Monmouth Town 2 Cwmamman United 1

Sunday 27th April 2008
Monmouth Town 2 Cwmamman United 1
MacWhirter Welsh League Division Three
At: Chippenham Sports Ground
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 95 (headcount)
Weather: -
Duration: first half: -; second half: -

It was one of those days with an 'end of exams' feeling. Barely twelve hours had passed since I'd seen Stafford Rangers beat Droylsden in their final Blue Square Premier game. It ended what had been for me, a journey taking in 45 out of 46 league games not to mention another eight cup games. We decided to head down the M6, M5, M50 and A40 to Monmouth with the Sunday afternoon MacWhirter Welsh Football League game the ultimate destination.

Anyway that’s the background to this trip.

Many times had I driven past the town up and down the A40 and through the tunnel but could never actually remember detouring to have a look at the town itself. And on this trip I’m pleased I did. There is feel of history. There are castle ruins, it is the birthplace of Henry V and a statue commemorates Sir Charles Rolls, the pioneer motorist and aviator of Rolls Royce fame.

Monmouth Town, nicknamed The Kingfishers, play at the Chippenham Sports Ground which is located next to the River Monnow and close to the A40 – follow the B4293 signed Town Centre, cross the river and the ground is on the right with the entrance opposite Waitrose. Parking is available either inside the ground or at the Pay and Display close by. The nearest railway stations are Chepstow and Lydney as passenger services at Monmouth Troy station on the Wye Valley railway ceased in 1959.

The official entrance to the Chippenham Sports Ground is opposite Waitrose and next to (or through the ornate gates). This is roughly the northern end of the ground which, as well as the main football/rugby pitch, also caters for cricket and a second football pitch. On the nearside touchline is an area of covered terrace with the dugous in front and the clubhouse/changing-room building is behind the far end next to the river.

The welcome given to the band of travellers who attended the game was second to none. A pot of tea was provided in the clubhouse before the game and refreshments were again available at the interval.

The matchday programme is a real gem and described as "one of the best programmes in this division." A 36-pager sold for £2, there is a wealth of reading material. Full of colour, there are match reports, notes from the editor and manager, pen pics of both sides and plenty of statistics. The club’s website ( is also a credit to the club.

As the club’s website states, Monmouth are "…starting to do justice to the rich heritage of the town and its football." As recently as four years ago, the club were relegated to the bottom tier of the Gwent County League. They gained promotion at the end of the 2004/05 season and moved up again after clinching the 2005/06 Division Two title thanks to a 14-match unbeaten run. In 2006/07, Monmouth were beaten by Newport Civil Service to the Division One title but took up an offer to move up to the Welsh League for the first time in their history.

What was described as Monmouth's biggest crowd of the season saw the home side take the points to move into the top half of the table for the first time during what is their first season at Welsh League Division Three level. The Kingfishers (Monmouth’s nickname) took the lead in the 15th minute. Elliot Ford slotted home at close range to finish an excellent move also involving Matthew Bowen which cut through the visitors' defence. A great finish doubled the lead just before the hour mark. Andrew Rogers cut in from the right and fired a low left-foot shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

Cwmamman created a spell of pressure to reduce the deficit in the 68th minute with a spectacular 25-yard drive which flew into the top-right corner. “Everything in the box,” urged the visiting player-manager but, late on, Kingfishers’ sub Matthew Tabb saw a low shot cleared off the line.

Stafford Rangers 2 Droylsden 1

Saturday 26th April 2008
Stafford Rangers 2 Droylsden 1
Blue Square Premier at Marston Road
Attendance: 470

Stafford Rangers ended their difficult season with a spirited performance to move off the bottom at the expense of Droylsden. Neil Grayson gave Rangers a 13th-minute lead before former Stafford midfielder Ged Murphy was red carded just after the half hour for violent conduct. Sean Murphy levelled for the visitors early in the second half and Nick Wellecomme scored the winner in the 69th minute.

In a lively start, both sides created early openings. Danny Ellis saw a 20-yard shot to a deflection off a defender and loop up into the safe hands of Danny Alcock.

Ishmale Reid delivered a perfect cross from the left to Neil Grayson who sent his header wide.

A slip from Kevin Lynch inside the Droylsden area allowed Stafford to take a 13th-minute lead. The midfielder allowed Nick Wellecomme to square a pass for Grayson to hammer past Paul Phillips into the roof of the net from six yards out. It was the striker's 13th goal of the season and he finished as leading scorer.

Lynch soon limped off and was replaced by former Stafford midfielder Ged Murphy.

Djimi Sangare got forward with the attack and set up a good opportunity for Stafford to extend their lead. Wellecomme fed Jon Loukes who drove wide from just outside the area.

Murphy's game lasted barely 15 minutes before he was sent off in the 33rd minute for violent conduct.

Stafford certainly had the desire to end the season with a win and before the interval Sangare headed weakly at Phillips.

With Steve Halford on for Ellis at the start of the season, Droylsden went on the attack in search of an equaliser.

They got back on level terms six minutes after the restart. Awarded a free-kick 22 yards out for a foul by Richie Sutton, Sean Newton sent a left-foot curler into the top-right corner out of reach of Alcock's outstretched hand.

