Seaton Town 1 St Martins 1

Friday 25th March 2005
Seaton Town 1 St Martins 1
Devon and Exeter League Premier Division
At: Colyford Road
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £1 including programme and draw ticket
Attendance: 65 (headcount)
Weather: warm and sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:17; second-half: 48:30

Nice setting, decent ground and enjoyable game – but it was not possible to obtain the lineups as the team card was not completed until after the full-time whistle.

The ground proved easy to find on Colyford Road close to the Axe Vale Caravan Park. It boasted a 111-seat stand with individually numbered mostly green seats in three rows and additional hard standing as well as a clubhouse by the entrance. However, it was only possible to watch the game from two sides, behind the near goal and left-hand touchline parallel with the road.

Seaton kicked off attacking the clubhouse end in the first half. Neither side started with 1–11 with Seaton using 14 and 15 instead of 2 and 4. St Martins omitted shirts 2, 4, 8 and 9 in favour of 12, 14, 15 and 16.

Seaton took an early lead in the 7th minute. The St Martins keeper saved an initial shot from Martyn Hancock from the edge of the area and the same player hammered home the resulting loose ball. The visitors hit the woodwork in first-half stoppage time.

St Martins equalised in the 56th minute when Stephen attempted to head away a corner and only succeeded in putting the ball into the back of his own net.

Seaton Town squad (green and white hoops / green / green): 1. Stephen Jones, Reece hales, Ollie Morgan, 4. Richard Challis, Stephen Grigg, 6. Ollie Highet, 8. Chris Ziemann, 11. Christophe Daty, 7. Alex Wheatley, 9. Martyn Hancock, Scott Dyer, 15. George Moore, Stephen Habgood.

St Martins squad (red/black/red): Kyle Laskey, Matt Board, Jon Yeale, Danny Belstew, Lee Parker, Chris Veal, Kevin Pike, 11. Ross Parker, Jon Wilson, 15. Danny Sills, Aaron Partington, Nick Rigler, Tim Obee.

Referee: –

1-0 Martyn Hancock (7)
1-1 Stephen Challis (56 og)

Seaton: 2 for 11 (ht) and 17 for 15 (83)
St Martins: 8 for 15 (72) and 4 for 10 (81)

Cards: none

Kettering Town 0 Stafford Rangers 1

Saturday 19th March 2005
Kettering Town 0 Stafford Rangers 1
Nationwide North
At: Rockingham Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 945
Weather: warm, overcast
Duration: first-half: 48:19; second-half: 55:34

Emergency goalkeeper Craig McAughtrie emerged the hero as Stafford Rangers kept in contention for an end-of-season play-off place with a 1-0 victory at third-place Kettering Town.

Ahead through Neil Grayson goal, scored midway through the first half, Stafford suffered a blow on 76 minutes when ’keeper Will Smith was stretchered off after colliding with opposing striker Darren Lynch and Stafford skipper Wayne Daniel. McAughtrie took over in goal and pulled off an outstanding injury time save to keep out a header from Kettering’s ’keeper Mark Osborn who went up for a corner.

Stafford got the game underway attacking up the slope in the first half and defending the Rockingham Road end – right to left in relation to my seat in the main stand press box.

Kettering had the first effort on target when Mark Danks, who played for Stafford earlier in the season, fired a weak shot straight at Will Smith.

Stafford who dominated the first half at Rockingham Road almost scored an early goal in the 11 minute. After receiving a pass from Robin Gibson, Grayson, back in the side after serving a three-match ban, fired low toward the bottom-right corner, only to see Osborn pull off a fine diving save.

Osborn wasn’t so fortunate midway through the first half as his mistake lead to Stafford scoring the winner. Attempting to gather a miss-hit shot from Chris Smith, he fumbled under pressure from Grayson who slotted the loose ball into an empty net.

Grayson headed a far post cross from Danny Edwards over the bar before Stafford survived a scare. Jamie Gould’s volley beat Will Smith but rebounded off the right-hand post.

Kettering struggled to get back into the game in the second half despite using all-three substitutes. Danks fired over from a good position moments before being replaced by the highly-rated Chris Difante.

Stafford looked likely to extend their lead; Chris Smith headed wide from a corner and Robin Gibson also fired straight at Osborn.

Then, dramatically, in the 77th minute, Will Smith was stretchered off after several minutes of treatment and McAughtrie took over in goal as there was no suitable replacement on the bench.

Kettering’s spirits were noticeably lifted, and both Chris Difante (effort blocked by Alan Dodd) and Ollie Burgess (drove over) went close.

But Gary Fife should have killed off the game in the 90th minute. Put clear by Robin Gibson, the youngster came off second best in a one-on-one with Osborn who rushed off his line to save the resulting shot with his legs. Deep into nearly 11 minutes of injury time, McAughtrie pulled off a great save to keep out Osborn’s header from Jamie Paterson’s right-wing corner.

