If Stamford AFC get relegated this season, and it’s beginning to look more and more likely that they will, there are going to be a lot of what if moments to look back on.
Saturday will go down as one of those moments.
Leading the league’s glamour side Salford City 1-0 into injury time Luke Clark struck late in the day to secure a 1-1 draw, break Stamford hearts and deny them three points which would have seen the Daniels climb out of the bottom four. As it is a point from the match, against the side owned by a selection of Manchester United’s famous Class of 92, means they are two points adrift from salvation with just three games left to play.
Stamford AFC took the lead in the 15th minute thanks to a header from towering centre back Tom Batchelor from a Jake Duffey free kick. The big defender rose highest at the back post to nod the ball home from the set piece won by Jordan Smith, who was fouled trying to hold the ball up on the left flank.
The significance of the goal should no be underestimated as it was the first time the Salford defence have conceded a goal in more than nine hours of football.
With the excellent Jon Challinor shielding the defence visitors Salford were struggling to create any clear cut openings. Instead Chris Lynch, Stephen O’Halloran and Scot Burton all fired wide for the visitors.
Salford’s best chance of the match came from Gary Stopforth who hit a strong drive on the half volley after the ball was flicked into his path but veteran goalkeeper Paul Bastock did well to dive to his right and save the shot. Sam Hill put his body on the line to stop the second effort and see out the danger.
Just before the break Greg Smith had a golden chance to double the lead for Stamford when he got his head to a long ball played forward by Hill, but his effort just went high and wide of the mark.
It was all hands on deck in defence after the break and it took a clearance off the line in the 75th minute for the Daniels to keep the lead intact. Gareth Seddon weaved his way down the right flank, feeding it out wide to set up a dangerous cross into the box which Bastock could only push against Salford captain Christopher Lynch, but he failed adjust himself in time and the ball was cleared off the line by Taron Hare.
Bastock then had to be alert to save a Seddon header. City were pushing for a goal and the Daniels stopper again had to keep out a shot from Lynch before Billy Priestley fired over moments later with the clock ticking 90.
But there was still injury time left and Salford scored a stunning equaliser to deny Stamford what would have been an invaluable three points.
Substitute John Johnston showed remarkable pace to get away down the right had side and curled in a sumptuous cross which was volleyed home emphatically by Clark at the far post.
It could have been worse, Lynch had a header saved by Bastock four minutes into injury time, which really would have cruel on the defiant Daniels.
Stamford travel to Darlington 1883 on Saturday next.
Stamford: Paul Bastock, Taron Hare, Ollie Luto, Jon Challinor (c), Tom Batchelor, Sam Hill, Callum Rzonca, Jake Duffy, Greg Smith, Jordan Smith, Jack Wightwiick.
Substitutes: Curtis Hartley, Lee Beeson, Sam Downey, Jake Newman, Chris Hamilton.
Salford City: Jay Lynch, Christopher Lynch (c), Stephen O’Halloran, Gary Stopforth, Steven Howson, Billy Priestley, Tunji Moses, Scott Burton, James Poole, Jordan Hulme, Daniel Webber.
Substitutes: Evan Gumbs, Luke Clark, Joseph Mwasile, John Johnston, Gareth Seddon.
Man of the match. Jordan Smith.
Referee: Mr Matthew Smith