It’s shaping up to be a blockbuster end to the Evo-Stik NPL season for Stamford AFC where it could well be a case of winner takes all in the final game of the season.
The Daniels lost 3-1 away at league leaders FC United of Manchester on Saturday after taking a 1-0 lead through top-scorer Ryan Robbins in just the sixth minute.
However FC United pulled level through Thomas Greaves 12 minutes later and had the lead at half time thanks to Craig Lindfield effort on the half hour mark.
Shelton Payne made the result safe midway through the second half.
Despite the Daniels’ early defiance the game went to form and United, who are 20 places above Stamford, secured the victory as expected. With Workington chasing hard on their tails they needed to win to stay top and are now a point away from clinching the title and automatic promotion.
The good news for Stamford is other results on Saturday went their way meaning they still have a chance to escape the drop.
The Daniels currently sit in 21st position in the final relegation spot. Marine could have leap-frogged them with a win over bottom of the league and already relegated Belper Town but they could only manage a 1-1 draw keeping them below Stamford by a point.
Witton Albion, who Stamford face on the final day of the season on Saturday, lost 5-1 at home to Blyth Spartans, meaning they remain in trouble, sitting just two points outside the relegation zone in 19th. With a game in hand they face fourth place Ashton United away tomorrow night, a loss means they could swap place with Stamford on Saturday if the hosts can end their unwanted run of not wining in the league at their new Zeeco Stadium.
The other team to keep an eye on is Frickley Athletic who remain one point and one place above Stamford, teetering on the edge of danger and safety. If they win their game in hand at Ramsbottom United tomorrow night they will be safe. If they don’t they too will be dragged into the drama on Saturday afternoon when Frickley Athletic host third place Curzon Ashton and Marine travel to Blyth Spartans. What’s for certain is there are going to be as many eyes on results taking place around the country as there will be on the match at Borderville. One thing is for sure - Stamford must win to make any permeation possible.
At the weekend Stamford manager David Staff had his side fired up on the fuel that in his words they needed at least a point from the game. In the early stages that looked like a possibility and when Jon Challinor burst down the wing and hooked the ball back for Robbins to hammer in and give the visitors an unlikely lead, it looked on.
But 84 minutes is a long time to hang on against a side of FC United’s calibre and the scores were level 12 minutes later.
Greg Daniels took down a Liam Brownhill cross to play in the unmarked Greaves at the back post, who directed the ball past Andy Stevens in the Stamford net for his 25th goal of the season.
In the 31st minute the home side took the lead. Daniels took the ball off centre-back Lewis Carr and burst forward before playing in former Liverpool FC trainee Lindfield who curled a beautiful shot into the top corner.
Shortly before the break Stevens pulled off an outstanding save from a Rory Fallon header.
After the break the game was put to bed when Carr made another costly error. This time a poor back header was latched onto by Payne who squeezed the ball through Stevens’ legs.
Stamford struggled to get out of their half for much of the tie and if not for a series of fine stops the 2,899 in attendance would have had a lot more to celebrate.
His best save of the afternoon was one of his last when he tipped a volley from Lindfield onto the bar and out.