Stafford Town ended their 2021/22 league campaign on a disappointing note as they were beaten 1-0 by local rivals Brocton at Silkmore Lane. In a scrappy game that was devoid of tempo and quality from either side it was Brocton who got the breakthrough just before halftime as both sides seemed content to play long and hope for a goal from a mistake or set piece. The result sees Stafford finish with 47 points, good enough for 12th place in the final league table, three points behind Brocton in 10th and Cheadle Heath Nomads in 9th. Despite a poor finish to the season, Stafford have certainly made progress overall, this being the highest points tally and position the club have achieved since the 2013/14 season when they finished 8th in the Midland League Division 1 with 50 points. An early Stafford free kick delivered into the box by Josh Wilson was only partially cleared, Stafford playing the ball back into the box twice more in succession but the ball was cleared by the Brocton defence. Neither side appeared able to put a foot on the ball and build an attack through the pitch, both sides merely attempting to clear the ball and turn their opponents. The result was a bitty affair, punctuated by lots of breaks in play as the ball went out for throw-ins, Brocton forcing a number of corners that Stafford had to be on their toes to deal with. In the 14th minute Declan Arber managed to get into the box on the left and cut the ball back but the subsequent shot was blocked. Two minutes later Ryan Taylor turned his opposing full-back in knots on the left and drove into the box before his low shot at goal was blocked by the legs of the Brocton ‘keeper. Brocton then had a free kick in a dangerous position flicked over the bar, Stafford failing to properly clear the resultant corner, eventually leading to a shot that was saved. The Brocton defence were looking solid, easily heading away Stafford’s straight balls forward and keeping the pacy Nathan Scott at bay out wide, foiling a couple of dangerous looking breaks over the next ten minutes or so. Brocton were more than happy with the way the game was going, getting the majority of their joy from wide areas and forcing several more corners. The deadlock was broken in the 38th minute, a Brocton ball forward caused a problem when it deflected through to an attacker in the box and although the initial shot was saved the follow up was converted. There was a big moment two minutes later when a Stafford ball forward saw the Brocton ‘keeper lose his bearings and handle the ball outside the box, preventing what was a clear goalscoring opportunity for Taylor. The offence would have resulted in a red card, but fortunately for the home side however, the assistant referee flagged for offside against Arber, despite the fact that he had made no movement towards the ball from an offside position when the ball was played forward initially. HT 1-0 Brocton. The second half continued in much the same vein as the first, Brocton heading over in the 50th minute following a cross from the right. Two minutes later Arber manufactured some space for himself and got into the box on the left, but his weak shot was easily saved. Stafford’s best chance of the half came a minute later, Wilson hitting the bar with an effort from distance, the ‘keeper well beaten. Charlie Swingwood then headed a corner over the bar and Brocton had a shot of their own that was high. Brocton headed over another half chance before Matt Dudley was forced to scramble the ball away inside the box close to the goal-line. Brocton had a goal correctly disallowed for offside before Stafford made a final throw of the dice to get something from the match with fifteen minutes to go; however their switch to a 3-5-2 formation did little to change their fortunes and the pattern of the match remained the same. The final five minutes saw an inviting Wilson free kick into the box that was lacking a header and a cut back from the left by Scott that also evaded a number of Stafford players in the box. Brocton continued to manage the game and saw out the five minutes or so of injury time with little concern as Stafford were left frustrated with their performance in such an important fixture. FT 1-0 Brocton. Stafford now turn their attention to the Macron Cup First Round match against near neighbours Eccleshall at Evans Park on Tuesday 5th April, who Stafford recently defeated in the First Division Challenge Cup on penalties. The winners this time will progress immediately to the Third Round due to the withdrawals of Ellesmere Rangers and St. Martins from the competition, setting up a trip to Congleton Town, 9th place finishers in the North West Counties Premier Division, one league above.
Highlights can be found at Stafford Town TV: https://youtu.be/-NExOICk60s