2016 may have just been two days old on Saturday but that did not stop Stamford AFC already equalling last year’s record at home in the Evo-Stik NPL.
The Daniels beat Hyde United 2-1 at the Zeeco Stadium to earn their first three points of the 2015/16 at home.
Stamford have had an abysmal home record since moving to their new £5.2 million stadium at Borderville back in November 2014, winning just once last season in a stunning comeback on the last day of the season to fight off relegation at the last hour.
Saturday’s final moments had all the drama of that famous afternoon as the Daniels clung on to their fragile lead.
The hosts got off to a stunning start with new signing Jake Newman scoring in the ninth minute with practically his first touch for the Daniels.
Former Spalding United striker Newman, was one of three new signings in manager Graham Drury’s starting line-up on Saturday, including striker Sam Hill and midfielder Jack Wightwick.
While Newman finished with a firm and confident strike, the goal was the product of some excellent work down the wing by Elliot Hodge who used his speed to stretch the defence before cutting in and putting the ball on a plate for his new team mate.
It was just the start the homeside needed. After all this was the side which gave the Daniels a 7-1 hiding back in which September marked the end of David Staff’s tenure as first team manager, sparking a season of huge change for the Daniels.
The only good news is there were very few players involved on Saturday bearing the scares of that early season defeat, in fact just substitutes Jon Challinor, Greg Smith, Jordan Smith and Lewis Carr featured in the trip to the North West three months earlier, in a perfect illustration of how much this side has changed during the course of a difficult season.
Both sides had their chances after Stamford went ahead and after a couple of close shaves Daniels’ goalkeeper Enol Ordonez, making his home debut, was beaten in the 38th minute by a fierce shot on the turn by Ayrton Bevins. The ball was swung in to the back post by Lee Neville from a corner and was hooked back into the centre of the goal mouth where Bevins knocked it up in the air with his first controlling touch before swivilling and firing home on the volley.
In truth Stamford were lucky not to be trailing at the break. Centre back Brad Gascoigne went off his feet trying to intercept a through ball but got nowhere near it leaving Laurie Bell in acres of space and just Ordonez in his way. He beat the Daniels stopper but saw the ball bounce back off the post and cleared to safety.
A through ball beat Gascoigne’s despairing slide. Laurie Bell raced clear, his shot beating Ordonez but cannoning back off the post.
After the break Stamford looked the better of the two sides, creating room and chances with some neat passing and good movement. However skipper for the day Tom Batchelor was close to giving the hosts the lead when a long clearance got caught in the wind and bounced awkwardly, forcing Hyde keeper Sam Vince to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Stamford were getting closer, Lee Beeson crashed a header off the bar and then in the 68th minute Tom McGowan, the hero of the final day of last season, popped up with another vital goal at the New Hedge End.
Challinor, fresh off the bench, crossed the ball to the back post for Batchelor to head at goal. His effort was saved but the ball bounced into the path of McGowan who struck low and straight to score.
There were some scares in the closing moments as Stamford fell deep in numbers. Ordonez just managed to hold onto the ball in a huge goalmouth scramble which finished in a pile of players from both sides on top of the Stamford keeper.
With the clock ticking down Ordonez was dragged off his line and left scrambling to get back, however the Hyde attacker couldn’t make up his mind whether to cross or shoot. In the end the ball into the box was neither and the danger dissipated.
Greg Smith had a chance to put the icing on the cake when he caught Vince off his line, but his shot from all off 40 yards was just off target. However it was good enough for the Stamford players and fans who let out an almighty roar at the final whistle.
The long wait is over.
It was a strange day in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League on Saturday as all four teams in the bottom four won, with Ramsbotton beating Stourbridge 3-2, Colwyn Bay beating Workington 2-1 and Whitby Bay beating Nantwich Town 2-1. As a result Stamford remain second from bottom but significantly the three teams sitting above the relegation zone failed to get a result. Skelmersdale, who sit one place above the bottom four, lost 3-1 at Sutton Coldfield, meaning they are now just four points clear of chasing Stamford.
Marine were beaten 3-0 by Halesowen and are equal on points, 23, with Sutton Coldfield.
Mickleover Sports have a nine point advantage over the Daniels but their game with top of the league Blyth Spartans was postponed.
Stamford AFC: Enol Ordonez, Lee Beeson, Ellis Myles, Sam Hill, Tom Batchelor, Brad Gascoigne, Jack Wightwick (Jon Challinor), Tom McGowan, Jake Newman (Greg Smith), Jake Duffy, Elliott Hodge (Jordan Smith). Subs unused: Lewis Carr and Jason Field.
Hyde United : Sam Vince, James Burke, Lee Neville, Spencer Harris, Shane Killock, Andrew Pearson, Reece Gray, Laurie Bell, Scott Spencer, Ayrton Bevins, Sam Fitton (Peter Boyle). Subs unused: Ben Woods, Adam Jones, Ryan Ellison and Josh Broadbent.
Referee: Anthony Newbold. Attendance: 404