Stafford Town began the 2022-2023 season at Evans Park with a 4-2 defeat at the hands of last year’s beaten play-off finalists, New Mills. In a highly competitive, even game, Stafford were 2-1 ahead at one point, before New Mills regained a 3-2 lead and only put the result beyond doubt in the final minute after Stafford missed a number of good chances to equalise. Despite the result, Stafford will be happy that they were able to create a number of chances against a high quality opponent that will be at the top end of the table come the end of the campaign. However, they know they will have to defend better from set-pieces and improve at winning second balls if they wish to advance to the next level. New Mills looked to put Stafford under some early pressure, a low cross from the left in the second minute missing a finish. The visitors then took the lead in spectacular fashion; skipper Darren McKnight putting a free kick into the top corner from 30 yards or so. Joe Williams made another good save in the sixth minute before Josh Oultram levelled for Stafford a minute later as he capitalised to poke the ball home following a mix-up between the New Mills ‘keeper and a defender on the edge of the box. The breathless opening continued as Henry Smith headed in a tenth minute Josh Wilson Jr corner to give Stafford the lead. New Mills were still causing Stafford problems as they consistently got the ball forward into good areas, often through diagonal balls from right to left, keeping full backs Matt Dudley and Harry Bowers busy. New Mills were also looking dangerous from set pieces as they headed over a corner in the 21st minute. Williams was off his line well in the 25th minute to make an excellent save as New Mills powered through the middle of the Stafford defence. The scores were level in the 32nd minute, New Mills heading home in the box from a free kick following some non-existent marking by Stafford. After New Mills curled another free kick across goal, a through ball by Nathan Scott released Oultram but whilst he was able to drive past the ‘keeper as he came out to the edge of the box, a defender somehow recovered to make a last ditch challenge. New Mills were also grateful to the assistant referee for flagging Scott offside on an occasion when he appeared clean through, a decision Stafford felt was incorrect. HT 2-2. Oultram headed an early Stafford corner wide under pressure from a New Mills defender before the visitors retook the lead in the 52nd minute as Stafford failed to win a loose ball in their defensive third, eventually leading to a shot from the edge of the area that deceived Williams to find the back of the net. Stafford introduced Declan Arber for some additional firepower as they looked to level the game and he had a 62nd minute shot blocked in the box after a cut back from the right by ‘Kaz’ Danilian. The game was becoming stretched, New Mills shooting over from distance in the 70th minute and Danilian firing wide for Stafford two minutes later. New Mills then had a shot well saved in the box before a long driving run by Oultram ended with a shot that was also saved. Scott was denied again by an offside call and was also involved in a speculative appeal for a penalty before the best chance for an equaliser came in the 76th minute, Danilian somehow getting free on the right and crossing for the usually deadly Arber who somehow headed over from close range. Stafford continued to press for an equaliser as New Mills looked to finish the game on the break, substitute Callum White volleying just off target before New Mills eventually broke free down the right in the final minute to cut the ball back for a finish from the near the penalty spot. FT 4-2 New Mills. Stafford will look to bounce back quickly with another home match against Ellesmere Rangers on Tuesday 2nd August, the Shropshire side winning both league encounters last season, including a 4-3 victory at Evans Park. Attention then shifts to Tuesday 9th August and a trip to local rivals Rocester, who suffered a heavy opening day defeat that consequently means they are looking for a new manager.
Best of the action as always can be found at Stafford Town TC: https://youtu.be/jefEx7Iw_8U