Stafford won two corners in quick succession in a bid to get back in front and Chris Flynn bravely headed the second one over the bar.

Both sides clearly wanted to made sure they didn't finish bottom with Stafford needing to score to avoid the wooden spoon. Stafford regained the lead in the 69th minute. The persistence of Sangare, who ran past two defenders in a run down the left, set up Wellecomme who fired past Philipps via the right-hand post.

Sangare got forward again but this time curled a right-foot shot well wide from 20 yards. Damion Jarrett headed straight at Phillips as Stafford looked for another goal.

The home fans continued to be entertained as Stafford finished with a flourish.

Jarrett hit the target with in dipping volley, which Phillips caught and the midfielder saw another effort smothered by the advancing Phillips who left his line.

Droylsden threw bodies forward in stoppage time, with Newson heading straight at Alcock, but to no avail as Stafford stood firm to finish in 23rd position.

After the game, Danny Alcock received both the Supporters and Players Player of the Season. The Directors jointly honoured Kevin Street and Neil Grayson. Wayne Daniel celebrated his 300th appearance - well done Shooter!

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 38. Alex Gibson, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 2. Richie Sutton, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 35. Damion Jarrett, 7. Chris Flynn, 43. Jonathan Loukes, 30. Ishmale Reid, 9. Neil Grayson, 42. Nick Wellecomme. Subs: 15. Nathan Smith (for Reid, 85), 16. Tom Ingram, 21. Jemiah Richards, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 33. Danny Allen (gk)

Droylsden (blue / blue / blue): 1. Paul Phillips, 2. Lee Roche, 4. Colin Cryan, 5. Greg Strong, 28. Sean Newton, 8. Jamie McGuire, 17. Kevin Lynch, 15. Ashley Burbeary, 23. Robbie Talbot, 9. Terry Fearns, 26. Danny Ellis. Subs: 11. Chris Denham, 16. Adam Dugdale (for Talbot, 77), 22. Steve Halford (for Ellis, ht), 27. Ged Murphy (for Lynch, 16), 39. Jimmy Williams

Referee: C. Pawson (South Yorkshire)
Attendance: 685 (away fans 98)

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

Barlaston 2 Wolstanton United 6

Saturday 26th April 2008
Barlaston 2 Wolstanton United 6
Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division
At: Springbank Park Pitch 2, Yarnfield
Kick-off: 2-30 pm
Attendance: 13 (headcount)
Weather: warm, sunny spells
Duration: first half: 45:20; second half: 45:44

Stafford Rangers' 5-15 pm kick-off initially posed a problem of how to fit in an afternoon game until I spotted Barlaston’s home fixture with Wolstanton. And a bonus turned out to be my first match seen on the elusive pitch 2 at Springbank Park.

Barlaston play their home games at Stone Dominoes Springbank Park in Yarnfield. The club was established in 1998 and previously played under the name of Wedgwood Sports & Social, used until 2006. Last season the finished runners-up in Division One to gain promotion to the Premier Division for the first time. Travelling north up the A34 past Stone, turn left immediately after the Wayfarer Pub and continue up the lane towards Yarnfield with the entrance to Springbank Park is on the left after crossing the M6.

From the car park, there is a turnstile that leads into the first part of the complex. As well as changing rooms and a club house, there are three main pitches, numbered 1 to 3 from right to left away. To the right past the club house is Stone Dominoes recently-built floodlight enclosed stadium which I visited last October. Like Pitches 1 and 3, Pitch 2 is a decent flat surface, railed off with permanent dugouts.

Barlaston are regular programme issuers and the edition for this match was brought round and sold for £1 just after kick-off. It was a 32-pager with plenty of reading material and statistics.

Wolstanton got the game underway attacking the changing rooms end of Pitch 2 and there was soon a controversy. Visiting keeper Douglas Hughes, who was the last man, collided with Shaun Hewitt just inside the Wolstanton area but the referee decided to award a goal kick after consulting his assistant.

Considering the final scoreline, the first goal wasn't scored until the 25th minute. Barlaston keeper Matt Kelter had difficulty in claiming a bouncing ball down the middle and Mark Grice slotted home home from eight yards with a defdender on the line. Midfielder Peter Ford doubled the lead six minutes later when he netted with a close-range looping header.

The home side quickly pulled a goal back in the 33rd minute. Chris Goodall's initial shot was blocked and Lee Goodwin drove the rebound into the top right corner from the edge of the area. In a real turnaround, Barlaston levelled things up five minutes later. Phil McMurdo swung a free-kick into the area and John Marland fired home at close range after Daren Bloor headed the ball on towards the right-hand post. Kelter produced a good diving save from Ford to keep his side on level terms at the interval.

Kelter produced another save less than a minute after the restart to thwart Ashley Moran but couldn’t prevent Wolstanton from regaining the lead in the 50th minute. Mark Grice stayed onside to latch onto a throughball down the inside right channel and fired low into the opposite corner of the net. Barlaston appealed for offside but the referee indicated that the ball had come off a defender on its way to Grice.

