Harrogate Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2

Saturday 10th December 2005
Harrogate Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2
Nationwide North
At: Wetherby Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Programme: ???
Attendance: 505
Weather: sunny
Duration: first-half: 47:24; second-half: 48:53

Stafford Rangers maintained their three-point advantage at the top of the Conference North table with a comfortable victory over promotion rivals Harrogate Town. Kevin Street and Neil Grayson scored the goals in the second half with spectacular strikes to become the first side to win in the league at Wetherby Road this season.

Phil Robinson made one change with Levi Reid starting for the first time since September. And the former Port Vale midfielder justified his place in the side, ahead of Liam Murray, with an excellent hard-working performance. Lee Downes returned from injury with a place on the bench but striker Peter Thomson was still not fit enough to participate.

With floodlights on from the start, Harrogate got the action underway attacking the changing rooms end in the first half – right to left in relation to my seat in the press box.

Chances were scare during the opening half hour with, perhaps, Harrogate, ahead in terms of possession. Chris Ellerker drove wide from 25 yards out and a low shot from the giant striker Marc Smith was kept out by the diving Dean Williams.

Stafford’s first serious attempt on goal came just after the half-hour when Nathan Smith beat a couple of defenders before firing over the bar. The chance started a long period of dominance for the league leaders that was to last until the final whistle.

Stafford's Assistant manager Paul Groves drove inches over the bar and, just before the interval, saves from home goalkeeper Michael Price prevented both Nathan Smith and Grayson from giving Stafford the lead.

However, Price could do nothing to keep out Kevin Street’s shot in the 49th minute which put Stafford ahead. From a corner, the former Shrewsbury midfielder fired home from 20 yards just inside the right-hand post.

Rangers could have easily doubled their advantage sooner than they did but for the heroics of goalkeeper Price. He first made a fine save from Reid and then kept a low shot from Nathan Smith with his legs.

Eventually, Stafford’s second goal went in the 68th minute. Street chased the ball down the left and played it back to Talbott who crossed low to the ‘D’. With a first-time shot, Grayson hammered the ball into the roof of the net to score what the veteran described as one of the best goals he had scored for a while.

The only black spot on the game was a 19-man tussle sparked by a heavy challenge on Stafford substitute Danny Edwards in the 79th minute. Nathan Smith and Town's skipper Roy Hunter, a former West Bromwhich Albion trainee, were both booked for their part in the incident.

Harrogate ended up finishing the game with ten men. Defender Chris Mason appeared to kick Craig Lovatt off the ball in the 86th minute and received a straight red card after the referee consulted his assistant.

Nathan Smith should have made it three in injury time. Set up by Reid, the youngster got round Price before slicing wide of an empty net.

Harrogate Town (yellow and black stripes with yellow sleeves / black / black): 1. Michael Price, 2. Jamie Heard, 3. Richard Dunning, 4. Leigh Wood, 5. Chris Mason, 6. Chris Ellerker, 7. Ben Jones, 8. Roy Hunter, 9. Marc Smith, 10. Danny Holland, 11. Lee Philpott. Sibs: 12. Tony Lennon (for Ellerker, 18), 14. Jason Wray (for Lennon, 58), 15. Chris Coupe (for Jones, 80), GK. Liam Sutcliffe (not used).

Stafford Rangers (red/red/red): 1. Dean Williams, 2. Paul Groves, 3. Nathan Talbott, 4. Craig McAughtrie, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 6. Craig Lovatt, 7. Levi Reid, 8. Kevin Street, 9. Neil Grayson, 10. Nathan Smith, 11. Robin Gibson. Subs: 12. Liam Murray (not used), 14. Danny Edwards (for Gibson, 75), 15. Dave Walker (not used), 16. Lee Downes (not used), 17. Phil Robinson (not used).

Referee: M. Foley (Sheffield).

0-1 Kevin Street (49)
0-2 Neil Grayson (68)

Harrogate: Roy Hunter (YC, 79), Chris Mason (RC, 86)
Stafford: Nathan Smith (YC, 79)