting in a shot. Just after the hour, Fleetwood sent a clever backheel just wide of the left-hand post.

Marco Adaggio returned to action for the first time since October when he replaced Olaoye in the 63rd minute.

Stonehouse had another chance for Rovers. His chipped shot from the right dipped just over the bar.

The referee got his yellow card out again to caution Draper who was celebrating four minutes later.

From out on the right Jarrett swung a free-kick into the area. The visitors unsuccessfully tried to catch Rangers offside but the plan failed as Draper swept what proved to be the 73rd-minute winner from 10 yards out. It was Draper's second competitive Stafford goal to follow the one he got at Tamworth in the Senior Cup earlier in the season.

Needing to equalise again, Forest Green got forward and Lawless hammered a drive from outside the area inches past the left-hand post with Alcock diving at full stretch.

Lynch was booked for a foul on Afful in the 78th minute.

Beesley curled a cross from the right to the far post which Alcock leapt to claim ahead of attackers running in at the far post.

In the 84th minute, McNiven was brought down by Jamie Pitman in the edge of the 'D' and Lynch hit the resulting free-kick into the wall.

Both sides made another change with Steve Hopkinson replacing Hazley for Rangers.

The fourth official indicated four additional minutes for Rangers to hold on to their lead. And the only chance of note in stoppage time was a header from Adaggio which looped over the bar from Lynch's cross.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 2. Richie Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 21. Jemiah Richards, 36. Ryan Lynch, 35. Damion Jarrett, 8. Kevin Street, 17. Ross Draper, 37. Matt Hazley, 10. David McNiven, 11. Dolapo Olaoye. Subs: 16. Tom Ingram (for Jarrett, 74), 20. Marco Adaggio (for Olaoye, 63), 24. Steve Hopkinson (for Hazley, 87), 33. Danny Allen (gk), 38. Alex Gibson.

Forest Green Rovers (green / green / green): 1. Ryan Robinson, 12. Mark Preece, 4. Darren Jones, 3. Anthony Tonkin, 2. Alex Lawless, 6. Jamie Pitman, 8. Simon Clist, 19. Paul Stonehouse, 14. Stuart Fleetwood, 7. Mark Beesley (capt) (Smith, 86), 23. Daniel Carey-Bertram (Afful, 56). Subs: 9. Adriano Rigoglioso, 17. Les Afful (for Carey-Bertram, 56), 20. Jonathan Smith (for Beesley, 86), 24. Ollie James, 25. Terry Burton (gk)

Referee: R. Fletcher (Derbyshire).
Assistants: M. Bristow and S. Mather.
Fourth Official: S. Williams
Attendance: 627 (including 97 away fans).
Sponsors Man of the Match: Ross Draper.

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

Stafford Rangers 1 Stevenage Borough 2

Saturday 5th January 2008
Stafford Rangers 1 Stevenage Borough 2
Blue Square Premier
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 688 (inc 155 away fans)
Weather: Sunny
Duration: first half: 46:47; second half: 48:13

It just doesn't get any easier for Stafford at the moment as all the games seem to be against sides chasing promotion. In fact this must be the fifth consecutive game against a top side following Aldershot Town, Burton Albion (twice) and Ebbsfleet United.

Having lost their opening league game of 2009, Stafford (10 points from 26 games with no home league win so far) remained second-from-bottom which just Droylsden below on the same number of points. Visitors Stevenage (52 points from 25 games) were third, nine points behind leaders Aldershot Town with a game in hand. They were unbeaten in their last five league games, of wich the most recent two were victories.

New signings Matt Hazley (back following a loan spell earlier in the season) and Ryan Lynch both started for Stafford in place of suspended Richie Sutton and Seb Arnolin who dropped to the bench. Untility defender Damion Jarrett was on the bench.

With lights on from the start, Stevenage got proceeding underway, with Rangers choosing to attack the Astonfields end in the first half, and the visitors quickly started to get forward. Morison crossed low from the right and Wayne Daniel was forced to concede an early corner. Morison sniffed another chance but Tom Ingram cleared the danger.

