Stafford Town began their pre-season in fine style with a deserved 2-0 victory at Evans Park over their local rivals from higher up the football pyramid, Stafford Rangers, which will be viewed as somewhat of an upset by many. Town had much the better of the match as Rangers looked devoid of attacking spark, whilst Town looked especially threatening in the first half and could have added to their tally during this period. Rangers’ faithful may point to the fact that Town are perhaps further ahead in their preparations for the upcoming season, but despite Rangers fielding a fresh eleven players in the second half they were unable to wear down an ever improving Town side that also ran Rangers close in a narrow 1-0 defeat in the Staffordshire Senior Cup last season. Town settled quickly, Nathan Scott getting in down the right in just the 4th minute and cutting in along the bye-line before squaring the ball, only to see it cut out at the last moment. Rangers were guilty of aimlessly going long and giving the ball back to Town, a tenth minute header from a corner that was wide of the target the best they appeared able to muster. The Town defence of Matt Dudley, Charlie Swingwood, Henry Smith and Ben Douglas were also keeping an excellent defensive line, Rangers caught offside on numerous occasions. Town were passing the ball well through midfield whilst Scott in particular caused major headaches for Rangers, getting down the right again and firing a low cross that was somehow not turned home at the back post, before Declan Arber went close with a header moments later. Arber then released Scott with a superb flick in the 17th minute, leading to another cross to the backpost that was wasted. The pressure from Town eventually paid dividends in the 21st minute, Rangers switching off on a corner that Josh Wilson Jr played short to Scott before having the ball returned and lofting a cross to the backpost that was headed home by Ryan Taylor. Rangers attempt to turn the ball goalwards from a corner of their own a minute later saw the effort go over the bar, before Arber had two shots blocked on consecutive attacks following low crosses from the right by ‘Kaz’ Danilian and Wilson Jr respectively. Scott then went close after sneaking in at the near post to get on the end of a cross by Taylor in the 27th minute. Rangers had a good strike from distance in anger in the 34th minute but fortunately for Town the effort was right down the middle and easily turned away by Zak Noble in goal. Town doubled their lead in the 38th minute; a diagonal ball out to Scott on the right by Swingwood was flicked towards the box, leading to a mix-up between the Rangers defenders and ‘keeper, allowing Arber to toe the ball away and roll it into an empty net. HT 2-0 Stafford Town. Rangers made eleven changes for the start of the second half as Town made just three - Ben Wood replaced by newcomer Callum White after a superb industrious performance in midfield and Douglas and Arber replaced by Josh Wilson Sr and Josh Oultram respectively, both players returning from long term injury layoffs to the delight of the Town faithful. Town made another slight reshuffle ten minutes into the half as youngster Huewlan Wright was introduced at the back for Smith. After another low cross from the right by Scott was cut out in the 56th minute, Rangers had a shot deflected wide for a corner two minutes later as Town put their bodies on the line. Oultram should then have done better after he was released by a diagonal ball from Scott, a weak finish suggestive of his rustiness after injury. Oultram was then set free down the left by Danilian in the 65th minute, the lack of attacking bodies in the box forcing a shot from a tight angle that was wide. Swingwood was then forced into a decisive sliding block to scupper a dangerous Rangers attack from the right in the 68th minute. Although Rangers had improved slightly in the second half, one would have expected fatigue to become an issue when facing eleven fresh pairs of legs but Town still looked relatively untroubled, Rangers only managing to drag a shot well wide and flick a corner over the bar as Town managed the last twenty minutes without incident to claim a deserved win, Will Bates also seeing some first team action after some good performances at the end of the last campaign. FT 2-0 Stafford Town. Pre-season continues apace next week for Stafford Town with a midweek away fixture at Wellington Amateurs on Wednesday 6th July, followed by a home match against Lye Town on Saturday 9th July at Evans Park.
Best of the action can be found on Stafford Town TV: