Rangers put a spanner in the works
11 April 2009With 5 games to go and a possible league title in their own hands Gary Mills made no changes to the starting eleven once again while Alex Rodman made a welcome return to the bench following a midweek run out with the reserves after injury.
After Gary Mills received his Manager of the Month award for March, The Lambs completed their now traditional pre-match group huddle and kicked off proceedings towards the Castle End of the ground.
Tamworth started brightly using the wings with Pritchard unlucky not to keep the ball in play before delivering a cross and Lyttle sent Sheridan free on the opposite wing but the ball was just to strong and the Stafford defence cleared his low cross.
Wright played a neat one-two to get to the by-line but his cross floated onto the top of the net.
The Lambs continued to move the ball around well but Rangers were not making it easy for them with McNiven the obvious target of most balls over the halfway line.
Blackwood’s left wing ball was cut out by Patrick past the far post on 13 while Stafford tried to camp out in the Tamworth half and forced the Lambs back four to work quickly.
A long throw onto the head of Daniel on 17 brought Alcock into the game with a calm but necessary catch, high at his near post.
Sheldon crossed from the left by the clubhouse on 21 looking for Blackwood who tried a spectacular overhead effort, but failed to connect and on 23 Sheldon shot with an outswinging effort from the left of the area which Sandercombe parried behind for a corner, but Smith was unable to keep his header down from the flag kick.
Pritchard squeezed through a crowded box to get a chip in but Daniel cleared and a minute later Wright flicked the ball up and there were loud shouts for handball as the ball cannoned off Daniel but the plea was denied by the referee.
Smith did get his head to a good knock into the area shortly after but got the direction slightly askew and watched the ball sail a few feet the wrong side of the post.
McNiven swivelled on the ball on the edge of the box and got a shot away at Alcock on 29 which he was equal to while at the other end Pritchard unleashed a right footed shot on the volley which curled agonisingly wide of the far post by just a few inches.
Then, a minute or so after news came in that Southport had taken the lead Stafford’s Moult fired home from the edge of box low into the left hand corner to give the visitors the advantage (0-1, 33 mins) after the Lambs defence had failed to get a hold of the ball and clear.
A foul by Lyttle on McNiven a few yards to the left of centre of the area set up Thorley with a deadball chance but it came to nothing.
Wright had the ball in the net on 37 from Blackwood’s left wing cross – finishing with a volley into the roof of the net – but the linesman’s flag cut the celebrations short.
Blackwood then won a corner on 39 by the tea hut and Foster tried a shot from outside the area after the Stafford defence had headed clear, but his effort rose over the bar.
Lyttle raced in to do what Smith and Wylde couldn’t, on 41, and cut out the run of McNiven into the area with a clearing boot as the Stafford striker made an almost telling run into the danger area while at the other end Sheridan tried hard but was never going to reach a cross box ball which Sandercombe collected easily.
3 minutes were shown at the end of the first period and Wright almost got the ball through to Sheldon but Murray was quickest to his centre from the left meaning The Lambs would have to wait until after the break to try and get back into the game.
Rodman replaced Sheridan at half time but The Lambs were made to wait for Stafford to emerge from the dressing rooms before the visitors could get the second half underway.
And it was Stafford who almost scored the first goal of the second half as Wellecomme forced his way through, forced Alcock to make a save but while the keeper was on the floor he spooned the ball over the bar and a cross from Francis was met by the head of goal scorer Moult on 48 and his effort span just wide of the post with Alcock in mid air as Stafford threatened again.
Amos saw his close range back header saved direct from a throw in on 53 and this caused The Lambs to try that extra bit harder to get the ball forward but when the ball fell to Smith on 55 he couldn’t get a shot on target although the defender did have his back to goal.
And Tamworth were made to pay when Francis cut down the right wing, passed to Thorley and he pushed the ball through past his marker, ran onto it and fired low into the far corner for Stafford’s second (0-2, 55 mins).
Ricketts came on for Sheldon as The Lambs restarted the game from the centre spot for the second time in the afternoon.
Wright set himself up to fire a low shot from 20 yards on the hour, but it went wide of the left hand upright but at the other end, Alcock’s studs were all that prevented Stafford’s third via Wellecomme who broke through the Tamworth defence to go one on one with the keeper on 61.
A third Lambs substitution was forthcoming on 64 when Nicholson replaced Wright in the final throw of the dice by Gary Mills but it was Alcock who almost gambled too much on 66 as Wellecomme sprinted in and made contact with, but was unable to re-direct, a hesitant goal kick.
Lyttle rescued his side from falling again with a quick run to nip the ball away from Wellecomme when his fellow defenders failed to halt his progress into the area and Wellecomme stole the ball off the toes of Wylde on 71 inside the six yard box, but it ricocheted back to Alcock before he could turn on it.
Hesitancy again allowed McNiven to shoot, albeit of target, on 73 from outside the box and Tamworth tried to come forward again.
On 79 the Lambs won a corner on the right which went long to Foster and Ricketts flicked it on for Wylde to head home at the far post to set up a grandstand final 10 minutes (1-2, 79 mins)An elbow from McNiven on Wylde on the halfway line on 80 was spotted by a furiously flagging linesman and as the Lambs defender received treatment the referee and his assistant consulted resulting in just a booking for the Stafford front man.
Ricketts required a visit from the physio after going down with five to go following a clash in the centre of the park and spent some time off the field while play continued.
Nicholson tried to thread the ball through to Blackwood on 89 but it was cut out and Wylde was beaten to a header shortly after but won a corner which came to nothing when Lyttle was beaten to the ball which came back in at head height.
Dudley was forced to push the ball out under pressure from Wellecomme and Stafford played keep ball in the bottom corner which eventually went out for a goal kick.
Alcock, Lyttle, Dudley, Smith, Wylde, Foster, Wright, Sheridan (Rodman HT), Sheldon (Ricketts 56), Blackwood, Pritchard
Subs: Shaw, Tait, Nicholson
Stafford Rangers Team:
Sandercombe, Francis, Murray, Amos, Daniel, Thorley, Patrick, Moult, McNiven, Wellecomme, Wilson
Subs: Magee, Dodd, Rogers, Brindley, Allen
Match Sponsors: Tamworth Baptist ChurchAssociate Sponsors: DRIVE ASSIST / SOL Corporate Rental
Matchball Sponsors: Sue and John Nerney, Dave Brown and Alan Fitzpatrick
Man of the Match: Bradley Pritchard
Referee: Mr. D. Naylor (Sutton in Ashfield)