Stamford AFC avoiding relegation will take some type of miracle after they lost their “must win” bottom four battle with Colwyn Bay on Saturday, 3-2.
The Daniels showed plenty of spirit and created numerous chances in the second half at the Zeeco Stadium, but like a week earlier against Whitby Bay they gave the visitors too much of a head start.
Despite having more of the possession and creating the better chances two sloppy moments in defence cost Stamford dear.
The pace of Colwyn Bay striker Jack Kelleher was causing serious problems for the Stamford centre-back pairing of new signing Paul Malone from Corby Town and Tom Batchelor.
For weeks Ellis Myles has been sweeping up the danger at the back when the opposition have got behind the defence but he left the club this week for Corby, leaving them exposed to speed.
Kelleher scored in the 29th and 40th minute, finishing neatly across Paul Bastock in the Stamford net for the first and then being given a gift for his second.
The ball pin-balled around the Stamford 18 yard box as the defence collectively failed to clear the ball and the striker made no mistake with the gift when the ball fell kindly to him.
Trailing 2-0 at the break the men in red trudged down the tunnel to the changing rooms with boos echoing out from the Zeeco crowd.
Even the most faithful it seems are losing their belief.
Stamford came out looking to make amends and were pushing forward in greater numbers.
Daniels manager Graham Drury hooked midfielder Sam Hill and striker Greg Smith off at half time, bringing on the agile Elliott Hodge and young striker Jack Wightwick, who scroed twice in the midweek league cup win over unstrength Buxton.
Both improved the home side when they came on but the Daniels had the wind knocked out of them seven minutes after the interval when they were hit on the break, Colwyn left-back Liam Gibson burst up-field and cut in, striking the ball with the outside of his boot to beat goalkeeper Bastock at his near post. It was a fine finish but no in midfield or defence even got close to him during his 50 metre run.
Stamford continued to push down-field and the pressure was beginning to mount. Hodge looked the most dangerous man on the pitch down the left wing, good enough to be named man of the match by the home fans for his 45 minute performance. But when composure was most needed it failed him. Wightwick weaved his way into a shooting position but his shot was saved by Connor Hunt in the Colywn Bay goal, the ball rebounded to Hodge in space but he could only fire high over the bar.
Sometimes a bad miss is worse than conceding a goal for the way it dents a side’s momentum and belief. This was one of those occasions. Drury couldn’t believe Hodge had failed to take the chance.
With 14 minutes left Malone gave Stamford some hope, heading home from a corner. The Daniels pushed to get back in the game and in the 82nd minute Tom McGowan, who would have been a much better choice for the Daniels’ player of the match after a combative performance in midfield, headed in a fine Chris Hamilton cross.
Stamford kept chasing an equaliser but in the end the clock ran out on them despite five minutes of extra time.
With Whitby winning 2-1 at Halesowen, Stamford are now going to have to beat some of the better teams in the league if they are going to make an escape, with a five point gap between them and safety. On the evidence of their last two league matches against the Northern Premier League’s struggling sides it looks highly unlikely they will be able to achieve this.
Next up the Daniels travel to Sutton Coldfield Town on Saturday.
Stamford AFC: Paul Bastock, Bradley Gascoigne (Chris Bacon), Jon Challinor, Paul Malone, Tom Batchelor, Sam Hill (Jack Wightwick), Chris Hamilton, Tom McGowan, Greg Smith (Elliott Hodge), Jake Duffy, Jake Newman. Substitutes unused: Jordan Smith and Lee Beeson.
Colwyn Bay: Connor Hunt, Connor Roberts-Nurse, Liam Gibson, Jordan Fagbola, Carl Rodgers, Antonie Boland, Josh Sumner (Yoann Tsamas), Bradley Bauress, Jack Kelleher (Joe Williams), Carl Lamb (Luke Denson), Jordan Harper. Substitutes unused: Kieran Wolland and Shaun Dowling
Referee: Mr Daniel Middleton