Mark Grice completed his hat-trick on the hour when he fired low into the bottom right despite the close attentions of a defender and netted his fourth goal (to make it 2-5) in the 63rd minute. This time Ashley Moran intercepted a pass midway inside the Barlaston half, fed Grice who took the ball forward before slotting past Kelter.

Grice wrapped up the scoring in the 84th minute with his fifth goal of the afternoon. His initial chip was turned round superbly by the flying Kelter but he headed home at close range from the resulting corner.

Barlaston (blue/blue/blue): 1. Matt Kelter, 2. Tom Davis, 3. Phil McMurdo, 4. Chris Stevenson, 5. John Marland (capt), 6. Roger Bird, 7. Pete Birks, 8. Daren Bloor, 9. Chris Goodall, 10. Lee Goodwin, 11. Shaun Hewitt. Subs: 12. Adam Battison (for Hewitt, 68), 14. Chris Baddeley, 15. Lee Moore, 16. Ken Wilson, 17. John Smith.

Wolstanton United (red/red/red): 1. Douglas Hughes (capt), 2. Edward Birch, 3. Martyn Davies, 4. Robert Edwards, 5. Peter Ford, 6. Ross Cope, 7. Daniel Brown, 8. Tom Shaw, 9. Timothy Grice, 10. Mark Grice, 11. Ashley Moran. Subs: 12. John Hancock, 14. Simon Wilshaw, 16. Mark Nolan.

Referee: Paul Stonier.

0-1 Mark Grice (25)
0-2 Ford (31)
1-2 Goodwin (33)
2-2 Marland (38)
2-3 Mark Grice (50)
2-4 Mark Grice (60)
2-5 Mark Grice (63)
2-6 Mark Grice (84)

Exeter City 4 Stafford Rangers 1

Tuesday 22nd April 2008
Exeter City 4 Stafford Rangers 1
Blue Square Premier
At: St James' Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 4079
Weather: sunny
Duration: first half 46:26; second half: 47:53

On the original fixture list, this game was scheduled for Saturday 26th April and perfect for a weekend down in Devon. However, to accommodate the end-of-season promotion play-offs, this game was brought forward four days to this Tuesday night date with Stafford's final home game against Droylsden brought forward seven days to this Saturday with a 5-15 pm kick-off.

I travelled down on the coach and we stopped for a pre-match meal at a nice country restaurant at Willand close to Digger Land before continuing down the M5 to Exeter.

St James’ Park is one of those large old Football League stadiums it has been a pleasure to visit during Stafford’s two-year stint in the Blue Square Premier.

Despite being condemned to relegation a couple of weeks ago, Stafford (in 24th and bottom position with 22 points from 44 games) still had pride to play for and a real possibility of finishing in 23rd position to avoid the wooden spoon. They went into this game one point behind second-from-bottom Droylsden who were at home to Woking.

At the other end of the table, promotion was very much on the minds of Exeter City (5th position with 79 points from 44 games) who knew that a win over Stafford and anything less than a win for sixth-placed Stevenage Borough would guarantee a play-off spot .

Injuries and suspensions provided manager Steve Bull MBE with a selection conundrum and he was forced to make four changes to the side that started last Saturday’s against Crawley. Missing completely from the squad were Richie Sutton, Samy Mawene and suspended Ross Draper while Tom Ingram dropped to the bench. Back into the side came skipper Wayne Daniel who had recovered from the calf strain that had kept him on the bench against Crawley. For Daniel it was his 299th Stafford appearance, one short of a magnificent milestone.

Exeter took the lead with just 23 seconds on the clock. Moxey, on the left wide of the area, fired a low shot which Danny Alcock couldn't prevent crossing the line. But Rangers quickly got forward and Kevin Street fired against the home bar from 25 yards out. Nick Wellecomme also headed straight at Paul Jones but, in any case, was flagged offside.

The Grecians doubled their advantage in the 34th minute. Matt Gill and Adam Stansfield combined down the right with the latter crossing low into the area for Moxey to fire home from six yards out.

Just before the interval, Alan Dodd was forced to the sidelines with what looked like a facial injury and was replaced in the second half by Tom Ingram.

Just 134 seconds of the second half had elapsed when Moxey struck again. The midfielder fired an unstoppable volley across the face of goal into the bottom-right corner. Moments later, Alcock produced a remarkable flying save to keep out Matt Taylor's goalbound header.

Substitute Ben Watson scored his side's fourth goal barely a couple of minutes after replacing Stansfield. He latched onto a throughball and slotted past Alcock.

Rangers netted a consolation in the first minute of stoppage time. Reid picked up Street's throw and sent an unstoppable 35-yard left-foot drive screaming into the top-left corner, giving Paul Jones no chance at all.

