Stamford AFC started their new life at the Zeeco Stadium with an impressive 2-2 draw against Evo-Stik Northern Premier League rivals Nantwich Town on Saturday in front of a crowd of more than 800 spectators.
The first senior goal scored at the new ground went to Nantwich striker Aaron Burns who was the visitor’s top threat all day as Stamford struggled to deal with the danger created by Town’s crosses.
But Jorrin John got the Daniels back on level terms with a goal worthy of the occasion, hitting a lay-off from man of the match Jordan Smith, first time to cap a good home debut.
Burns, a former Manchester United trainee, was Nantwich’s most dangerous man all day and just before the break he hit a second of the day, getting on the end of a beautiful Matthew Kosylo’s cross to head home.
However after the break the Daniels came out with real intent and in the 78th minute Smith, who had been denied earlier by the offside flag, got the goal his performance deserved.
The goal was created by outstanding work from Stamford midfielder Tom McGowan who powered through a tackle to drive down the wing before delivering a sumptuous cross onto the head of Smith.
It was a wonder Stamford didn’t seal the historic day for the club with a winner as they were by far the best side in the closing stages.
Josh Moreman, Nabil Sharriff and Dan Lawlor all had chances to snatch it but an increasingly disorganised and unhappy Nantwich defence managed to hold out.
The only real down side to the day was another pair of names for Stamford manager David Staff’s long injury list.
In the build up to the first goal Gareth Jellyman fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered from the field. Shortly before the visitor’s second goal Stamford skiiper Richard Jones had a nasty head clash bravely competing for a free kick inside the Nantwich half and as Burns turned away to celebrate he limped off the pitch with a possible reoccurrence of the back injury which had made him a doubt before the game.
The Daniels brought down the curtain on 118 years of history at Kettering Road on November 22, when they beat Rushall Olympic 3-0 in the final outing at Hanson’s Field.
The keys to the new stadium were handed over to the club in September following the completion of building work, and while facilities including the new college and 3G pitch have been in use for over two months, the Zeeco Stadium has been unable to host any matches due to the pitch needing to pass an FA inspection.
The turf at Ryhall Road was given the green light by FA officials in the middle of last month however, triggering the move from Kettering Road to the new home of the Daniels.
The Zeeco Stadium contains several references to the former ground. The end nearest to Ryhall Road will be officially known as The Old Railway End, in a nod to the Kettering Road ground’s Railway Side, while the opposite end, which backs on to the all-weather, 3G pitch, will be known as The New Hedge End, in honour of the hedge that used to surround the club’s previous home.
The changing room side will take its name from the complex’s location, being referred to as the Borderville side, while the opposite side will be known as The Town Side, in reference to locals often referring to the old Hanson’s Field ground as The Town Ground.
The Development Centre currently houses 15 teams across 11 different age groups led by over 30 coaches and managers, with some qualified as high as UEFA B level, and is now equipped with year-round use of the Borderville complex’s 3G pitch, made possible thanks to a £500,000 grant from the Premier League and The FA Facilities Fund.
The club’s aim is to see more ‘Young Daniels’ break through to the first team in the coming years with the intention of building successful footballing careers, similar to that of Ricky Miller, a Daniels youth product who now plays in The Football League for Luton Town.
The Daniels’ next home match will be against Grantham Town on Boxing Day.