Stafford Town began life in the North West Counties Division 1 South with a thrilling 4-3 defeat to Ellesmere Rangers at Evans Park. Despite the result, Stafford will take great encouragement from many aspects of their performance and on another day the result could well have been in their favour. Stafford began the game brightly, Nathan Scott putting in some dangerous looking balls from the right and the front pair of Josh Wilson and Ryan Taylor also looking a threat. Stafford took the lead in the 13th minute, Wilson playing a ball behind the Ellesmere defence for Taylor and although he could not find the angle for the shot, the ball found its way back to Wilson who curled the ball home into the near top corner. Two minutes later, some neat interplay between Taylor and Sean Kinsella saw Wilson fouled in the box for a penalty. Unfortunately for Stafford however, the Ellesmere ‘keeper correctly guessed the direction of Kinsellas effort, springing to his left to make the save. Ellesmere responded to the penalty scare and began to settle into the game before dissent saw an Ellesmere player sent to the sin bin for ten minutes. However, just a minute after John Pollard missed a back post header from a corner, Ellesmere equalised in the 26th minute. A free-kick into the box was initially headed clear but the return ball to the back post was scrambled across the six yard box and into the net level to the scores. Ellesmere were now having their best spell in the game but Stafford were still making chances, Taylor having an effort expertly tipped over and Ryan Bradshaw and Matt Dudley both heading wide from corners. In the 41st minute an Ellesmere long-throw into the box proved difficult to clear, eventually leading to a shot across goal to give the visitors the lead. Following another dangerous shot from Ellesmere that was just wide, the last attack of the half saw Stafford equalise; hard work by Pollard preventing a goal kick before he crossed for Taylor to head home. HT 2-2. The game continued in much the same vein as the first half, Scott seeing his early shot across goal tipped wide for a corner. Stafford were then indebted to ‘keeper Henry Smith, brilliantly saving and smothering a close range effort following a neat Ellesmere one-two on the edge of the box. Both sides were battling hard for the win, Stafford missing two more good headed chances following crosses by Taylor and Ellesmere firing a free-kick into the wall from what looked a very dangerous central position. With ten minutes to go Ellesmere were awarded a penalty, the referee judging Kinsella to have made sufficient contact with his man in the box, though it looked harsh from Stafford’s point of view. The spot-kick was dispatched down the middle to give Ellesmere the lead, which was doubled five minutes later when another long throw into the box was only half cleared, a follow-up shot finding its way into the goal with Smith unsighted and although the referee discussed the possibility of an offside with the linesman the goal was awarded. There was still plenty of time for more action, a cross by Kinsella in the 90th minute finding its way to substitute Sheikh Barrow at the back post, his neat control and finish setting up a tense five minutes of injury time but despite their best efforts Stafford were unable to find an equaliser. FT 4-3 Ellesmere Rangers. Stafford will be looking to bounce back on Tuesday night as they welcome Alsager Town to Evans Park before travelling to the home of Welsh Champions TNS to take on St. Martins on Saturday 7th August.
As usual the best of the match footage can be found at our YouTube channel Stafford Town TV using the link below;