Exeter City (red and white stripes / black / black): 27. Paul Jones, 2. Steve Tully, 16. Matthew Taylor, 5. Daniel Seabourne, 3. George Friend, 28. Ryan Harley, 4. Matt Gill, 15. Rob Edwards, 21. Dean Moxey, 9. Adam Stansfield, 20. Richard Logan. Subs: 32. Ben Watson (for Stansfield, 53), 10. Wayne Carlisle (for Seabourne, 61), 22. Liam Sercombe (for Gill, 74), 14. Bertrand Cozic, 1. Andy Marriott (gk)

Stafford Rangers (blue / white / blue): 1. Danny Alcock, 24. Steve Hopkinson, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 18. Alan Dodd, 44. Jon Loukes, 38. Alex Gibson, 8. Kevin Street, 7. Chris Flynn, 30. Ishmale Reid, 9. Neil Grayson, 42. Nick Wellecomme. Subs: 16. Tom Ingram (for Dodd, ht), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 20. Marco Adaggio, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 35. Damion Jarrett

Referee: A. Sainsbury (Wiltshire)

1-0 Moxey (1)
2-0 Moxey (34)
3-0 Moxey (47)
4-0 Watson (54)
4-1 Reid (90+1)

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

Saturday 19th April 2008

Stafford Rangers 1 Crawley Town 3
Blue Square Premier
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 470

Stafford took an early lead through Nick Wellecomme against Crawley Town who hit back with goals from Tyrone Thompson, Mustapha Carayol and Jamie Cook. Richie Sutton was sent off for a professional foul which led to Cook converting a penalty.

Injuries forced manager Steve Bull MBE to make four changes to the starting line-up. Nathan Smith and Djoumin Sangare (hamstring) were both missing through injury while skipper Wayne Dniel, with a calf strain, was only fit enough for the bench alongside Damion Jarrett. Ross Draper played his final game of the season before commencing a three-match ban. Crawley named an unchanged side.

Crawley got the game underway atatcking the Social Club end and immediately went on the attack.

There was danger for Rangers as early as 17 seconds when Tom Ingram's clearance looped towards goal off Thompson and flew wide. Jamie Cook volleyed over from eight yards out. Danny Alcock also turned round a low long-range drive from Dannie Bulman from Thompson's pass. Alcock blocked another shot from Cook and Glenn Wilson's follow-up went over the bar.

Stafford, however, took a 13th minute lead arguably against the run of early play. Confusion between Kieran Murphy and his keeper Ashley Bayes allowed Nick Wellecomme to slot home his third Rangers goal since arriving from Newcastle Town.

In the next attack, Stafford went close to doubling their advantage when Samy Mawene narrowly drove across the face of goal

It was all-square again in the 20th minute. Tyrone Thompson beat the advancing Alcock to a throughball and fired into an empty net.

Just after the half-hour mark, Alcock left his area to head a high ball clear. The clearance fell to Lee Blackburn 35 yards out who headed towards goal but Alcock recovered to catch.

Thompson lifted the ball over and Cook drove across the face of goal before Blackburn was booked for a foul on Jon Loukes in the 34th minute.

On loan Mustapha Carayol beat two defenders two minutes later and shot low past Alcock to put his side in front.

Steve Bull introduced both Wayne Daniel and Kevin Street at the start of the second half. But any hope of Rangers salvaging a point ended eleven minutes after the restart. Richie Sutton was sent off for a professional foul on Thompson and Jamie Cook gave Alcock no chance of keeping out the resulting penalty.

Rangers rallied. Ross Draper fired wide from well outside the area while Wellecomme went close in the 71st minute after latching onto Samy Mawene's throughball. But Bayes blocked the resulting shot. Wellecomme glanced a header wide from Mawene's free-kick.

The visitors could have further increased their lead but for Alcock. The keeper was well positioned to save a low 20-yard shot from Ryan Hall.

Daniel was booked for a foul in the 81st minute.

Thompson intercepted Daniel's back pass header, squared to Carayol who brought an excellent save out of Alcock.

Alcock also saved from Hall and Carayol put the loose ball over the bar.

Both Ross Draper and Carayol were booked in the 88th minute for their part in an incident inside the Rangers area.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 2. Richie Sutton, 7. Chris Flynn (capt), 18. Alan Dodd, 22. 22. Samy Mawene, 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 43. Jon Loukes, 30. Ishmale Reid, 42. Nick Wellecomme, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 5. Wayne Daniel (for Reid, ht), 8. Kevin Street (for Ingram, ht), 24. Steve Hopkinson, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 35. Damion Jarrett

Crawley Town (red / red / red): 1. Ashley Bayes, 16. Glenn Wilson, 19. Kieran Murphy, 6. Jamie Stevens, 24. James Krause, 8. Lee Blackburn, 17. Thomas Pinault, 14. Dannie Bulman, 26. Mustahpa Carayol, 7. Tyrone Thompson (capt), 18. Jamie Cook. Subs: 4. Bradley Thomas, 11. Ryan Hall (for Blackburn, 59), 25. Nick Carter (for Carayol, 90), 39. Paul Raynor, 22. Oliver Barton (gk)

Referee: G. Stretton (Leicestershire)
Attendance: 470 (away fans 34)

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

Tuesday 15th April 2008 (7-45 pm)

Stafford Rangers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1
Blue Square Premier at Marston Road
Attendance: 455

Visitors Rushden & Diamonds took the points with a single goal scored in the 5th minute by Michael Rankine. But, despite the defeat, manager Steve Bull MBE gained encouragement from what he saw.

Following Saturday's 2-1 at Cambridge United, Bull named an unchanged starting line-up with Alan Dodd added to the bench in place of Kevin Street.

