Stafford Rangers 1 Worcester City 1

Monday 26th December 2005
Stafford Rangers 1 Worcester City 1
Nationwide North
At: Marston Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: £1 (48 pages)
Attendance: 1372
Weather: drizzle, cold
Duration: first-half: 47:42; second-half: 49:53

Stafford Rangers held on top spot in the Nationwide North table thanks to a late equaliser scored by Matt Clarke on his debut. With time running out, the defender, signed last week from Redditch United, got on the end of a free-kick from Kevin Street to cancel out a goal scored by Des Lyttle just past the half-hour mark.

Stafford got the game underway attacking the Shed/Town End in the first half. They enjoyed plenty of possession during the opening 15 minutes without forcing visiting goalkeeper Danny McDonnell into action. Nathan Smith and Lee Downes both drove over the bar while a dipping 30-yard shot from Kevin Street landed just over the bar.

Having had to work hard for the ball, Worcester started to put Stafford under pressure and dominated the last half-hour of the first half. Skipper Lyttle, who headed over at the near post, eventually put his side ahead in the 33rd minute from a similar position. A long throw on the right by Rob Warner was flicked on and the veteran former Nottingham Forest defender hooked the ball home at close range.

McDonnell made a fine flying save to hold onto a 25-yard shot from Paul Groves in the 42nd minute to keep the visitors in front at the interval.

Both sides made a change two minutes into the second half with Worcester forced to replace influential defender Chris Smith, once a Stafford Rangers player. Stafford’s replacement, Levi Reid, added some urgency to Stafford cause. Midfielder partner Craig Lovatt created a chance for Nathan Smith who drove straight at McDonnell.

On the hour mark, Dean Williams pulled off a great save to prevent Worcester extending their lead. From a free-kick played into the area by Les Hines, the home keeper made a flying one-handed save to keep out a close-range shot from Adam Webster.

Worcester certainly put in a hard-working and organised performance which looked likely to leave the league leaders frustrated. But Stafford got back on level terms in the 83rd minute. Street, fouled by Hines on the edge on the area, whipped a free-kick to the far post where substitute Clarke guided the ball home.

Stafford threw everything at Worcester in the closing stages and, in injury time, McDonnell turned round a shot from Craig McAughtrie.

Just before the final whistle, George Clegg was dismissed after receiving for a second booking, and McAughtrie drove the resulting free-kick against the wall.

Robin Gibson was named Man of the Match.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Lee Downes, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Levi Reid (for Downes, 48), 14. Dave Walker (for Gibson, 77), 15. Danny Edwards (not used), 16. Liam Murray (not used), 17. Matt Clarke (for Groves, 59).

Worcester City (blue/blue/white): 1. Danny McDonnell, 2. Rob Warner, 3. Les Hines, 4. Chris Smith (Hodnett, 47), 5. Justin Thompson, 6. Des Lyttle, 7. Tom Warmer, 8. Nic Colley, 9. Leon Kelly, 10. Adam Webster, 11. George Clegg. Subs: 12. Andy Preece (not used), 14. Troy Wood (not used), 15. Liam McDonald (not used), 16. Samuel Wedgbury (not used), 17. Danny Hodnett (for Smith, 48).

Referee: M. Ackerman (Manchester).
Assistants: R. Archbold (Albrighton) and P. J. Reade (Wolverhampton).

0-1 Des Lyttle (33)
1-1 Matt Clarke (83).

Worcester: George Clegg (YC, 86), George Clegg (YC/RC, 90+4)