Nantwich Town staged the latest of late comebacks to secure a crucial 2-1 victory over Stafford Rangers at the Weaver Stadium.
Two goals in added on time from Joel Stair and Sean Cooke pulled three points from almost nowhere after Jon Moran had given Stafford the lead.
Before the game, the bumper Boxing Day crowd of 508 paid tribute to the life of Ivan Robertson, taking part in a warm minutes’ applause for the loyal club servant and true Dabber.
The Dabbers had the better of a rather drab first half, both sets of players struggling with a difficult pitch not helped by driving rain throughout.
The early part of the game was punctuated with stoppages for fouls on Nantwich players in promising areas, it was Sean Cooke who was on free kick duty, and it was he who came closest on 13 minutes, bending a dead ball effort towards the top corner only to be palmed over well by Stafford keeper Lewis King.
Another Cooke free kick also came close, a low one this time flashing wide.
A solid Stafford almost opened the scoring on the verge of half time, a header from a corner being cleared off his own goal line by Joe Davis as the teams went in level.
The home team didn’t learn their lesson from that warning, and on 66 minutes they were punished for it.
A Rangers corner was cleared out to the dangerous Bradley Grayson, who was allowed to cut onto his left foot and curl an inswinging cross onto the head of former Dabber Jon Moran who was unmarked and could not miss.
Dave Cooke’s men looked to respond quickly, and just five minutes later Ricardo Fuller struck the post with a powerful header from an excellent Joe Mwasile cross.
On the 80 minute mark, Nantwich were breathing a huge sigh of relief as Stafford saw a goal ruled out for offside, a goal that would surely have handed them the game.
A key turning point came just a couple of minutes later. Sam Coulson cynically brought down Fuller as he lead a Dabbers counter and earned himself a second yellow card to give Nantwich a man advantage heading into the final stages.
Time ticked on and it was hard to see where a goal was going to come from. Five minutes stoppage time were signalled and in the first of those, sub Will Saxon spurned a glorious opportunity, mistiming a header from close in and spooning it over, and that looked like game over.
From somewhere, the Dabbers found that extra bit of quality they had been missing all game, and in the 93rd minute, Joel Stair sneaked in round the back post to deftly head in a hopeful cross and grab an equaliser.
Stair wasn’t satisfied with this, he made sure the ball was grabbed from the net and sprinted back to the centre line. The crowd believed too, and in the dying embers they were rewarded.
A move down the right hand side saw a Stafford defender slide in to clear, but he only deflected the ball into the path of Cooke, who took one touch to steady himself, and one to fire in across King to win the game.
The final whistle arrived only moments later, sealing a vital three points in a match Ivan would surely have appreciated.
(For video highlights, click the video at the bottom of this page)
Nantwich Town: Hall, Offord, Devine, Davis (Saxon, 79) Langley, Stair, Lawrie (C), Webb, Malkin (Mwasile, 57), Cooke, Fuller (Saudners, 86)
Subs not used: Bourne, Griggs
Goals: Stair 90+3, Cooke 90+5′
Stafford Rangers: King (C), Green, Hill, Moran, D Burns, Harvey (J Burns, 51), Hawkins (Yonsian, 63), Coulson, Charles, Grayson (Davies, 86), Sherratt
Subs not used: Berks, White
Goal: Moran, 66
Red Card: Couslon, 82