Nantwich Town started 2017 off on the wrong foot as they lost 1-0 to Stafford Rangers at the Weaver Stadium. The 2 teams struggled to create chances in a scrappy first half, but a mistake at the back allowed Izak Reid in to score after 34 minutes. The Dabbers turned up the pressure in the 2nd half, with Matt Bell hitting the inside of the post and Ryan Brooke shooting just wide.
Things went from bad to worse though as Dave Parton was sent off for allegedly handling outside the area 15 minutes from time. Despite a late goalmouth scramble from a corner, the Dabbers couldn’t force their way back into the game, and it meant they slipped to back to back defeats.
The main talking point in the lead up to the game was the weather, as a frost set in overnight and put the game in doubt. However, thanks to the fabulous efforts of groundsman Pete Temmen, who worked tirelessly to protect the surface, the pitch was deemed playable and the game went ahead.
Phil Parkinson made 3 changes from the side that lost out to Workington on Boxing Day. Ben Harrison, Theo Stair and Oliver Finney returned to the team, with Joel Stair, Osebi Abadaki and Wayne Riley making way respectively. Stafford named former Dabbers Mat Bailey and Josh Gordon in their starting XI, with the recently departed Tim Sanders on the bench.
The Dabbers started the game brightly, with them forcing an early corner and looking to get on the ball. Joe Mwasile had the first sight of goal, as he beat his man on the left, but could only drag his shot wide. Stafford hit back though, as Perry got in behind the Dabbers defence. His cross couldn’t find a team mate and Parton grabbed the loose ball.
Matt Bell sidefooted weakly at Stafford keeper Adam Whitehouse as both teams struggled to create clear chances. Ryan Brooke showed great persistence to charge down a Whitehouse clearance, but the ball hit his arm and the ref gave a free kick.
Stafford were presented with a good chance on 23 minutes when Perry was awarded a free kick on the edge of the Dabbers box. The free kick was blasted into the wall and away from danger. At the other end, Finney did well to get a cross into the box, but Brooke couldn’t get clean contact on the ball and it went straight at Whitehouse.
Brooke then had a shot blocked inside the 6 yard box after Mwasile found him on the left. With both teams exchanging half chances, a Stafford cross just evaded Kyle Perry in the box. The game needed a goal and the away side were the one to get it. Sam Hall played a ball across his own box and Izak Reid got in ahead of Ben Harrison. He then calmly beat Dave Parton to give Rangers a somewhat fortunate lead.
Stafford had their tails up and started to turn up the pressure. Parton had to be alert to save 2 long range shots, with Rangers also forcing a number of corners. The Dabbers were able to see what had been a tough first half out down just a single goal.
The Dabbers started the 2nd half much better. Theo Stair went close to an equaliser as Whitehouse tipped his goal bound shot wide of the post. He was subbed shortly afterwards, with veteran striker Steve Jones coming on in his place. Bell then had another effort, but again it was easy pickings for Whitehouse. JUst before the hour mark, Parky made his 2nd change, bringing on Josh Hancock for Mwasile.
Ryan Brooke went into the book for a late foul on James Bowen. Stafford were starting to hit on the counter, with Gordon and Batchelor making use of the extra space in the Nantwich half. Gordon forced Parton into a smart save down low. With 25 minutes to go, Parky made his final change, bringing on Osebi Abadaki for Oli Finney. Former Dabbers Tim Sanders came on for Stafford at the same time, replacing Perry.
With just over 20 minutes to go, the Dabbers came within inches of levelling the score. Bell picked up the ball and from fully 25 yards out, he hit a fizzing shot on goal. Unfortunately for him, it beat the keeper but not the post, rebounding off the inside of the woodwork and out to safety. Stafford immediately counter attacked and Curtis Jones had to foul Gordon on the edge of the box.
With 15 minutes to go, the Dabbers task was made harder when Parton was sent off. He came racing out of his goal to clear a long ball and it hit his midriff. The ref made the instant judgement that he handled outside the box, thus denying Gordon a clear goalscoring opportunity. Parton protested his case but to no avail. With no subs available and no back up keeper anyway, Curtis Jones had to don the gloves and go in goal.
Stafford were now shooting on sight, trying to catch out the defender-cum-goalkeeper. A shot from distance was well held by the new keeper. The Dabbers were trying to get back into the game, but found it difficult to create chances, with Stafford sitting back and soaking up the pressure.
With 3 minutes to go, the Dabbers somehow didn’t equalise. A corner was floated to the back post and after an almighty scramble, the ball didn’t cross the line and the chance went begging. Steve Jones went into the book for a petulant trip on Bowen as the frustration started to creep in. The final chance for the Dabbers came when a late free kick from the left was blazed over by Hancock. It summed up a disappointing afternoon, as Stafford left South Cheshire with all 3 points.
Nantwich Town: Dave Parton, Andy White, Ibou Touray, Curtis Jones, Ben Harrison, Sam Hall(c), Joe Mwasile(Josh Hancock, 58), Matt Bell, Ryan Brooke, Oliver Finney(Osebi Abadaki, 65), Theo Stair(Steve Jones, 52)
Subs not used: Wayne Riley, Joel Stair
Bookings: Brooke, C.Jones, S.Jones
Sending Off: Parton
Stafford Rangers: Adam Whitehouse, Sam Griffiths, James Bowen, Kieran Morris, Mat Bailey(c), Mitchell Tolley, Izak Reid, Jack Sherratt(Levi Reid, 81), Kyle Perry(Tim Sanders, 65), Josh Gordon, Richard Batchelor
Subs not used: Kris Taylor, Spencer Gunnell, Ezekiel Agyemang
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