On a chilly evening, Rushden chose to attack the Social Club end in the first half, so Rangers got the game underway. Tom Ingram got forward into the area but was denied a shooting chance by Martyn Margarson brave save at the feet of the Stafford midfielder.

However, the game's only goal came after just 280 seconds. Andy Burgess crossed low from the left and Rankine flicked it past Danny Alcock and in via the far right-hand post.

Stafford were forced to make an early change when Nick Wellecomme replaced the limping Nathan Smith.

Samy Mawene won the ball in a challenge with Conal Platt, took the ball forward and fed Damion Jarrett who fired tamely at Margarson from outside the area. In the 18th minute, Ishmale Reid had a got from 20 yards and saw his shot blocked by a defender. Ingram fired the rebound over.

Midway through the first half, Platt ghosted into the area and forced Alcock to turn round a well-struck near-post effort hit from a narrow angle on the left. On the half hour, Mawene drove over from 20 yards out and sent a slightly longer-range shot wide a few minutes after.

A long goal-kick from Alcock into Rushden territory was flicked on by Neil Grayson to Nick Wellecomme but Margarson left his line to clear. The visiting keeper dropped Reid's left-wing cross in the 37th minute under Wellecomme challenge. The ball fell to Jarrett who sent his shot wide from 8 yards out.

As the interval approached, Andy Gooding drove low across the face of the Stafford goal and Alcock gathered up a long-range effort hit along the ground by Curtis Osano.

With Boro now attacking the Social Club end, Reid delivered a right-wing corner to the bar post. Wayne Daniel ran in but could not make contact. A long throw from Ross Draper was headed out for another corner which triggered chants of encouragement from the fans behind the goal. On the hour, a long-range drive from Jarrett must have swerved in the air as Margaretson hurriedly beat the ball to safety.

Rushden boss Garry Hill made all three of his changes in seven minutes around the hour mark, with one eye presumably on the game his side has on Thursday. The substitutions didn't stop Stafford creating chances. Draper drove across the face of the Rushden goal while Reid tried his luck from outside the area.

Tom Shaw went in the book for a challenge on Ingram in the 67th minute. Grayson headed over from the resulting free-kick. Ross Draper also saw yellow four minutes later and earned a three-match ban covering the games against Exeter, Droylsden and the first opponents next season. From this free-kick, Alcock produced a fine reaction save to keep out a downward header from substitute Sam Smith. The Stafford keeper had a bit of good fortune when his clearance of a backpass from Draper hit Smith and looped clear.

In what had become an open game, Stafford did not give up chasing the equaliser. Mawene drove the ball across the face of the visitors goal. At the other end, Osana fired well wide of the left-hand post from outside the area.

Ingram became the third name to enter the notebook, just before Jon Loukes replaced Jarrett. Draper went close to scoring with a well-struck 30-yard shot that flew past the right-hand post with Margarson diving at full stretch. In stoppage time, Loukes fired over from 25 yards and Alcock joined his teammates in the Rushden area for one final corner.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 7. Chris Flynn, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 35. Damion Jarrett, 22. Samy Mawene, 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 30. Ishmale Reid, 9. Neil Grayson, 15. Nathan Smith. Subs: 18. Alan Dodd, 19. Seb Arnolin, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 42. Nick Wellecomme (for Smith, 8), 44. Jonathan Loukes (for Jarrett, 89)

Rushden & Diamonds (yellow / yellow / yellow): 19. Martyn Margarson, 2. Curtis Osano, 4. Phil Gulliver (Capt), 26. Michael Corcoran, 27. Abdou El-Kholti, 17. Andy Gooding, 11. Andy Burgess, 8. Curtis Woodhouse, 7. Jon Challinor, 14. Michael Rankine, 23. Conal Platt. Subs: 5. Chris Hope, 16. Tom Shaw (for Woodhouse, 57), 21. Jake Beecroft, 24. Dean Howell (for El-Kholti, 54), 28. Sam Smith (for Platt, 61)

Referee: P. Tierney (Lancashire)
Attendance: 436 (away fans 54)

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

Saturday 12th April 2008

Cambridge United 1 Stafford Rangers 2
Blue Square Premier
At: Abbey Stadium
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 3810

Steve Bull MBE celebrated his first win as Stafford Rangers came from behind with goals from Neil Grayson and Nathan Smith to beat promotion-chasing Cambridge United.

The home side, who began and ended the day in third position, took the lead in the 7th minute courtesy of a low 30-yard drive from Ben Farrell. Grayson levelled things up within three minutes and Smith netted what proved to be the winner in the 63rd minute. Rangers resolutely defended the lead with Cambridge hitting the woodwork in stoppage time.

Bull made three changes with Damion Jarrett, Ross Draper and Smith coming into the starting line-up.

Stafford elected to attack the North Terrace end at the Abbey Stadium, housing the home fans. Cambridge kicked-off proceedings.

There was early danger for Stafford. Courtney Pitt crossed from the left to Lee Boylan who failed to make proper contact with the ball in front of goal.

Cambridge, however, took the lead in their next attack. Paul Carden set up Farrell who sent a low 30-yard drive into the bottom left corner out of the reach of Danny Alcock.

