Stamford AFC came back to draw 1-1 with National League side Wrexham AFC in front of a record crowd at the Zeeco Stadium in the Emirates FA Cup fourth qualifying round today (Saturday).
Wrexham were outplayed for much of the second half by a side playing their football three divisions below them, and will have to up their game if they want to see off the brave Lincolnshire side in the replay at the Racecourse on Tuesday night.
The prize is a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup and piece of club history for the Daniels who have never advanced beyond the fourth qualifying round.
The managerless visitors, who sacked Gary Mills on Thursday, got off to a great start, scoring through Shawn Harrad in just the fifth minute. But Stamford responded from the spot after the break through Lee Beeson and should have gone on to win it.
It took two great saves from Wrexham goalkeeper Shawn Jalal to keep out first Jevani Brown and then Ryan Robbins, who were both played in one-on-one against the stopper.
Wrexham broke the deadlock in just the fifth minute. A cross to the back post from John Rooney was nodded back across the box into the path of Harrad who finished first time from close range.
Brown was Stamford’s best player by a distance and he looked their best chance of finding a goal, his first effort however was well blocked.
Daniels manager Graham Drury had taken a gamble by playing his 6ft 4in centre back Tom Batchelor up front for the first time in his career in the first half to try and bully the visiting defence but they marshalled him well and it came as no surprised when he was hooked off at half time, replaced by out-and-out striker Robbins,,
Despite having the lead and the better of the chances in the first half there were signs of some discontent in the Wrexham ranks, when Hamza Bencherif miss-controlled a clearance into touch deep in his own half he turned to yell at his teammates in disgust. Why I’m no quite sure?
Stamford looked a different side after the break and Brown should have put the hosts level from the first of the missed one-on-ones.
Robbins soon made an impact, dribbling his way into the box where he was tripped by Mark Carrington and referee Mr Whitton pointed to the spot. Lee Beeson put his penalty woes of the past behind him and blasted it down the middle for 1-1.
Wrexham had more of the ball and were pinging it into the box but Stamford were throwing their bodies in front of the shots for the cause, playing no-nonsense football clearing long. Both Chris Salt and Kern Miller were excellent at centre back for the Daniels.
Carrington tried to make up for his earlier error with a curling shot from distance but Stamford goalkeeper Sam Donkin got down low to save.
Robbins had a glorious chance to put his side ahead, he raced onto a clearance from Miller and had just the keeper to beat but Jalal saved the powerful shot well, racing from his line to cut down the angle.
Wrexham got more desperate in their work, shooting from poorer and poorer positions on the park to no avail and in the end it was Stamford who were looking the side more likely and when Robbins smashed a half volley into the side netting there were plenty in the ground who thought it was in.
In the end Wrexham were lucky to finish with a draw and the sides will do it all again on Tuesday.
Stamford AFC: Sam Donkin, Delroy Gordon, Jon Challinor, Tom Batchelor (Ryan Robbins), Chris Salt, Kern Miller, Lee Beeson, Sam Hill, Jevani Brown, (Ollie Brown-Hill) Jake Duffy, Ollie Luto (John King)
Substitutes unused: Curtis Hartley, Elliot Sandy, Keenan King, Taylor McMillan
Wrexham AFC: Shaun Jalal, Hamza Bencherif, Martin Riley, Anthony Barry, John Rooney, Sean Newton (C), Kai Edwards, Mark Carrington, Jordan Evans (Brandon Burrows), Shaun Harrad, Tyler Harvey (Callum Powell).
Substitutes unused: Gerry McDonagh, Chris Dunn, Ben Burrows, Olly Marx, George Harry
Referee: Mr R Whitton