The visitors won their second corner and from it, delivered by Craig Dobson, Junior Lewis saw a header cleared off the line by Ross Draper. The ball ended up out on the left and Morison headed home a 9th-minute goal at close range.

On the quarter hour, Barry Fuller crossed from the right and Tyrone Berry got in a downward header which Danny Alcock pushed away.

Rangers suffered a blow in the 20th minute when Djimi Sangare limped off with a recurrence of his ankle injury and was replaced by joint caretaker manager Kevin Street.

Stafford started to probe forward and, midway through the half, Draper battled to create a shooting opportunity. He got past a couple of defender before unleashing a 15-yard shot which Alan Julian beat away. Draper volleyed wide a minute later from the edge of the area.

The diving Alcock was called into action at his near post to get down hold a low shot from Berry who had cut in from the left. After Daniel headed wide from Lynch's free-kick, Alcock held header from Junior Lewis on his line.

The visitors, managed by former England boss Peter Taylor, doubled their advantage in the 41st minute. Morison powered home a diving header from Dobson's corner.

Rangers appealed for a penalty when Mawene went down inside the area but the referee said "no".

Rangers were relieved as Morison wasted a chances to complete a hat-trick either side of the interval. Before the break, he got clear, went for goal and Alcock pushed away his shot. Barely 30 seconds after the restart, he got into the area down the left and steered an angled shot wide of the diving Alcock which missed the far post by a few inches.

With nothing to lose, Rangers pressed forward and produced a creditable second-half fightback which had Stevenage keeping bodies behind the ball in the closing stages to stay in front.

David McNiven chipped a pass forward into the area and Neil Grayson headed narrowly wide of the right-hand post. Rangers reduced the deficit in the 51st minute. Hazley's free-kick fell kindly for Richards to fire home his first Stafford goal into the bottom right corner from 8 yards out.

The goal certainly lifted the Rangers fans but the influential Samy Mawene limped off with Jarrett coming on for his debut. He slotted in a right back with Street moving into midfield.

Rangers, again, thought they should have had a penalty for handball and the referee waived play on.

In the 69th minute, Dobson hit an angled shot from the right towards the far post as Jarrett challenged and the ball was turned round for a corner by the diving Alcock. Stevenage replaced Berry with Zak Burke before the corner was taken which the giant Luke Oliver headed over.

Stafford, backed by good vocal support, forced Stevenage to work hard at the back to retain their lead. McNiven chased a ball down the middle and Julian needed to leave his line to claim just ahead of the striker.

Ingram delivered a good cross from the right but good defending prevented Grayson and McNiven from taking advantage.

Dolapo Olaoye came on as a third Rangers substitution in the 76th minute, replacing Hazley.

Good work by Draper allowed Ingram to set up Street, 20 yards out, who sent a rising shot wide. Dobson was allowed to go for goal after the visitors broke upfield and narrowly missed the top-right corner from 25 yards out.

Anthony Stokes replaced Daryl McMahon and Stevenage kept bodies behind the ball during stages to frustrate Rangers with Richards thrown forward as an extra striker.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 21. Jemiah Richards, 36. Ryan Lynch, 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 22. Sammy Mawene, 37. Matt Hazley, 10. David McNiven, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 8. Kevin Street (for Sangare, 20), 35. Damion Jarrett (for Mawene, 59), 11. Dolapo Olaoye (for Hazley, 76), 19. Seb Arnolin, 33. Danny Allen (gk).

Stevenage Borough (sky blue / blue / sky blue): 1. Alan Julian, 2. Barry Fuller, 4. Luke Oliver, 16. Mark Arber, 28. Scott Laird, 27. Junior Lewis, 22. Craig Dobson, 19. Stuart Lewis (capt), 14. Daryl McMahon, 10. Tyrone Berry, 20. Steve Morison. Subs: 32. Zak Burke (for Berry, 69), 30. Anthony Stokes (for McMahon, 81), 6. Ashley Westwood, 13. James Russell (gk), 25. Ronnie Henry.

