Hucknall Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2

Saturday 7th January
Hucknall Town 0 Stafford Rangers 2
Nationwide North
At: Watnall Road
Kick-off: 3-00 pm
Attendance: 601

Promotion-chasing Stafford Rangers opened up a three-point lead at the top of the Nationwide North table with a comfortable victory at fifth-placed Hucknall Town.

Both goals came in the second half through Neil Grayson and Kevin Street after Nathan Smith came off the bench to influence the outcome of this vital game.

Player-manager Phil Robinson opted to rest Smith, who had been carrying an injury, and partnered Robin Gibson with Neil Grayson in attack. Liam Murray and Paul Groves came into the side with Matt Clarke being the other player dropping to the bench.

Rangers signalled their intentions to dominate for the start perhaps should have been at least a goal ahead at the interval.

Murray had an early shot blocked by a defender. Groves also headed over at close range and Gibson fired wide.

On 20 minutes, Grayson sent Gibson clear who was denied by a fine bear-post save by former teammate James Lindley now playing for the Nottinghamshire side.

As half time approached, Grayson should have given Stafford the lead. He got clear down the left but fired into the sidenetting with just Lindley to beat.

Hucknall’s best chances of the entire game came just before the interval. Mark Ward shot wide from the edge of the area and Chris Timons, who briefly played for Stafford during the 1994/95 season, glanced a header wide.

The introduction of Smith provided the spark that led to Stafford taking all three points. Within a couple of minutes of replacing Murray, the young forward twice forced Lindley to tip over wells-truck rising shots.

Craig McAughtrie also went close when he had a shot cleared off the line by Chris Beech after Hucknall failed to deal with a corner from Kevin Street.

It was not long after Hucknall brought on their leading scorer that Stafford took the lead. Smith picked up the ball on the left from Street and crossed low from the left for Grayson to fire home at close range.

Stafford continued to press forward and Levi Reid saw a shot from well outside the area deflect off Timons for a corner. Skipper Wayne Daniel also headed against the Hucknall bar.

Eventually it was no surprise when the league leaders scored the second goal on 84 minutes, which ended any slim hopes Hucknall had of snatching an undeserved point. Smith was again involved and his pass was curled past the diving Lindley by Street from the edge of the area.

Hucknall Town: Lindley, Asher, Beech, Rowland, Timons, Sucharewycz, Morris (Gill, 67), Cooke, Ricketts, Ward (Nangle, 82), Nelthorpe. Unused subs: Paul Robinson, T. Groves, Carter.

Stafford Rangers: Williams, P. Groves, Talbott, McAughtrie, Daniel, Lovatt, Reid, Street (Clarke, 85), Grayson, R. Gibson, Murray (Smith, 56). Unused subs: Walker, Edwards, Phil Robinson.

Referee: M. A. Taylor (Sheffield).
Attendance: 601.