Stamford AFC kept their hopes of avoiding the drop from Evo-Stik Northern Premier League alive on Saturday with a 1-0 win against in-from Frickley Athletic.
For the longest of times it looked like it was going to be another hard luck story for the Daniels, who twice had the ball in the back of the net only for the referee to scrub the scores off. But three minutes from time Jake Newman struck a winner, to bring some rare and welcomed joy to the long suffering fans at the Zeeco Stadium.
The victory was needed as well as Stamford remain second from bottom and five points off safety, in reality because of their goal difference they are in fact six points from avoiding a spot in the bottom four.
There are now six sides well and truly in a relegation dog fight, and two of them won at the weekend making Stamford’s (24 points) three points all the more important. Whitby Town (29) beat Workington 1-0 to improve their position and Marine (27), who sit in 21st place and the last relegation spot, overcame Matlock 2-1 to put then on the verge of at least a temporary escape.
Bottom of the league Ramsbottom (19) lost 5-0 to Blyth Spartans, Colwyn Bay (24) lost 2-0 to Stourbridge and Mickleover Sports (29) were defeated 1-0 by Sutton Coldfield.
While there was a narrow margin of victory for the Daniels on Saturday they were deserved winners.
There were plenty of signs of improvement in Stamford’s 3-1 lost to Carlton Town in the Doodson League Cup on Tuesday last week, barring the goals they conceded, two from wonder strikes and one from some sloppy defending, they looked by far the best side, moving the ball well.
And so it was on Saturday. Both sides started the game well, with Stamford’s Paul Malone heavily involved high up the pitch despite starting at centre back. He fired a volley just wide early on before setting up an effort for Sam Hill, but the fast improving midfielder was just off the mark.
It was the Daniels’ big defenders causing problems for the visitors and captain Tom Batchelor had the first shot on target from a Lee Beeson cross, but Athletic goalkeeper Sebastian Malkowski saved easily.
Frickley then began to get a foot hold on the match. Stamford keeper Paul Bastock had to save a header from the towering John Cyrus and then the visitors, who had won their last six games coming into the match, had a strong shout for a penalty turned down following Tyler Williams hitting the deck from a Curtis Hartley challenge.
Bastock again had to react well to keep out a Jacob Hazel effort.
There were seven minutes of added injury time in the first half following lengthy treatment to Frickley’s Macauley Parkinson, who had to come off, and those extra minutes provided plenty of drama.
First the two Smiths, Jordan and Greg, combined well to released Conor Green in space to shoot but he could not find the target and then at the other end of the pitch Tom McGowan cleared a Cyrus header off the line to take the sides in goalless.
Stamford started well in the second half, scoring their two disallowed goals. First Jordan Smith powered clear, and put the ball into the net with his second attempt, after an initial block, but an extremely late offside flag was raised by the assistant against Tom McGowan. It was the offside flag which denied the Daniels moments later as well when man of the match Greg Smith glanced a header home. Undeterred Stamford pushed for a winning goal, forcing multiple saved out of Malkowski. In the end substitute Newman broke the deadlock in the 87th minute, sweeping in the loose ball after the Athletic keeper failed to get to the first delivery which was knocked down.
Frickley chased an equaliser but it was the hosts who actually went closes to scoring again.
Stamford travel to Workington on Saturday next.
Stamford AFC: Paul Bastock, Curtis Hartley, Lewis Jackson, Paul Malone, Tom Batchelor, Sam Hill, Lee Beeson, Tom McGowan, Greg Smith, Jordan Smith, Conor Green (Jake Newman).
Substitutes unused: Jake Duffy, James Jepson, Jack Wightwick, Dan Perry.
Frickley Athletic: Sebastian Malkowski, Tom Davie, Steven Jeff, Luke Hinsley, John Cyrus, Maculey Parkinson (Brad Grayson), Sam Akeroyd, Simon Lenighan, Jacob Hazel, James Walshaw, Tyler Williams.
Substitutes unused: Chris Wood, Steve Wakefield, Lee Stratford, John Hood.
Referee: Mr David Plowright