Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3

Tuesday 1st November 2011
Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3
West Midlands (Regional) League Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 50 (headcount)
Duration: first-half: 46:21; second-half: 50:27

Goals have often been plentiful whenever I’ve headed to Evans Park (45 in 8.25 previous visits) and, of late, Stafford Town have been the side putting the ball in the back of the net whenever I’ve turned up. Tonight was no exception – another seven added to the tally– as the Reds produced a gutsy performance to claim the points against Goodrich by the odd goal and move back into the top half of the Premier Division table. Trailing at the interval, the Reds scored twice early in the second half to move ahead for the first time and held their lead until the final whistle.

6/3/10 Stafford Town 7 Shenstone Pathfinder 0
21/9/10 Stafford Town 1 Tividale 6
29/1/11 Stafford Town 2 Goodrich 3
15/3/11 Stafford Town 1 AFC Wulfrunians 2
19/3/11 saw last 23 minutes after the goal was scored of Town 0 Gornal 1
16/8/11 Stafford Town 0 Shawbury United 2
30/8/11 Stafford Town 3 Shifnal Town 3
24/9/11 Stafford Town 5 Pelsall Villa 0
18/10/11 Stafford Town 7 Stone Old Alleynians 3
1/11/11 Stafford Town 4 Goodrich 3

The first day of the November marks the start of a busy month for Stafford Town with no fewer than nine league and cup fixtures including the big FA Vase derby against Brocton. Mind you, the month will be busy for all Premier Division clubs with plenty of midweek games coming up over the next few weeks. Perhaps the league’s Fixture Secretary has had one eye on the forecasts of an impending ‘big freeze’ and decided to get as many games played sooner rather than later – who would blame them?

In two previous meetings this season, both at Goodrich Sports Ground, honours have been even with Goodrich winning 3-1 in the league and Town successful in the FA Vase by the odd goal in 13 after extra time.

Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Bewdley, admittedly with a depleted side, left Stafford in 14th position in the table with 17 points from 12 games. As the programme editor pointed out in his notes, Goodrich (in 7th position with 25 points from 16 games) have made a good start to the season after finishing second-from-bottom in 2010/11.

Both sides looked to get forward during a lively opening after Goodrich (in a change kit of white shirts with navy blue shorts and socks) got the game underway attacking the south end of Evans Park.

Stafford (in familiar all red) had the first effort on target when Craig Hulme’s low shot beat Goodrich keeper Paul Fryer but defender Liam Evans booted the ball clear for a corner.

Paul Burn, in ‘outstanding form’ at Bewdley on Saturday, produced a superb one-handed reaction save in the 20th minute to keep out a close-range header from Daniel Forrest.

The Stafford keeper, however, could do nothing to prevent Goodrich taking a 26th-minute lead. Nick Pugh got down the left and crossed low into the area when Levi Chambers stroked the ball home at close range.

Hesitancy in the Goodrich defence allowed Town to equalise within two minutes. Carl Morris rifled an unstoppable rising drive past Fryer and into the net.

The visitors struck the woodwork just after the half-hour mark from Forrest’s angled shot and continued to keep Burn busy who produced a decent diving save from Chambers who had got clear of his marker down the right.

But, Burn suffered one of those rare nightmare moments in the 44th minute when he allowed a rising long-range shot from Ryan Molesdale to slip through his hands and into the net.

Whatever ‘Doc’ said in the changing rooms saw Stafford start the second half in determined mood and within four minutes of the restart they had transformed a 1-2 scoreline into 3-2 with two quick goals.

They levelled things up in the 47th minute at the end of a delightful move. Tom Smith fed Jack Milgate who in turn set up a chance for Craig Hulme who stroked the ball home into the bottom left corner of the net. “That was a great goal, wasn’t it?” said someone in the crowd and I couldn’t disagree.

Less than two minutes later, Morgan Hurley got clear of his marker on the left and finished with a low angled shot into the far right corner of the net to put the Reds in front for the first time.

With their tails up, Town continued to cause problems for the Goodrich defence. Hurley again showed a great turn of pace to run towards goal before unselfishly finding Hulme who saw his shot cleared off the line by Kieron Payne.

Town opened up a vital two-goal cushion in the 76th minute to make it 4-2. Hulme on the left squared a pass to Tom Smith who curled a perfect shot from 12 yards out into the left side of the net.

However, Goodrich bounced back by scoring their third goal in the 80th minute to set up a tense finale. Nick Pugh forced the ball home at close range after the Stafford defence failed to deal with Scott Stevenson’s cross which the injured Burn failed to hold.

With just a one-goal advantage and Andy Heal in goal for Burn, Stafford were forced to defend in depth to repel Goodrich pressure and survived a penalty appeal for handball. The visitors had one last chance during over five nervous minutes of stoppage time which Nick Pugh fired high and wide.

With three wins on the trot of Town in front of my eyes (following seven games home and away without seeing a win) I think I’m no longer the bad omen I thought I might have been.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Paul Burn, 2. Mat Dockerty, 3. Luke Gough, 4. Wayne Bailey, 5. Tom Betts (capt), 6. James Price, 7. Carl Morris, 8. Jack Milgate, 9. Morgan Hurley, 10. Craig Hulme, 11. Tom Smith. Subs: 12. Dom Ward (for Betts, 85), 14. Adam Price (not used), 15. John Kirby (not used), 16gk. Andy Heal (for Burn, 83). Manager: Steve Dockerty.

Goodrich (white / navy blue / navy blue): 1. Paul Fryer, 2. Jack Johnson, 3. Scott Stevenson, 4. Kieron Payne, 5. Liam Evans, 6. Daniel Forrest, 7. Ryan Molesdale, 8. Nick Pugh, 9. Levi Chambers, 10. Sean Pugh, 11. Tim Jackson (capt). Subs: 12. Scott Embrey, 14. Chris Smith (for Chambers, 64), 15. Michael Allen (not used), 16. James Machin (not used), 17. Giles Harvey (not used). Manager: Danny Watson.

0-1 Levi Chambers (26)
1-1 Carl Morris (28)
1-2 Ryan Molesdale (44)
2-2 Craig Hulme (47)
3-2 Morgan Hurley (49)
4-2 Tom Smith (76)
4-3 Nick Pugh (80)

Stafford: Tom Betts (YC, 10)
Goodrich: Daniel Forrest (YC, 77)