Rangers quickly responded with an equaliser in the 9th minute. Jarrett found Draper who took the ball into the Cambridge area. Draper squared the ball to the far post when unmarked Grayson slotted home his 12th goal of the season.

Alcock left his line to clear a throughball from Rob Wolleaston but the ball fell to Pitt who fired wide of the right-hand post from outside the area.

The Stafford keeper produced a god save to dive to his right and hold Michael Morrison's downward header from a right-wing corner delivered by Wolleaston.

Rangers had a couple of opportunities around the midpoint of the first half. Samy Mawene sent a 25-yard free-kick over the bar and Jarrett shot well wide from 15 yards.

The home side responded. Dan Gleeson crossed from the right and Mark Beesley, signed from Forest Green Rovers, headed wide. They also appealed for a penalty when Wolleaston went down inside the area under a challenge from Mawene. In the 39th minute, Pitt delivered a great cross from the left and Boylan sent a diving header flashing past the Stafford goal.

Rain fell at the interval during what was a largely sunny afternoon and less than a minute after the restart, Mawene shot wide from a knockdown from Draper.

Farrell crossed from the right towards the far post but, fortunately for Stafford, neither Wolleaston nor Pitt could apply the finishing touch. The home side appealed for another penalty when Sangare tackled Boylan inside the area. Again Mr Hendley said no.

Just before the hour mark, Draper won the ball in midfield, fed Ishmale Reid who set up Smith to fire just wide of the target.

Grayson hammered a 25-yard shot over the bar before the 48 travelling fans were celebrating what proved to be the winner. Smith latched onto Reid's flick, took the ball forward and steered a right-foot shot wide of Danny Potter in front of those delighted fans in the Heritage South Stand.

Jon Loukes replaced Tom Ingram in the 68th minute, just before Jarrett fouled Pitt to earn a booking. Carden was also cautioned by Mr Hendley in the 73rd minute for a foul on Draper. Cambridge made a double change and at the same time Nick Wellecomme came on for Nathan Smith.

Cambridge pressed for an equaliser. Pitt delivered a free-kick into the Stafford area which Grayson cleared with a diving header across the face of goal and out for a corner.

Both managers made a final change at the same time - Seb Arnolin replaced Jarrett who had earlier picked up a knock. Mawene saw yellow in the 83rd minute for handball.

Stafford continued to resolutely hold on to their one-goal advantage. With time running out for Cambridge to grab an equaliser, Wolleaston crossed into the area and substitute Jack Jeffery glanced a header wide. They went even closer to an equaliser in stoppage time when Beesley slammed a low drive against the left-hand post.

At the final whistle, the travelling fans cheered their heroes who applauded them in thanks for the support. The win lifted Stafford off the bottom, level on points with Droylsden who have a game in hand. Their home game with Ebbsfleet fell victim to a waterlogged pitch.

Cambridge United (amber and black stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Potter, 21 Michael Morrison, 6. Mark Albrighton (capt), 27. Wayne Hatswell, 7. Dan Gleeson, 2. Ben Farrell, 15. Paul Carden, 8. Rob Wolleaston, 11. Courtney Pitt. 30. Mark Beesley, 10. Lee Boylan. Subs: 3. Stephen Reed (for Farrell, 74), 12. Jack Jeffery (for Pitt, 82), 23. Josh Coulson, 26. Robbie Willmott, 39. Magno Vieira (for Boyland, 74)

Stafford Rangers (blue / white / blue): 1. Danny Alcock, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 7. Chris Flynn, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 35. Damion Jarrett, 22. Samy Mawene, 17. Ross Draper, 16. Tom Ingram, 30. Ishmale Reid, 9. Neil Grayson, 15. Nathan Smith. Subs: 8. Kevin Street, 19. Seb Arnolin (for Jarrett, 81), 33. Danny Allen (gk), 42. Nick Wellecomme (for Smith, 75), 44. Jonathan Loukes (for Ingram, 68)

Referee: Andy Hendley (West Midlands)
Attendance: 3810 (inc 48 away fans)

Tuesday 8th April 2008 (7-45 pm)

Stafford Rangers 0 York City 4
Blue Square Premier at Marston Road
Attendance: 455

York City took the points at Marston Road with four second-half goals and mathematically condemned Rangers to relegation from the Blue Square Premier.

Manager Steve Bull MBE made two changes with Wayne Daniel and Tom Ingram coming into the starting line-up in place of the injured Richie Sutton and Alan Dodd.

Rangers chose to attack the Town End in the first half with York, on their second visit to Marston Road, getting the game underway.

The first serious chance fell to Stafford in the 22nd minute. Richard Brodie was penalised and booked for getting his hand in the way of Samy Mawene's initial free-kick. Ishmale Reid curled the second free-kick from 30 yards out over the wall and straight at City keeper Tom Evans. Four minutes later, Martyn Woolford delivered a near-post corner from the right which Emmenuel Panther glanced towards goal and Mawene headed clear. Danny Alcock gathered a long-range shot from Woolford.

Alcock produced a fine save in the 39th minute to prevent the visitors taking the lead. Onome Sodje broke down the right and squared a pass to Mark Robinson who had strinted forward. Robinson fired a close-range shot which Alcock blocked.

