Stamford’s bid to reach the Evo-Stik NPL First Division South play-offs started successfully on Wednesday night with a 2-0 victory over Loughborough Dynamo.
The Daniels were excellent in the first half and went in at the break 2-0 up thanks to goals from Taylor Rhiney and Chris Salt.
In truth Stamford should have been out of sight by half time, with Loughborough, now led by former Daniel Wayne Hallcro, hanging on with some desperate blocks and clearances off the line.
Stamford’s high tempo, pressing game, led by a highly impressive performance in central midfield from Sam Hill, was too much for the struggling visitors.
In the second half Dynamo were in the game more but never really looked like breaching the home defence of Salt, Kern Miller, Lee Beeson and Jon Challinor.
Speedy striker John King had the first chance of the match after 17 minutes, getting on the end of a long ball from the back from Salt, but he could only fire over.
Grant Ryan, who didn’t get a goal but had a good shift as the target man up front, then plucked the ball out of the sky, took a couple of nice touches, showing good strength, but shot wide.
King then capitalised on an error from Dynamo and was one-on-one with goalkeeper Charlie Hornby, who got a piece of King’s shot but it looked to still be rolling in before a defender got back to hook it off the line.
Stamford got the goal their dominance deserved in the 33rd minute and it came from a set-piece.
Beeson delivered a pin point corner for Salt to attack and he powered home a header from close range.
Rhiney went close soon after, seeing a shot blocked after a good cross from Jordan Smith created the chance.
But on the stroke of half time Rhiney doubled the Daniels’ lead with a fine finish, running onto a headed pass from Hill, he let the ball go across his body and fired it into the top corner of the net.
If Stamford had been 4-0 up at the break it would have been a fairer reflection of the first half than the actual score.
Early in the second half the home side would have wished there was more of a cushion between the sides as Loughborough came out with renewed vigour. Having been outplayed in the first half Dynamo got increasingly physical after the break as they tried to break up Stamford’s technical football.
Daniels goalkeeper Sam Donkin was finally given something to do when he was forced to save well to keep out a shot from Tom Waulmsley.
The young goalkeeper really has been one of the signings of the season,
Ollie Brown-Hill was the first of Stamford’s three substitutes, replacing King who had a good night playing in a wide role. Brown-Hill brought renewed energy to the homeside and chances began to open up again for the hosts.
With just a couple of minutes left to play the other substitutes, Ollie Luto and Elliot Sandy combined to open up the Loughborough defence. Luto played in Sandy who fired across the face of goal from a tight angle, in the end it went out for a corner.
But Stamford had done enough and they climb two places to 18th. A win at home to Northwich Victoria tomorrow, 3pm ko, could see them move as high as 15th
Stamford: Sam Donkin, Lee Beeson, Jon Challinor, Sam Hill, Chris Salt, Kern Miller, Jordan Smith, Jake Duffy, Grant Ryan (Olly Brown-Hill), Taylor Rhiney (Elliot Sandy), John King (Ollie Luto). Subs unused: Jevani Brown, and Keenan King.
Loughborough: Charlie Hornby, Louis Guest, Sam Sanders (Pradeep Bahrey), Chris Gray, Danny Brain, Jordan Ball, Jack Oldham, Louis Keenan (Jurelle Philip), Tom Waulmsley, Lavell White, Sean Phillips (Conor Brown-Wingfield). SUBS Unused: Ben Wallace and Jamie Clarke.
Referee: Paul Buck