Kettering’s Craig McIlwain was named Man of the Match. Stafford manager Phil Robinson was ordered from the dugout deep into stoppage time for comments towards an assistant referee who failed to notice the home side taking a free-kick from completely the wrong position.

Phil Robinson, commenting after the game, was delighted with the win, which lifts Stafford to seventh. He said: “I thought it was an excellent performance, thoroughly hard-working. It just shows the spirit at the moment when Will Smith went off injured and we had to put Craig McAughtrie in goal. Everyone rallied round and hung on to a great result”.

Kettering Town (???): 1. Mark Osborn, 2. Martin Matthews, 3. Stephan Morley, 4. Jonathan Brewer, 5. Luke Graham, 6. Craig McIlwain, 7. Ollie Burgess, 8. Jamie Gould, 9. Darren Lynch, 10. Mark Danks, 11. Jamie Paterson (capt). Subs: 12. Derek Brown (not used), 14. Scott McCafferty (not used), 15. Brett Solkon (for Brewer, ht), 16. Chris Difante (for Danks, 57), 17. Scott Cross (for Gould, 71).

Stafford Rangers (???): 1. Will Smith, 2. Craig McAughtrie, 3. Alan Dodd, 4. Chris Smith, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Nathan Talbott, 8. Danny Edwards, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Gary Fife, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Richard Beale (not used), 14. Robert Heath (not used), 15. Lee Downes (for Will Smith, 81), 16. Alex Gibson (not used), 17. Phil Robinson (not used).

Referee: E. Mitchell.
Assistants: A. Green and M. Bingham.

0-1 Neil Grayson (22)

Cards: none

Southport 0 Stafford Rangers 0

Saturday 12th March 2005
Southport 0 Stafford Rangers 0
Nationwide North
At: Haig Avenue
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 1343
Weather: Sunny, windy
Duration: first-half: 46:37; second-half: 47:25

Stafford Rangers bounced back from two-straight defeats by gaining a thoroughly deserved point at Southport. And, with a bit of luck, they could have returned from their trip to the Conference North leaders with a victory. Phil Robinson’s side survived thirty minutes of near constant pressure from the home side at Haig Avenue before being more than a match for Southport during the last hour. Rangers had headers cleared off the line just before the break from both Wayne Daniel, playing as a forward, and Craig McAughtrie. The latter also saw a second-half 25-yard free kick rebound off the bar. Former Stafford defender Farrell Kilbane missed an easy chance late in the game, heading over a Steve Pickford cross when unmarked.

With key players missing through injury and suspension, Stafford manager Phil Robinson drafted in Alex Gibson for his first league start since rejoining the club and played skipper Wayne Daniel in an unfamiliar forward-line role. Two promising youngsters, Bryon Benton and Richie Miller were named amongst the substitutes.

Southport got the game underway defending the covered terrace end in the first half – right to left in relation to my seat in the main stand press box. They went on the attack straight from the kick-off and totally dominated the opening half hour. Kevin Lynch, Kevin Leadbetter and Terry Fearns all had shots saved by Stafford keeper Will Smith. On 14 minutes, Leadbetter beat the diving Smith from 20-yards out but, fortunately for Stafford, the ball hit the right-hand post. The same player also volleyed wide and Neil Robinson sent a header wide under pressure from Craig McAughtrie.

But Stafford survived, and started to cause problems for the home side. Craig Wilding headed over before Daniel had a header cleared off the line by Carl Baker on 39 minutes. McAughtrie was went just as close shortly afterwards; his header also from a Robin Gibson corner was blocked on the line by Jerome Fitzgerald.

McAughtrie came to Stafford’s rescue in first-half injury time by heading an inswinging corner by Leadbetter off the line, which Smith had failed to claim.

Just like the latter stages of the first half, the second half either side could have won all three points. Leadbetter, Fearns, Daniel and Craig Lovatt all went close before Stafford almost took the lead on 59 minutes. McAughtrie beat home keeper Steve Dickinson with a curling 25-yard free kick, only for the ball to rebound off the bar.

Roared on by their biggest home crowd of the season, Southport once more put Stafford under pressure. But the tightest defence in Conference North was determined to record yet another clean sheet and Will Smith pulled off a great save to stop a close-range shot from Steve Pickford. Unmarked former Stafford defender Farrell Kilbane could have also won the game late on, heading a Pickford cross over the bar.

Phil Robinson was proud of the way his side played. He said: “I though the attitude and commitment from everyone on the pitch was excellent. It was a game that may be we could have got a little more out of.”

