Stafford Town 2 Atherstone Town 2

Tuesday 13th November 2012
Stafford Town 2 Atherstone Town 2
Athium Midland Combination Premier Division
At: Evans Park
Kick-off: 7-45 pm
Admission: £4; Programme: £1 (28 pages)
Weather: mild, dry
Attendance: 36
Duration: first-half: 46:00; second-half: 51:43

Stafford Town continue to enjoy life in the Athium Midland Combination and recorded another impressive result against Atherstone Town. They recovered from a two-goal half-time deficit to earn a point with second-half goals from Paul McMahon and Joe Woodward. The draw extended their current Premier Division run to one defeat in nine games and made sure they remained unbeaten at home in the league since August.

Looking at the league table printed in the programme, one league position and two points separated tonight’s side with Stafford Town (24 points from 15 games) in tenth and Atherstone (26 points from 16 games) immediately above.

I also knew that Town were one of the Premier Division’s form sides with five wins from their last six league games. Amongst these five wins was a 1-0 victory over Atherstone at the Sheepy Ground last month.

Stafford Town (in red) got the game underway attacking the cricket end in the first half. I watched the game in the company of Phil from Leeds (not the same person as ‘LeedsPhil’ on the Non-League Matters Forum), making his first visit to Evans Park tonight.

Having lost their last two games against Stafford – last season in the FA Vase and last month in the league – Atherstone got off to the perfect start by taking a 7th minute lead with a superb finish. Gregg Webb received the ball in space on the right and hot an unstoppable first-time right-foot shot which thundered into the net between a stunned Richard Stone and right-hand post.

The visitors continued to pose problems and almost doubled their lead in the 19th minute, Stone got down to save an initial shot from Joe Boggild and Liam Bailey smashed the rebound against the far right-hand post. But Bailey’s strike wouldn’t have counted as he had strayed offside.

The woodwork did save Town five minutes later. Webb hit another unstoppable right-foot shot which beat Stone and rebounded to safety across the face of goal off the far left-hand post.

Stafford went close to an equaliser from an Ishmale Reid corner. The ball wasn’t cleared and Steve Bennett shot wide during the ensuing scramble inside the Adders’ penalty area.

A set-piece led to Atherstone doubling their lead in the 36th minute. Webb delivered a free-kick into the Stafford area from the right. Mark Latham rose highest to head home past Stone.

The Reds survived a scare just before the interval when a well-struck 20-yarder from Webb flew just wide of the left-hand post.

Stone kept Stafford in contention early in the second half with a diving save to keep out a shot on the break by Darren Eggleton.

John Kirby replaced Daryll Evans early in the second half, as Adam Cunningham rejigged his formation, and the substitution produced a great goal in the 57th minute. The pacey Irishman got down the right and delivered a perfect cross from leading scorer Paul McMahon to head home at the far post.

I couldn’t have agreed more with the comment I heard to describe Kirby’s cross: “class ball that was”.

But, Atherstone bounced back and almost regained their two-goal advantage on the hour. Boggild headed against the Stafford bar and sent another header over from the rebound.

As Phil said, “that would have been curtains had it gone in”.

It didn’t and in what was an absorbing end-to-end contest, it was the turn of Darryll Johns to head against the bar.

With their tails up, Stafford equalised in the 74th minute with Kirby again the provider. He sent a free-kick into the area which Joe Woodward headed into the back of the net.

Though Stafford were in the ascendency, they still needed to be wary of the visitors, especially on the break.

Captain Mat Dockerty was stretchered off with a nasty-looking injury just before the start of stoppage time, which prompted another bit of rejigging by Cunningham.

Sensing time to grab a winner, Reid hit a long ball out of defence to Chris Morris on the right who broke into the area. Defenders got back to prevent a shot and ensured McMahon couldn't make use of the loose ball either..

A foul by Wayne Bailey on Latham deep into stoppage time provided Atherstone with a chance of grabbing the winner but Green’s free-kick was headed clear.

With seconds remaining, Town won two corners in quick succession but the referee blew for full-time when the second one was headed clear.

Stafford and Atherstone remained in tenth and ninth, respectively, following this draw and in the only other Premier Division game played tonight, eighth-placed Bolehall Swifts lost 2-0 at home to Pelsall Villa. Southam United's home game with Pershore Town fell victim to a waterlogged pitch.

Stafford Town (red/red/red): 1. Richard Stone, 2. Steve Bennett, 3. Daryll Evans, 4. James Price, 5. Joe Woodward, 6. Mat Dockerty (capt), 7. Liam Evans, 8. Chris Morris, 9. Paul McMahon, 10. Darryll Johns, 11. Ishmale Reid. Subs: 12. Wayne Bailey (for Dockerty, 89), 14. Ryan Fox (for Liam Evans, 78), 15. Craig Smith (not used), 16. John Kirby (for Daryll Evans, 49), 17gk. Sam Winstanley (not used). Manager: Adam Cunningham.

Atherstone Town (green with white sleeves / green / green): 1. Sam Slater, 2. Dean Johnson, 3. Chris Sockett (capt), 4. Chris Charles, 5. Matt Silvester, 6. Liam Bailey, 7. Gregg Webb, 8. Mark Latham, 9. Joe Boggild, 10. Ash Wilkes, 11. Darren Eggleton. Subs: 12. Stephen Olanipekun (not used), 14. Craig Madden (not used).

Referee: Mark Murfitt (Stoke-on-Trent).
Assistants: Phil Magness and Brian Rowley.

0-1 Gregg Webb (11)
0-2 Mark Latham (36)
1-2 Paul McMahon (57)
2-2 Joe Woodward (74)

Stafford: Chris Morris (YC, 26)
Atherstone: Chris Sockett (YC, 27), Gregg Webb (YC, 82)