Stamford AFC put in their best defensive performance of the season on Saturday to secure a draw away at Leamington in the FA Cup first qualifying round to earn a replay tomorrow night.
Despite the highly improved performance from the back four, Daniels keeper Richard Knight still had to put on a man of the match display to keep Stamford in the game as it finished 1-1.
After taking the lead in just the sixth minute from the penalty spot through Andy Hall, Stamford faced constant raids on their goal requiring some true cup heroics late in the match from Knight.
It was the first time the Daniels have restricted their opponents to just one goal since the season kicked-off on August 15, conceding an average of four goals a game up until Saturday.
The lack of goals will please manager David Staff as their cup opponents are no slouches, riding high in second in the Evo-StiK Souther League Premier Division.
Stamford skipper Richard Jones made a huge difference in central defence, back from a one game ban and then back niggle. Time after time he cleared the danger with towering headers and organised the new recruits and players out of position around him. Again Jon Challinor filed in at the back and was joined by Lewis Carr and new signing Lynas King.
In the first significant action of the game Jordan Smith played a long ball behind the Leamington defence and Ryan Robbins chased onto it as the home goalkeeper, and skipper, Tony Breeden raced out in the opposite direction. Breeden got plenty of ball but came flying in with his foot high on the edge of the box and the hurdling Robbins was sent sprawling, causing the referee Adam Matthews to point to the spot.
Breeden was shown yellow for his part in proceedings however if it was a penalty then he was lucky not to see red as he was the last man back.
Hall ignored the delay due to the home protestations and hit the spot kick hard to the keeper’s right.
Ben Mackey had a golden chance to put the hosts level when he was selflessly played in by James Mace but he fired over the cross bar.
Moments later Mace rose highest to direct a header at the Stamford goal but Knight saved the low effort comfortably.
Leamington were piling the pressure on but were struggling to find the target and Stamford took their lead into the break.
However in the second half the dam broke, but not unit the 71st minute.
When the goal came it was a thing of beauty. Jack Edwards showed good strength to fight off Jones and then played the ball between the Stamford defenders down the left hand side to Lee Chilton, the striker hit the ball first time left footed from 18 yards out and the ball went in off the top of the post with Knight stranded. However the Daniels’ keeper was entirely blameless, it was a goal of pure quality.
Stamford striker Greg Smith has really been really contributing in defence in recent weeks as his fitness has improved and he made a vital block from a corner shortly after the goal went in. It was the first of many clearances, using his height and size to good advantage.
But while Stamford were clearing the initial danger the second ball kept falling for Leamington and the hosts only narrowly headed over.
Chilton was close to turning creator late in the game, he fired a devilish ball across the Stamford box and substitute Will Green was inches away from getting on the end of it.
As Stamford tired from chasing the ball for a lot of the afternoon Leamington were creating more and more chances.
Edwards was played through on goal but Knight pulled off a stunning stop low on his right hand side to deny him.
Chilton looks a player of real class and he had a golden chance to win it late in the day. A brilliant first touch saw him turn Challinor to create space for a shot but his driving effort was just topped over the cross bar by Knight.
Green had one final chance to win it for Leamington seconds before the final whistle but Knight saved again to set up the replay.
Stamford will have to rediscover their dangerous attacking form if they are to progress at the Zeeco on Tuesday night, as they mustered just two shots at the weekend.
Kick-off tomorrow is 7.45pm.
Leamington: Tony Breeden, Ben George, Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda (James Fry, 83 mins), Jamie Hood, James Mace, Lee Moore, Richard Taundry, Ben MacKay (Will Green, 75 mins), Jack Edwards, Lee Chilton. Subs: Ross Oulton, Reece Mitchell, Jamie Tank, Martyn Naylor, Eddy Caveizel-Cox.
Stamford AFC: Richard Knight, Jon Challinor, Lynas King, Lewis Carr, Richard Jones, Jordan Smith, David Bell, Andy Hall (Jordan Neil, 83 mins), Greg Smith, Dan Clements, Ryan Robbins. Subs: Nathan Hicks, Dalton Bettles, Cameron Powell, David Staff.
Referee: Adam Matthews