Blackstones kicked-off the UCL Division One season with a hard fought 1-1 draw with Rushden & Higham United on Saturday in front of the largest crowd for some time at Lincoln Road.
A crowd of 327 Groundhoppers packed in to watch the entertaining and fiercely contested stalemate, with the visitors imposing themselves on the second period of the first half and then Stones fighting back after the half-time break.
This was Blackstones’ new manager Phil Gadsby’s first competitive game in charge, and Stones started positively .
The hosts could have taken the lead when the ball broke kindly for Jones De Sousa on the edge of the 18 yard box, but his cross was just too high for the advancing head of Addriano Staffieri. Shortly after this missed chance De Souza was presented with a one-on-one with the keeper only to see his shot go wide of the target.
Rushden then began to take command of the game with shots firing wide and the visiting striker testing home keeper Lee Crockett who responded with a top class save.
The visitors took a 30th minute lead when a defensive clearance was picked up by the visitors, the resultant delivery from the right picked out an advancing Aaron Cormack to head powerfully beyond Crockett.
After the break Stones resumed with more attacking intent and Evans set-up Staffieri whose shot was saved by the visiting keeper Oli whose reflex action denied a follow-up by Dan Evans.
Blackstones levelled the score in the 65th minute when the visiting defence was adjudged to have fouled Giuliano Staffieri inside the box. From the spot Evans calmly sent the visiting keeper the wrong way.
Crockett worked well inbetween the sticks to stop the visitors from restoring the advantage.
In added time both sides had narrow escapes, Rushden & Higham bouncing the ball off the top of the crossbar straight from a corner and then Stones’ substitute Dello Russo’s fierce strike was tipped onto the underside of the bar by Brown.
It was highly positive performance by Blackstones which gives fans plenty of reasons to believe this season will be better than the last, however Gadsby will be hoping to earn his first victory with the Stamford club sooner rather than later as their unwanted record of consecutive league games without a win now rolls on to 25. However it should be noted that run of poor results was made under the leadership of Neil Cotton, with a vastly different squad to this season’s side.
Stones travel away to Burton Park Wanderers tomorrow when the majority of the teams in the league get underway.
Blackstones: Lee Crockett, Matt Simpson, Jack Salt, Calum Parker, Adam Sparkes, Mark Hynes (Antonio Dello Russo), Giuliano Staffieri, Carl Griffiths, Dan Evans, Jones De Souza (Sam Thompson), Addie Staffieri (Kieran Arthur).
Rushden & Higham: Oli Brown, Blake Helsdown, Aaron Cormack, Dan Binns, Sam Birtwistle, Glen O’Connor, Lewis O’Dell, Ryan Neville (Alex Paterson), Craig Lawman, Jordan Pendered, Jake Reynolds (Michael Burger)