Stamford AFC dropped back into the Evo-Stik NPL relegation zone on Saturday in a case of two points dropped as they let a 1-0 half time lead slip to draw 1-1 at home against 10-man Whitby Town.
The little and large combination of Dan Clements and Greg Smith worked well in the first half as Stamford played some good, fluid football leading to them scoring through man of the match Clements in the 34th minute.
Early in the second half Whitby lost Ibrahim Hussan to a second yellow card after referee Mr Dadly had been handing them out like it was Christmas in the first half.
But Stamford looked like a side who haven’t won at home in the league for more than four months and rather than impose themselves on the game were pinned back by Whitby who broke the deadlock in the 76th minute, albeit with a deflection off Daniels’ skipper Richard Jones. That is just the type of luck Stamford are having this season.
They were by far the best side at the Zeeco Stadium, creating twice as many chances, but with Frickley Athletic winning 3-2 at Trafford a point was not enough and they dropped down one place.
Stamford are now in 21st place, one point behind Frickley who have a game in hand. It means the Daniels have two games to avoid the drop, unfortunately for them that starts away at league leaders FC United of Manchester, before hosting Witton Albion on April 25.
Stamford started brightly on Saturday, Clements started as he meant to go on, showing great fight to beat his considerably bigger marker to the ball, cut to the byline and pull the ball back but Whitby cleared the danger.
The Daniel’s leading goal scorer Ryan Robbins almost had a perfect start on his return to Stamford’s line-up, he cut in from the right flank and showed strength to get into a shooting position but dragged his effort wide with his normally trusty left foot.
Moments later only a brilliant save from Whitby stopper Shane Bland kept Stamford out. Robbins won a dangerous free-kick when he was clattered into. Jon Challinor shaped to shoot but then left it for Nathan Carr to fire through the wall. A deflection took it away from Bland but he got down low to save with a low firm right hand.
But Whitby came into the game and had two chances to open the score. First Dale Hopson had a shot from distance which pin balled around in the box before going out for a corner and then Town centre-back Kevin Burgess had a free header from a corner but could not find the target.
Clements has been a revelation since joining the club midway through the season and it was a driving zig-zag run from the attacker which opened Whitby up allowing Greg Smith to hook the ball into the path of Robbins but he could only get a weak shot off on his wrong foot with the angle against him.
Whitby were happy to play in front of the Stamford defence and they were getting away shots from distance but again could not find the target.
Stamford were finding width but the crosses never quite landed in a position they could attack. Smith forced a save with a header but had to generate all his own power goal away from goal.
But it was a good display from Smith who looked really in the mood for it, first winning a free kick with some persistent - well kicking - and then forcing Bland into a save at the end of a great counter attack involving all of Stamford’s attacking threats.
Jones directed a header at goal from a Challinor cross but it was that man Clements who gave Stamford the lead in the 34th minute, however the goal was the product of Challinor’s hard work and cool head, pulling the ball back to Clements to hit first time from straight in front.
It’s hard not to like Clements as a footballer. After he scored his goal he shock the hand of every player on his team and spent the afternoon chasing down everything, beating his marker no matter their size and being Stamford’s attacking spark. He also raced over to check the well being of veteran photographer Geoff Atton when he came off second best in a collision with Smith.
As the first half game to a close Challinor pulled the ball back into an empty box, Robbins cleaned up and was close to curling the ball into the top corner but his shot was just high.
After the break Michael Built sparked a great counter attack but then injured himself chasing down a ball bringing Jordan smith into the fray.
Smith continued where he left off in the first half, brilliantly, and slightly unbelievably beating two down the left wing before crossing into the box. Unfortunately for Stamford there was no one to get on the end of his cross.
In the mean time Jones was physically shutting down the Whitby attacks while living right on the edge of what you can get away with.
Shortly after he strayed the wrong side of the law and was shown yellow. From the resultant free-kick Whitby had the ball in the back of the net, embarrassingly nut-megging Stamford keeper Andy Stevens from 35 yards but the homeside were given a reprieve as it was pulled back for offside despite the fact no one but the taker seemed to touch it.
Stevens made amends with an athletic save, flying across the air to stop a shot from distance.
The came Hussan’ red card for a second yellow, fouling centre back Batchelor on a rare but excellent run.
However Whitby, against all the odds, got back on even terms in. The ball was flicked on from a cross and squirmed in for an own goal.
Stamford came right back. Jones had a header saved from a corner and then Robbins raced down-field turning the two defenders inside and out but was knocked off balance as he went to unleash a shot.
Stamford pushed for a winner but the closest they got was a Robbins drive over the bar.
In the closing moments Robbins had an off balance header easily saved after a decent cross from Nathan Fox.
The Daniels have a distraction from their problems in the league when they travel to Lincoln tomorrow night to play lower-league Louth Town in the Lincolnshire Cup Final. Kick-off 7.45pm at the Sincil Bank Stadium.
Stamford: Andy Stevens, Ryan Clarke, Nathan Fox, Tom McGowan, Richard Jones (c), Tom Batchelor, Michael Built (Jordan Smith), Jon Challinor, Greg Smith (Courtney Meade), Dan Clements, Ryan Robbins. Subs: Lewis Carr, Hurtis Revan, Dan Lawlor.
Whitby Town: Shane Bland, Ibrahim Hussan, Mark Robinson (c), Kevin Burgess, Richard Pell (Steven Snaith), David McTiernan, Lee Bullock, Dale Hopson, Lee Mason, James Brown (Jamie Clarke), Matthew Waters (Charlie Raby). Subs: Robert Nolan, David Campbell.