Stafford, as well, almost broke the deadlock just before the interval when Nick Wellecomme shot against the left-hand post.

York took the lead in the 53rd minute. Woolford burst down the middle and fired a low shot past Alcock. Brodie netted the second five minutes later when he turned inside the area and slotted home at close range.

Bull made a double change just after the hour mark with Ross Draper and Steve Hopkinson replacing Jon Loukes and Alex Gibson. Later Nathan Smith came on for Ishmale Reid.

Alcock produced a smart save to turn round Brodie's shot but could do nothing in the 78th minute to keep out York's third goal. Stuart Elliott thumped a rsing drive into the top-right corner from fully 40 yards out.

Evans held Smith's rising drive and Smith also fired over after Neil Grayson drove across the face of the York goal.

York added a fourth goal in injury time. Woolford looked offside when he latched onto a ball down the right. Alcock saved his initial shot but Mark Robinson put away the rebound.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 7. Chris Flynn, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 22. Samy Mawene, 38. Alex Gibson, 16. Tom Ingram, 43. Jonathan Loukes, 30. Ishmale Reid, 42. Nick Wellecomme, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 15. Nathan Smith (for Reid, 70), 17. Ross Draper (for Loukes, 62), 19. Seb Arnolin, 24. Steve Hopkinson (for Gibson, 62), 33. Danny Allen (gk)

York City (yellow / blue / yellow): 1. Tom Evans, 6. Danny Parslow, 5. David McGurk, 2. Darren Craddock, 23. Ben Purkiss, 8. Emmanuel Panther (capt), 4. Stuart Elliott, 3. Mark Robinson, 11. Martyn Woolford, 16, Richard Brodie, 7. Onome Sodje. Subs: 9. Leo Fortune-West, 13. Josh Mimms (gk), 18. Adam Boyes (for Sodje, 66), 22. Nicky Wroe (for Brodie, 83), 24. Anthony Lloyd (for Parslow, 86)

Referee: S. P. Cummins (Cheshire)
Attendance: 455 (away fans 52)

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Saturday 5th April 2008 (3-00 pm)

Northwich Victoria 4 Stafford Rangers 3
Blue Square Premier
Attendance: 971

Stafford Rangers found the net three times in an action-packed game at the Marston's Arena and ended up going down by the odd goal in seven. Neil Grayson, Chris Flynn and Nick Wellecomme were all on target.

Following Tuesday's defeat at Grays, manager Steve Bull MBE made three changes to the starting line-up. Djoumin Sangare, following his two-match ban, Neil Grayson, recovered from his back injury, and Alan Dodd, on his first start since November 2006, all came into the starting line-up in place of Wayne Daniel, Ross Draper and Nathan Smith. Richie Sutton took over the captain's armband.

Northwich took the lead in the 19th minute when Lee Steele burst through into the area down the left and fired a low shot past Danny Alcock.

It took Rangers four minutes to get back on level terms. Jonathan Loukes was pushed over inside the area by what looked like Michael Welch and Grayson converted the resulting penalty.

Stafford were awarded a free-kick which Ishmale Reid delivered forward into the area for Flynn to back-head into the top-left corner just out of reach of Ben Connett's fingertips.

The goals kept coming with Vics levelling in the 32nd minute. Mark Roberts forced the ball home at close range during a scramble in front of the Stafford goal.

Both Sangare and Joel Byrom were booked for separate fouls in the 44th minute, just before the home side regained the lead. Michael Byrne played a long free-kick, awarded for Sangare's foul, into the Rangers area and former Merthyr Tydfil defender Cortez Belle headed home.

Bull made a change at the interval with Kevin Street replacing Alan Dodd for the second half in a changed formation.

A disputed penalty led to Northwich opening up a two-goal cushion in the 52nd minute. David Brown went down under Sangare's challenge and Bryne send Alcock the wrong way from the spot.

A bad challenge two minutes later led to Sutton limping off with an ankle injury and resulted in a booking for David Brown. Sutton couldn't continue and was replaced by Daniel in the 57th minute.

However, Stafford bounced back with a classic goal in the 59th minute. Flynn crossed from the left and Wellecomme powered a header past Connett.

Northwich Victoria (green with white sleeves / white / white): 1. Ben Connett, 4. Michael Welch (capt), 6. Cortez Belle, 15. Mark Roberts, 26. Jamie Mullen, 32. Joel Byron, 2. Matty Crowell, 7. Michael Byrne, 14. Ryan Brown, 23. Lee Steele, 17. David Brown. Subs: 8. Michael Carr (for Mullan, 61), 13. Scott Tynan (gk), 20. Aaron Burns, 27. Luke Horrocks, 30. Danny Meadowcroft

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 2. Richie SUtton (capt), 6. Djoumin Sangare, 18. Alan Dodd, 22. Samy Mawene, 38. Alex Gibson, 7. Chris Flynn, 30. Ishmale Reid, 43. Jonathan Loukes, 42. Nick Wellecomme, 9. Neil Grayson. Subs: 5. Wayne Daniel (for Sutton, 57), 8. Kevin Street (for Dodd, ht), 15. Nathan SMith, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 35. Damion Jarrett (for Mawene, 63)

Referee: R. Fletcher (Derbyshire)
Attendance: 971

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Tuesday 1st April 2008

Grays Athletic 5 Stafford Rangers 1
Blue Square Premier
At: Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Attendance: 512

Three goals inside the opening 26 minutes did much of the damage as Grays extended their own unbeaten run to six games. Once again Danny Alcock was in fine form and produced several fine saves. Jamie Taylor, Danny Kedwell and Barry Cogan all found the net in the first half with both Taylor and Cogan scoring again after the break. Damion Jarrett headed home Rangers' consolation in the 75th minute.