Southport (yellow/black/black): 1. Steve Dickinson, 2. Steve Pickford (capt), 3. Jerome Fitzgerald, 4. Farrell Kilbane, 5. Neil Fitzhenry, 6. Dominic Morley, 7. Carl Baker, 8. Kevin Lynch, 9. Terry Fearns, 10. Neil Robinson, 11. Kevin Leadbetter. Subs: 12. Ian Lowe (not used), 14. Earl Davis (not used), 15. Jimmy Williams (for Baker, 75), 16. Chris Price (not used), 17. Steven Daly (for Robinson, 75).

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 1. Will Smith, 2. Alex Gibson, 3. Alan Dodd, 4. Chris Smith, 5. Craig McAughtrie, 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Nathan Talbott, 8. Robert Heath, 9. Wayne Daniel (capt), 10. Craig Wilding, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. David Norton (not used), 14. Richard Beale (for Heath, 75), 15. Gary Fife (not used), 16. Richie Miller (not used), 17. Byron Benton (not used).

Referee: Rick Wooton (Yorkshire).
Assistants: M. Beverley and M. A. Powell.

Goals: none

Stafford: Chris Smith (YC, 68)

Altrincham 1 Stafford Rangers 0

Tuesday 8th March 2005
Altrincham 1 Stafford Rangers 0
Nationwide North
At: Moss Lane
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 601
Weather: dry, mild
Duration: first-half: 45:58; second-half: 48:22

A piece of clinical finishing by Marcus Hallows in the 29th minute condemned Stafford Rangers to their second-successive defeat. In a very entertaining game, the Altrincham striker received a pass from Colin Potts and planted a low shot into the bottom left corner which Will Smith had little chance of stopping.

Stafford got the game underway attacking the open terrace end in the first half – left to right in relation to the stand on the Moss Lane side of the ground. The original game was abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch on New Year’s Day.

With a side showing one change – Danny Edwards replaced Jamie Phoenix – Stafford made a positive start with a bold attacking formation. Early on, Craig McAughtrie fired straight at home keeper Stuart Coburn. Robin Gibson also got a shot on target and Craig Wilding drove high over the bar.

Altrincham got more into the game and Eddie Hussin sent a dipping volley inches wide of the target. In the 27th minute, Marcus Hallows found Rod Thornley inside the area who, fortunately for Stafford, sliced his shot wide.

But Stafford weren’t so fortunate two minutes later when Altrincham scored what proved to be the winner. After Gibson lost possession, Colin Potts delivered a low ball into the area from the right, which Hallows swept home from 12 yards out.

It could have got worse when former Hednesford midfielder Val Owen drove inches over.

Stafford finished the half on the attack and almost got back on level terms. Gibson and Wilding combined to set up Craig Lovatt who saw his shot cleared off the line by Stephen Aspinall.

In a similar pattern to the first half, Stafford made a positive start after the interval and again were unlucky not to equalise in the 53rd minutes. Nathan Talbott got down the left and when his route was blocked found Danny Edwards who delivered a deep cross. Craig Wilding rose at the far post to head against the Altrincham bar.

Stafford certainly enjoyed plenty of possession and unmarked Rob Heath blasted a good chance over the bar from the edge of the area.

As he did in Saturday home defeat against Hucknall, Stafford manger Phil Robinson threw central defender Wayne Daniel forward for the last ten minutes to lead the attack. But Altrincham almost scored a second goal in the closing stages. Kirk Hilton curled a free kick on target, which Will Smith superbly turned over at the expense of a corner.

Altrincham (red and white stripes / black / red): 1. Stuart Coburn, 2. Stephen Aspinall, 3. Chris Adams, 4. Mark Maddox, 5. George Melling, 6. Eddie Hussin (capt), 7. Colin Potts, 8. Val Owen, 9. Marcus Hallows, 10. Rod Thornley, 11. Gary Scott. Subs: 12. Josh Mitten (for Hallows, 82), 14. Richard Norris (for Owen, 73), 15. Kirk Hilton (for Potts, 74), 16. Kieran Lugsden (not used), 17. Paul Tilley (not used).

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / white / black): 1. Will Smith, 2. Craig McAughtrie, 3. David Norton, 4. Chris Smith, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Nathan Talbott, 8. Robert Heath, 9. Danny Edwards, 10. Craig Wilding, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Alan Dodd (for Wilding, 82), 14. Jamie Phoenix (for Norton, 53), 15. Richard Beale (not used), 16. Alex Gibson (not used), 17. Alex Gibbons (not used).

Referee: D. Unsworth (Bolton).
Assistants: Ryan Johnson and S. Parker.

1-0 Marcus Hallows (29)

Altrincham: Chris Adams (YC, 74), Rod Thornley (YC, 82)
Stafford: none