Stamford AFC’s FA Cup adventure came to an end at League Two Hartlepool United this afternoon (Sunday) as they were beaten 3-0 in the FA Cup First Round proper.
Despite the scoreline Stamford were in the game for more than an hour, going in at 0-0 at half time and even shading the chances before the break.
But a brilliant free kick from Nicky Deverdics midway through the second half, after sustained pressure, ended what little chance the underdog Daniels, from four tiers below, had.
In the 82nd minute a powerful volley from Jordan Richards was directed into the Daniels net by their unfortunate skipper Delroy Gordon. Three minutes later Hartlepool club captain Billy Paynter, fresh from off the bench, made it 3-0 with a high quality diving header from a whipped in cross.
Stamford manager Graham Drury once again opted to play a defender as a striker, this time picking Kern Miller to spearhead the attack, as he did towards the end of the Daniels’ 3-2 win away at Wrexham in the last round.
However the story of the first half was really how well Stamford defended, showing excellent shape and organisation at the back.
When Hartlepool tried to break after any pressure from the Daniels the disciplined defence were managing to catch the homeside offside or intercept their forward balls.
A good shot from Michael Wood was blocked by Stamford skipper Delroy Gordon after 17 minutes but that was as close as they really came in the first quarter.
Richards had a strike saved by Donkin after a great ball threaded through the red’s defence from Michael Woods, who looked a good technical player and was the man causing the main treats as he pulled the strings in midfield for the home side.
Hartlepool came close 20 minutes into the match through a slice of luck. A deflected shot from Deverdics looped up into the air and hit the apex of the cross bar, with Donkin glued to the spot.
Shortly after United caught the Daniels on the break, and although Gordon got a vital touch to stop the homeside streaking away, his attempted clearance played the ball back into the path of the Hartlepool player and Chris Salt felled the attacker on the edge of the box for a free kick. However Salt then blocked and cleared the set-piece.
Donkin was excellent between the sticks once again and he saved superbly at his near post from a blasted close-range effort from Josh Laurent to keep the scores level after Hartlepool’s intricate passing finally bore some fruit. It was a brilliantly firm hand from the young keeper, who has a real touch of class.
That appeared to kick Stamford into life, as rather than going into their shells they attacked and had four good chances to get a goal of their own.
First Brown and Miller attacked on the counter, and despite just the two of them taking on the whole Hartlepool defence Brown played Miller in for a shot from the edge of the box and he drove the ball across the face of the goal, with keeper Trevor Carson at full stretch, but it just went the wrong side of the upright.
But Stamford came again, another wonderful weaving run from Brown put the homeside on the back foot and he played in Sam Hill who struck for goal only to see his effort blocked on the slide by a recovering Hartlepool defender for a corner.
After blocking the following set-piece well enough United looked to hit Stamford on the break but a brilliant interception from Jon Challinor saw the Daniels drive the play in the opposite direction and Brown just curled a shot from outside the box wide of the mark.
In the final minute of the first half Gordon rose highest at a corner but could only put his header across the face of goal and wide so the sides went in level at the break.
Early in the second half Drury threw on Elliot Sandy for Brown and Ryan Robbins for Miller but not long after the hosts took the lead. Having struggled to break down Stamford in open play for 67 minutes Hartlepool won a free kick in the middle of the park, 25 yards out and Deverdics stepped up and curled the ball into the top corner of the net to convert a near perfect set-piece.
But once again the Daniels rallied and from their own free kick moments later Duffy forced a save out of Carson, who beat the first effort away and then dived forward to regather it.
Space down the flanks was opening up and as a result Hartlepool whipped in the crosses, from one such cross Lewis Alessandra really should have made it 2-0 but his final touch was too faint.
Stamford were still raiding down the other end and Jordan Smith delivered a tantalising cross which was just too long for any of the three red shirted attackers to reach.
With eight minutes remaining Stamford unfortunately put the ball into the back of their own net as a powerful Jordan Richards volley, which looked to be going wide, was deflected in.
With their hearts broken, Stamford were punished again three minutes later by Paynter.
So Stamford are out of the FA Cup but they have made a piece of club history, having never gone as far as this in their 120-year history before, and added plenty of prize money to the club coffers.
Hartlepool United: Trevor Carson, Jordan Richards, Toto Nsiala, Matthew Bates, Jake Carroll, Nicky Featherstone, Josh Laurent, Michael Woods, Lewis Alessandra, Padraig Amond, Nicky Deverdics.
Substitutes: Adam Bartlett, James Martin, Scott Harrison, Lewis Hawkins, Brad Walker, Jake Orrell, Billy Paynter.
Stamford AFC: Sam Donkin, Delroy Gordon, Jon Challinor, Sam Hill, Chris Salt, Kern Miller, Lee Beeson, Jake Duffy, Jordan Smith, Jevani Brown, Ollie Luto.
Substitutes: Tom Batchelor, Elliot Sandy, John King, Curtis Hartley, Ryan Robbins, Ollie Brown-Hill, Taylor McMillan.
Referee: A Backhouse
Attendance: 2461 (505 Stamford)