Stafford Town’s final home league match of the season proved to be a memorable, high scoring affair as they defeated sixth-placed Cheadle Town 4-3 at a sunny Evans Park. The first half in particular showcased some of the best attacking play that Stafford have produced this season and in truth they could have added to their goal tally but found themselves hanging on towards the end of the game as Cheadle snuck back into the contest and finished strongly, battling hard until the final whistle. Stafford began the game looking sharp in possession but it was Cheadle who had the first meaningful attempts at goal in the opening ten minutes, one shot going wide and Stafford ‘keeper Beau Hudd comfortably saving two more. Stafford took the lead in the eleventh minute with a superb team goal that began with the defence, the ball moved purposefully through the pitch to cut through the Cheadle midfield and backline, culminating in a one-two on the edge of the box for Ryan Taylor to shoot across the goal into the far corner. Cheadle were inexplicably level just over a minute later, Nathan Scott’s attempt to intercept a square pass inside by Cheadle resulted in a deflection that somehow bypassed the entire Stafford defence, falling straight to a Cheadle forward who rolled the ball into the corner. Stafford reclaimed the lead in the 17th minute, the referee playing a good advantage as Scott drove down the right before cutting in at goal and although his initial shot was saved he made no mistake with the rebound, the ball going in via the far post. Stafford appeared to be enjoying themselves and were playing some expansive, free-flowing football in midfield involving Josh Wilson and ‘Kaz’ Danilian as Cheadle also struggled to deal with the interchanging Stafford frontline of Taylor, Scott and Declan Arber. Consecutive attacks down the left ended with a shot by Taylor that was saved and an effort by Arber into the side netting. Charlie Swingwood then almost scored with a close-range header following a series of balls delivered into the box that Cheadle could only partially clear. In the 34th minute another well worked overload down the left resulted in a cross by Ravel Wallace that found the head of a stooping Arber, the ball bouncing past the ‘keeper into the far corner. Cheadle then reminded Stafford they were still in the game as Hudd was required to make two more saves, the second coming after some neat interplay by the visitors on the edge of the box. Stafford should have had another with a minute left in the half, Danilian driving through the middle and getting a shove in the back that looked to be a foul; the referee attempted to play advantage however as the ball rolled through to Scott who assumed he was offside, putting an effort wide when he should have driven closer to goal first. HT 3-1 Stafford Town. There were two chances in the opening five minutes of the second half for Stafford, Arber attempting a chip that was saved for a corner and Scott hitting the post as he met a low Arber cross from the left. Cheadle then wasted a good chance on the break before having a goal disallowed for handball as the ball was scrambled over the line at a corner. A good through ball by Wilson released Scott down the right in the 63rd minute but the cut back was well defended. Arber then got his second of the game and it was no less than Stafford’s play had deserved; an excellent 67th minute break saw Danilian play the ball through to Arber to finish through the legs of the onrushing ‘keeper. Danilian then fired over after another break by Stafford, the effort sandwiched between a Cheadle shot from distance that was saved and another that was over the bar. Cheadle deserve huge credit for continuing to play, all the while sniffing for a small chance to get back into the game and hoping Stafford would wilt under the pressure. As Stafford began to look slightly leggy, the lifeline for the visitors arrived in the 76th minute, Hudd dwelling on the ball a fraction too long and being dispossessed inside the area to set up a simple finish into an empty net. Two minutes later another Cheadle shot in the box was deflected for a corner before substitute Morgan Payne had a shot saved following a Stafford counter attack. Danilian then had a free kick tipped wide with five minutes to go, the resulting short corner delivered to the backpost and leading to a shot into the side netting. A minute later Danilian had another shot just wide from distance before Cheadle scored their third goal in the 91st minute to set up a nervy finish as some incisive interplay on the edge of the Stafford box was converted with a solid finish. Cheadle almost broke Stafford hearts in the 93rd minute; a flick on releasing a Cheadle player for a shot in the box but he fired wide. Stafford now somehow found themselves hanging on after being in complete control of the contest, eventually managing to play out the remaining seconds in the corners to secure a well deserved and much needed three points. FT 4-3 Stafford Town. Stafford’s win sets up what is sure to be an incredible final league match with local rivals Brocton at Silkmore Lane on Saturday 2nd April, with both teams having collected 47 points thus far. Stafford’s poorer goal difference means they must win the match to finish above the Badgers in the table which will not be easy as Brocton have improved in the second half of the season and will not want to lose to the men from Evans Park three times in a single campaign. Stafford will then look to the First Round of the Macron Cup as they take on near neighbours Eccleshall at Evans Park on Tuesday 5th April, having recently overcome the same opponents on penalties in the First Division Challenge Cup.
As always the best of the action can be found here at Stafford Town TV: https://youtu.be/cpEn8kpccbk