Stamford AFC tested themselves against a high quality Wolverhampton Wanderers U23 side in their final game of pre-season on Wednesday night and came through it with flying colours.
Okay the Daniels did not win, going down 2-1 in front of 460 people at the Zeeco Stadium, but they pushed their fully professional visitors from the Championship club, all the way.
David Bell, back from a holiday, gave Stamford the lead moments before half time but two goals in three minutes midway through the second stanza, with strikes from Aaron Collins and Donovan Wilson saw the Wolves side take the win.
Stamford look ready for an assault on Evo-Stik NPL First Division South after a strong showing in pre-season. They kick-off the season at home to Witton Albion on Saturday next week, before then there is just the small matter of a local derby with Spalding United, who are now in the same league as the Daniels, in the semi-final of the Lincolnshire Senior Cup, which both sides have reached after knocking out higher league opposition in the pre-season competition.
Other than the result, the only real down-side to Wednesday’s game was the sight of impressive attacking midfielder Elliott Sandy being helped off the pitch after taking a shot to the ribs and shoulder. He was taken to hospital for further investigations.
As expected Stamford were made to work hard from the off and the Daniels’ latest signing, goal keeper Peter Denton, was busy, but impressed on his debut.
Denton, 19, spent two seasons at Championship side Rotherham United without featuring in the league and last season moved to League Two Hartlepool but missed the second half of the season through injury.
He will compete with another new signing, Ollie Sutton and Taylor McMillan for the number one shirt while club vice captain Paul Bastock recovers from a shoulder operation which is expected to keep him out of the game for four months.
Denton did himself no harm on Wednesday, making several smart saves including one to keep out Wilson on the quarter hour mark after he raced away from Stamford centre back Paul Malone and shot low.
Wilson was denied twice more by Denton either side of the break, allowing Bell to put the home side ahead with Stamford’s first shot on target - and what a strike. The midfielder hit a stunning 30-yard blast, which Wolves goalkeeper Jon Flatt got no where near as it flew into the top corner.
It was practically his first touch of the game after only just coming on when Daniels midfielder Curtis Hartley and Wolves winger Daniel Armstrong were both replaced following advice from the referee following a fight between the two players. So much for the match being a friendly.
Full commitment to the cause has been a trademark of Stamford manager Graham Drury’s team this preseason and bodes well for the upcoming campaign.
Wolverhampton were back on even terms in the 66th minute when former Newport striker Collins hit a low shot from 30 yards out which beat the new Stamford stopper.
Former Bristol Rovers first teamer Wilson finally got his goal after a busy display in the 69th minute, finishing from close range.
Fresh from scoring the winner against his former side Holbeach, Sam Mulready came off the bench and made a real impact for Stamford and he could have earned the Daniels a draw when Jev Brown played him in inside the box, but Flatt denied him at close range.
Stamford AFC: Peter Denton, Lee Beeson, Niall Mather, Paul Malone (capt), Delroy Gordan, Curtis Hartley, Luke Thomas, Jake Duffy, Elliott Sandy, Jordan Smith, John King.
Substitutes – Sam Hill, Ollie Luto, Jon Challinor, David Bell, Javani Brown, Sam Mulready, Ollie Sutton.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Jon Flatt, Aaron Simpson, Ben O’Hanlan, Christian Herc, Aaron Hayden, Connor Johnson, Daniel Armstrong, Connor Hunte, Aaron Collins, Donovan Wilson, Will Randall.
Substitutes – Regan Upton, Jack Ruddy, Josh Dobie, Connor Ronan, Ross Finnie, Dan McKenna, Bradley Reid.
Referee Kevin Saunby