Manager Steve Bull MBE named both an unchanged starting line-up and bench with Neil Grayson and Kevin Street not quite fit enough to return. Djimi Sangare missed out of a game against his previous club as he completed a two-match ban. Grays made a late change to their substitutes with Michael Standing dropping out after his wife went into labour.

Grays got the game under way and, in what was a fast and furious start, Rangers won a early corner. However, the home side started to threaten. Adam Gross' initial shot was blocked and Kedwell's follow-up suffered the same fate. Grays took the lead in the 6th minute. Kedwell whipped a cross from the right to the near post where Jamie Taylor fired across the face of goal and into the far bottom left corner of the net.

Kedwell sent a 25-yard shot flashing past the Boro goal. A throw from Alex Gibson set up a chance for Samy Mawene in the 17th minute which was fired wide from the edge of the area. Gibson was booked two minutes later for a foul on Cogan. Alcock produced an outstanding save to backpeddle and tip over a clever chip from Kedwell.

Wayne Daniel brought down Gross inside the area and Kedwell converted the resulting penalty to extend Grays' lead in the 23rd minute. After Jamie Taylor fired over from the right, Grays added a third goal in the 27th minute. Cogan fired a low right-foot shot from the edge of the area into the bottom right corner.

Jamie Taylor fired just wide of the right-hand post. Bull made a tactical change with Seb Arnolin coming on for Chris Flynn in the 37th minute. The home side were forced to make a change themselves with Scott Taylor replacing the injured Jon Ashton.

As the interval approached Arnolin won a second corner for Rangers. However, at the other end, Alcock turned round a low shot from Cogan who had taken the ball forward and Scott Taylor sent a header across the face of the Stafford goal.

Grays made a second change at the interval with one of their first-half scorers, Kedwell, replaced by Jeff Goulding. Soon after the restart, a mistake by Simon Downer led to an opening for Nick Wellecomme but Jamie Stuart cleared the danger. Mawene got forward and fired over from a narrow angle. Richie Sutton was the next Stafford player to try and reduce the deficit, firing wide from 20 yards.

Just after the hour mark, Rangers had a goal disallowed for offside. Wellecomme had put the ball into the net after good work by Nathan Smith. However, Grays hit back to score a fourth goal in the 63rd minute. A neat passing move put Jamie Taylor clear who slotted past Alcock from inside the area. The Stafford keeper then produced a diving save to parry Scott Taylor's shot and tipped over a rising drive from Gross. Cogan headed wide at the far post.

Grays scored again in the 68th minute. Aaron O'Connor's initial shot was blocked and Cogan forced home the loose ball at close range. Jarrett and Alan Dodd replaced Mawene and Gibson three minutes later before Alcock left his line to block Scott Taylor's shot. The ball looped out for a corner.

The small loyal band of Rangers fans had something to celebrate in the 75th minute. Ishmale Reid delivered a free-kick from the right to the far post where Jarrett rose with Nicky Eyre and headed home. Dodd did well with a saving tackle to prevent O'Connor from breaking clear. Stafford wanted a second goal. Smith fired over and fired another low shot from the right which took a deflection. Arnolin curled a 30-yard free-kick just wide of the right-hand post.

The home side completed the evening's substitutions in the 81st minute when O'Connor was replaced by Ashley Barnes. Alcock's clearance was charged down but Jamie Taylor could find the empty net from a narrow angle. In stoppage time, Alcock prevented Jamie Taylor from completing a hat-trick with a good save in a one-on-one.

Grays Athletic (sky blue / sky blue / sky blue): 1. Nicky Eyre, 5. Simon Downer, 14. Jon Ashton, 4. Jamie Stuart (capt), 3. Adam Gross, 8. Aaron O'Connor, 33. Neil McCafferty, 6. Stuart Thurgood, 19. Barry Cogan, 9. Jamie Taylor, 10. Danny Kedwell. Subs: 7. Jeff Goulding (for Kedwell, ht), 12. Jake Whincup (gk), 20. Toran Senghore, 25. Ashley Barnes (for O'Connor, 81), 34. Scott Taylor (for Ashton, 39)

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 38. Alex Gibson, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 2. Richie Sutton, 7. Chris Flynn, 22. Samy Mawene, 17. Ross Draper, 43. Jonathan Loukes, 30. Ishmale Reid, 42. Nick Wellecomme, 15. Nathan Smith. Subs: 18. Alan Dodd (for Gibson, 71), 19. Seb Arnolin (for Flynn, 37), 24. Steve Hopkinson, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 35. Damion Jarrett (for Mawene, 71)

Referee: R. Whitton (Essex)
Attendance: 512 (11 away fans)

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