Stafford Town have their first point of the 2022-2023 season, following a frustrating 1-1 midweek draw with Shropshire-based Ellesmere Rangers at Evans Park. After a seemingly promising start, Stafford fell behind to a poor goal and despite equalising before halftime through Nathan Scott; they were unable to raise their level of performance to find a winner, whilst the visitors appeared content with a point and looked to slow the game down at every opportunity. Stafford actually began the game quite well, having the majority of possession without creating clear openings as Ellesmere dropped off and looked to hold their shape, allowing Stafford to build from the back. Ryan Taylor had a third minute shot saved and cleared at the near post after he was found with a lofted ball into the box. Ellesmere then had a shot of their own blocked after a free kick into the left channel resulted in a cut back into the area, before placing another free kick over the bar shortly after. In the 16th minute a cut back from the left by ‘Kaz’ Danilian to Josh Wilson Jr ended with a lay-off to Callum White on the edge of the box but his shot was partially blocked and saved. Ellesmere had offered little from open play but looked a threat from set pieces and Stafford’s promising start was undone a minute later; an Ellesmere long throw into the box deflecting into the net off the hand of ‘keeper Joe Williams as he attempted to come through a crowd of bodies to punch clear. Two minutes later, a ball flashed across the Ellesmere goal from the right hit Josh Oultram in the chest and fell for a follow up that was off target. The game then entered a quiet period as Ellesmere took every opportunity to slow the game down, affecting Stafford’s rhythm and as a consequence the game became scrappy. Ellesmere should have doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, putting a free header over the bar from close range after a counter. Danilian had been struggling with his final ball all half, but in the 35th minute he picked out Scott with a lofted diagonal pass that sent him into the box, smashing the ball home for the equaliser. In the final minute of the half, a neat flick by Taylor released Wilson through the middle but his low shot across goal was unfortunately with his weaker right foot and the ‘keeper managed to save with an outstretched boot and the ball was cleared. HT 1-1. Stafford were forced into a change of shape for the second half as injury niggles for Danilian and Ravel Wallace led to the introduction of Ben Wood and Sean Kinsella in midfield as White dropped into defence as part of a back three. Declan Arber was also introduced for Huewlan Wright and he joined Oultram upfront. Charlie Swingwood was forced to head a promising Ellesmere cross over the bar early in the half, Stafford becoming frustrated as they dominated the ball but struggled to create a clear chance to threaten the Ellesmere goal. Ellesmere appeared content with the point, allowing Stafford possession and perhaps hoping they would over-commit and allow a goal on the counter. Ellesmere almost got their wish in the 69th minute, a cut back from the left reached an unmarked player in the box with the goal at his mercy but his touch was poor and the ball was cleared. In the 78th minute a Stafford corner dropped for a shot in the box that appeared to be goal-bound but it was blocked and cleared. As the game entered the final minutes Stafford were wary of conceding a late goal and were forced to see off successive corners before the end. Stafford’s frustration was perhaps evident by a number of yellow cards for stupid fouls, as the referee seemingly deemed everything worthy of a caution despite there not being a bad tackle in the entire match. FT 1-1. Stafford find themselves without a game on Saturday 6th August as FA Cup and Edward Case Cup matches take precedence, Stafford having a First Round bye in the latter. Consequently, they have a whole week to prepare for a midweek away game against Staffordshire rivals Rocester on Tuesday 9th August, a match they hope can kickstart their season.