Droylsden 2 Stafford Rangers 1

Saturday 5th November 2005
Droylsden 2 Stafford Rangers 1
Nationwide North
At: Butchers Arms Ground, Market Street
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: £? (60 pages)
Attendance: 473
Weather: cold, drizzle
Duration: first-half: 46:01; second-half: 49:09

Despite taking the lead in the first half through Nathan Smith, Conference North leaders Stafford Rangers ended up losing only their second league of the season. Droylsden, the most impressive side Rangers have faced so far, hit back with goals either side of the interval to claim the points.

This defeat ended a run of five-consecutive victories and seven league games without defeat for Stafford but they remain top of the table.

With Craig McAughtrie still missing through injury, Stafford manager Phil Robinson named an unchanged side and Craig Lovatt returned from a lengthy layoff with a place on the bench.

As mentioned, Stafford (32 points from 13 games) went into this fixture as league leaders, one point clear of second-placed Northwich Victoria who had a game in hand. Seventh-placed Droylsden (20 points from 13 games) were just outside the play-off zone.

Returning to the scene of their worst defeat last season, Rangers made a bright start after getting the game underway attacking the covered terrace end in the first half. Early on, Peter Thomson fired a low shot straight at home keeper Paul Philips and Danny Edwards sent another shot wide.

Droylsden enjoyed a good spell before the quarter hour, winning three corners in quick succession and Dean Williams was well positioned to keep out a shot from Chris Denham.

An obvious change in formation led to Rangers getting on top and they took lead in the 21st minute. Grayson fed Smith on the right who sent a low shot across goal out of reach of the diving Philips and into the bottom left corner.

The lead was nearly extended seven minutes later when Grayson drove a rising shot inches over the bar. The veteran striker also had a goal disallowed for offside before Droylsden scored a 36th minute equaliser. Denham, from the left, found Kevin Rapley at the post who volleyed into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.

Rangers should regained the lead just before the interval. Thomson got his head to Edwards’ cross but Philips turned this close-range effort round for a corner.

In the second half, Droylsden provided much stiffer opposition and they dominated for long periods on an increasingly rain-soaked pitch. Seven minutes after the restart the woodwork twice saved Stafford as both Jimmy Williams and Denham fired against the bar.

However, Stafford suffered a huge blow on 68 minutes when Wayne Daniel went off with a left leg injury. And while his team mates were still adjusting to not having their skipper and commanding defender on the field, Droylsden scored the winner two minutes later.

Danny Warner crossed low from the left into the six-yard box towards Terry Fearns. Last season’s Conference North leading scorer with previous club Southport, clinically sent the ball wide of the helpless Dean Williams.

Phil Robinson immediately threw himself and Craig Lovatt on in a bid to salvage a point – with a bit more luck Rangers could have equalised. Thomson almost intercepted a backpass which Philips rushed out to boot clear and the player-manager saw a good effort deflect for a corner off defender Craig Robinson.

Late in the game, Droyslden hit the woodwork for the third time. Fearns drove against the inside of the left-hand post and the ball rebounded kindly for Rangers into Dean Williams’ arms.

Droylsden (red/black/red): 1. Paul Philips, 2. Jimmy Williams, 3. Danny Warner, 4. Simon Sturdy, 5. Craig Robinson, 6. Steve Brodie (capt), 7. Shaun Carey, 8. Gareth Morris, 9. Terry Fearns, 10. Kevin Rapley, 11. Chris Denham. Subs: 12. Neil Hall, 14. Mick O’Brien, 15. Robbie Talbot, 16. Ian Fitzpatrick, 17. David Cameron (all not used).

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / red / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Alan Dodd, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Neil Grayson, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Peter Thomson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Danny Edwards. Subs: 12. Craig Lovatt (for Smith, 72), 14. Phil Robinson (for Downes, 72), 15. Dave Walker (not used), 16. Liam Murray (for Daniel, 69), 17. Levi Reid.

Referee: I. Bonney (Morecambe).
Assistants: S. Durbin (Cheadle) and A. J. Richardson (Wythenshawe).

0-1 Nathan Smith (21)
1-1 Kevin Rapley (36)
2-1 Terry Fearns (71)

Droylsden: Paul Phillips (YC, 34), Gareth Morris (YC, 77), Danny Warner (YC, 81), Chris Denham (YC, 86), Kevin Rapley (YC, 87)
Stafford: Paul Groves (YC, 55)