Stamford AFC will be left wondering what could have been after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Whitby Town.
Normally a fight back to draw from 2-0 down, with just 10 men on the pitch after debutant goalkeeper Paul Bastock was shown a straight red for handling outside the box, would be a moral victory. But when your are scrapping for your life at the bottom of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League it’s probably not enough.
Both teams found themselves in the relegation zone at the start of the day and the draw meant they both remained there come 5pm. The only good news is Colywn Bay, Marine and Skelmersdale all lost meaning it remains tight at the bottom.
Stamford made a bright start, attacking down both wings using the guile of Ellis Myles and Elliot Hodge down the left and the more direct route of Lee Beeson and Jordan Smith, playing in midfield, down the right.
But it was the visitors who had the first meaningful chance of the game, breaking at speed from a Stamford free kick and them crossing for David McTiernan to test goalkeeper Bastock but the veteran made a good stop.
All of Myles’ considerable speed was then needed to get Stamford out of trouble when Whitby managed to get behind skipper Tom Batchalor.
It was a warning of what was to come. Whitby were deadly on the break in the first half and time after time they found a killer ball through the middle, or behind, the Stamford centre backs.
In the 11th minute the Daniels could hold out no longer. Michael Roberts was played through the middle and he finished calmly from just inside the edge of the box to put the visitors to the Zeeco ahead.
There was a hint of off-side about the goal but the assistant referee was happy.
Whitby then doubled their lead through Matthew Waters. Stamford right-back Lee Beeson was penned in at the corner flag after some good pressure from the visitors, as a result his clearing kick went all of 10 metres up-field and was played in to Waters, who rode a couple of tackles on the edge of the 18-yard box before getting away a shot which saw the net ripple.
It was a very poor opening quarter from Stamford and after Whitby carved through the defence twice more, creating shots for Roberts and Dale Hopson, Drury had had enough and made a tactical change, bringing off Jake Duffy up front for defender Jon Challinor after less than half an hour played.
Challinor made an immediate impact by bringing some guile and organisation to the side but that did not stop Whitby threatening again, this time a break from left back Nathan McGinley doing the damage, setting up Hopson to rattle the crossbar.
However in the 33rd minute Stamford got back in the game when striker Jake Newman, who had been largely anonymous up until that point, won a penalty which he put away himself.
The Daniels came out for the second half fired up, and chased the game at a shattering pace.
It worked as well and both Ellis and Elliot Hodge had chances in quick succession blocked.
However at the other end of the pitch Bastock was still busy between the sticks, making an exceptional save from a powerful header at a Whitby corner.
Ellis went close for the hosts, cutting in from his wing and unleashing a shot into the top corner but goalkeeper Shane Bland made a great stop to deny him.
But it was Stamford who levelled through new signing Chris Bacon, heading home on his debut after coming off the bench.
Stamford were on the up and Chris Hamilton, another new face off the bench, went close to giving them the lead but his shot under pressure went over.
However this Whitby side are fast and organised on the break and late in the game Bastock caught out when he was Stamford’s last line of defence. He raced out to get to a through ball which was being chased by the visiting striker, and got there first, the only problem was he was outside the box when he grabbed it and referee Mark Howes had no hesitation in giving the 45-year-old his marching orders.
Beeson moved between the sticks and did a decent job in seeing out the draw.
Stamford now turn their attention to the Doodson League Cup, where the host Buxton tomorrow night, 7,45pm ko.
Stamford AFC: Paul Bastock, Lee Beeson, Ellis Myles, Sam Hill, Tom Batchelor, Brad Gascoigne, Jordan Smith (Chris Hamilton), Tom McGowan, Jake Newman, Jake Duffy (Jon Challinor), Elliott Hodge (Chris Bacon).
Substitutes unused: Curtis Hartley and Jack Wightwick.
Whitby Town: Shane Bland, Callum Martin, Nathan McGinley, Kieron Weledji, Richard Pell, Lee Bullock, David McTiernan, Adam Gell, Michael Roberts (Jordan Jewson), Matthew Waters (Ryan Brobbel) Dale Hopson.
Subs unused: Ross Gardner, Mark Robisnon and Daniel Dixon