Stafford Rangers 1 – 1 Stalybridge Celtic
BetVictor Northern Premier League | Saturday 8 February 2020 Report by Chris Elsley
Attendance | 518
Stafford Rangers had to settle for a draw after failing to take advantage of a strong first half performance against Stalybridge Celtic. Rangers fielded the same XI who started Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw with Buxton with Brad Grayson having to settle for a place on the bench. With the wind in their favour, Rangers made the early running. Appeals for a penalty were waved away after Brandon Diau went to ground as Josh Green delivered a free kick into the Stalybridge area and with Rangers still on the attack, Joe Cuff fired wide. A couple of minutes later, Cuff’s first-time effort hit the side netting. Stafford continued to hold the upper hand as Alex-Ray Harvey’s ball put Jake Charles in to a great position but he hooked over from around 12 yards before Diau headed wide from Green’s free kick and Stalybridge keeper Alex Fojticek came out of his area to head away as Charles advanced on goal.
Midway through the half, Stalybridge got their first look in, but Paddy Lacey shot tamely at Jono Brown from a good position. Rangers were dealt a blow on 26 minutes when skipper Jon Moran limped off with a hamstring injury, but they put it behind them and finally took the lead on 33 minutes when Fojticek dropped Green’s free kick into his own net. The Stalybridge keeper felt he had been fouled and saw yellow for his protests. Five minutes later, Tom Thorley – replacement for Moran – almost ended a good move in spectacular fashion as he threw himself towards Charles’ cross but couldn’t get enough direction on his header. Sam Coulson also came close to a spectacular goal when he launched the ball from the halfway line, forcing Fojticek to back track and tip over. If the first half was Stafford’s, the second belonged to Stalybridge. Declan Walker struck a low free kick straight at Brown who then went low to save from Adam O’Reilly, but Chris Smalley should have levelled the scores when he headed wide when left unmarked from Walker’s corner. The warning signs were there, and Craig Hobson fired in the equaliser on 58 minutes when he beat Brown from a tight angle after good approach play from O’Reilly. Diau’s glancing header almost restored Stafford’s lead with Scott Metcalfe forced to clear off the line. Diau went close again when he managed to beat Fojticek to Green’s deep ball in, but he was unable to keep the ball on target. Stalybridge looked the most threatening in the final stages with Ustabasi and Hobson both shooting wide. Ustabasi went close again in added time but his shot went across the face of goal and inches wide of the far post. Referee: Alistair Nelson Cautions: Bignot (Stafford), Fojticek, Metcalfe (Stalybridge)
Stafford Rangers: 1 Jono Brown, 2 Paul Bignot, 3 Josh Green, 4 Jon Moran (12 Tom Thorley 26m), 5 Dan Burns, 6 Alex-Ray Harvey, 7 Joe Cuff (15 Jazz Luckie 81m), 8 Sam Coulson, 9 Jake Charles, 10 Brandon Diau, 11 Jack Sherratt (16 Brad Grayson 66m). Unused Subs: 14 Josh Burns, 17 Jaiden White
Stalybridge Celtic: 1 Alex Fojticek, 2 Kallum Mantack, 3 Scott Metcalfe, 4 Max Taylor, 5 Stephen O’Halloran, 6 Chris Smalley, 7 Adam O’Reilly, 8 Patrick Lacey, 9 Craig Hobson. 10 Declan Walker, 11 Jonathan Ustabasi. Unused Subs 12 Anthony Whitehead, 14 Ross Dent, 15 Liam MacDevitt, 16 Mark Pearson, 17 Harry Freedman