Referee: Jock Waugh (Sheffield).
Assistants: R. J. Jones and C. Kavanagh.
Fourth Official: C. Rushton.
Attendance: 688 (inc 155 away fans).

0-1 Steve Morison (9)
0-2 Steve Morison (41)
1-2 Jemiah Richards (51)

Sponsors’ Man of the Match: Ross Draper

Stafford: Wayne Daniel (YC, 45+2)
Stevenage: Stuart Lewis (YC, 84)

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

Burton Albion 2 Stafford Rangers 1

Tuesday 1st January 2008
Burton Albion 2 Stafford Rangers 1
Blue Square Premier
At: Pirelli Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 2465
Weather: dry, mild
Duration: first half: 47:31; second half: 49:22

New Year's Day and, just like 12 months ago, it was a trip to the Pirelli Stadium, a ground that had provided happy memories for Stafford fans in the past (2006 play-off final). Would it do so again today? It was going to be a tough ask for Neil and Kevin's men. With Burton winning 3-0 at Marston Road on Boxing Day, admittedly against ten men for much of the game, they were odds on to complete a double.

The Pirelli Stadium is an impressive venue, across the road from the old Eton Park ground which is now covered by houses. The Brewers moved to their new home in 2005. It was covered on all four sides with covered seating in the Main Stand all down one touchline. The changing rooms were beneath the stand and behind were the plush hospitality facilities, etc. Looking out from the main stand towards the pitch, there were large covered terraces on each of the three other sides with away fans housed behind the right-hand goal.

The teams went into the game at opposite ends of the table. Fifth-placed Burton (42 points from 23 games) harboured hopes of an end-of-season play-off place. For second-from-bottom Stafford (10 points from 24 games), it was a case of trying to earn a draw to inch every so slightly towards that important fifth-from-bottom spot (currently occuplied by Halifax on 16 points) and safety.

For Stafford, Djoumin Sangare returned from his three-match injury layoff and slotted in at left full back in place of Kevin Street. Nathan Smith hadn't recovered from the injury picked up against Ebbsfleet so Tom Ingram came in for his first league start. Chris Flynn, sent off against Burton on Boxing Day, served the second game of his suspension.

Burton got the game underway attacking the away end at the Pirelli Stadium. They quickly went on the attack and Wayne Daniel cleared as Daryl Clare looked to make use of Dave Farrell's throughball. The Stafford skipper also cut out a low cross from John Brayford at the expense of a corner.

Stafford were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out in the 13th minute. Samy Mawene's initial shot hit the wall and he fired the rebound over the bar.

The home side quickly got forward. Marc Goodfellow played a diagonal ball into the area from the right to Jake Edwards who fed Daryl Clare. The latter got in a shot which Daniel blocked for another corner. In fact it was the first of four successive corners that Rangers survived.

In the 27th minute, Richie Sutton crossed from the right and found Neil Grayson who headed over.

Burton unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty when Goodfellow latched onto John McGrath's throughball and went down under Danny Alcock's challenge.

Seb Arnolin curled a right foot shot from 25 yards into the arms of keeper Saul Deeney, in for the injured Kevin Poole.

The home side took the lead in the 33rd minute with a well-worked move. Keith Gilroy played a diagonal ball from the middle of the Stafford half out to the right. The pass found Clare who cut infield and set up Goodfellow who fired into the bottom right corner from 10 yards out.

Grayson was fouled 30 yards out and Mawene hammered the free-kick inches wide of the left-hand post.

Burton looked for a second goal and had another penalty appeal turned down when Sutton challenged Edwards. Clare got in a close-range shot which Daniel blocked in front of goal.

Rangers got back on level terms with a bit slice of good fortune. Tom Ingram played the ball forward to the edge of the area and Burton skipper Darren Stride decided to head a backpass to Deeney. Fortunately for Rangers, the keeper left his line and McNiven took full advantage to slot home the equaliser.

Alcock pulled off two fantastic saves in the space of a few seconds to deny Clare a goal and Edwards shot the loose ball wide.

Burton, who made a change at the interval with Aaron Webster replacing Dave Farrell, got forward at the start of the second half. Brayford crossed low from the right across the face of goal but no one got on the end.

In the 50th minute, Edwards's low 25-yard drive took a deflection of Jemiah Richards and hit the left-hand post. The rebound kindly ended up in the arms of the wrong-footed Alcock.

Sangare suffered an ankle injury and sadly limped away from the action. Dolapo Olaoye came on and Grayson switched to the left side of the defence.

There was danger in the Rangers area and both Alcock and Grayson needed to be brave to thwart Clare. Gilroy miss-hit wasted a great chance for Burton from Brayford's pass.

Burton scored what turned out to be the winner in the 66th minute. Gilroy headed back a deep right-wing cross into the six-yard box. Edwards turned and fired past Alcock from a few yards out.

Both Daniel and Alcock excelled again to prevent Burton scoring again. The skipper cut out Michael Simpson's near-post cross and, from the corner, Alcock turned round a goalbound shot from Clare.

The home side made a second change with Andy Corbett replacing McGrath.

In the 75th minute, Mawene's free-kick was cleared to Ingram on the edge of the area and he volleyed over. The midfielder, who had certainly impressed, was forced off with cramp and replaced by Steve Hopkinson. Burton's third change saw Shaun Harrad come on for Clare.

Harrad has an immediate impact. He forced another good save out of Alcock and also curled a shot against the right-hand post.

Rangers put Burton under pressure during the final 10 minutes. In the 86th minute, Mawene forced a near-post save out of Deeney who put out a hand to turn round a close-range shot.

The fourth official indicated three additional minutes and Brayford twice went close. He fired wide from 30 yards as Mawene challenged and almost deceived Alcock with a header that looped wide of the right-hand post. Alcock pulled off yet another creditable save, this time to keep out Gilroy's shot with his legs.

Deep into stoppage time, Rangers won a corner and everyone including Alcock went forward. Delivered from the left by Mawene into a packed area, the ball appeared to strike the arm of a defender. The referee waived away the appeals and McNiven fired into the side netting via a deflection.

There was no disputing that Stafford opened 2008 with another battling performance but couldn't prevent promotion-chasing Burton recording a holiday double. However, they could have earned a draw had the referee decided to award that last-gasp penalty.

Burton Albion (yellow/black/black): 30. Saul Deeney, 17. John Brayford, 7. Darren Stride, 5. Tony James, 18. Dave Farrell, 8. Marc Goodfellow, 24. Michael Simpson, 6. John McGrath, 11. Keith Gilroy, 10. Daryl Clare, 9. Jake Edwards. Subs: 3. Aaron Webster (for Farrell, ht), 2. Andy Corbett (for McGrath, 71), Shaun Harrad (for Clare, 79), 12. Danny Holmes (not used), 15. Ryan Austin (not used).

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 1. Danny Alcock, 2. Richie Sutton, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 21. Jemiah Richards, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 22. Sammy Mawene, 19. Seb Arnolin, 10. David McNiven, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 11. Dolapo Olaoye (for Sangare, 58), 24. Steve Hopkinson (for Ingram, 76), 8. Kevin Street (not used), 2. Marco Adaggio (not used), 33gk. Danny Allen (not used)).

Referee: Jake Collin (Merseyside).
Assistants: D. Gratton and M. S. Perry.
Fourth Official: J. W. Thornhill.

1-0 Marc Goodfellow (33)
1-1 David McNiven (41)
2-1 Jake Edwards (66)

Burton: none
Stafford: Sammy Mawene (YC, 45+1), Neil Grayson (YC, 89)

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

Here we go!

This blog will provide details and a record of the games I've seen in 2008.