|25/11/2023||3:00 pm||NPL Premier Division||2023/2024||Sat||533|
Stafford Rangers’ winless run extended to twelve league games following their latest reverse, away to Ilkeston Town.
Caretaker manager Dale Belford picked the same starting XI that had held Brackley before going out on penalties in the FA Trophy a week earlier. One absentee from the list of substitutes was Aaron Braithwaite who has returned to Grimsby Town. Belford also retained his unusual shirt numbering system.
Neither side created much in a fairly even opening until Jamie Walker saw his header glance off the intersection of bar and post following a patient build up that saw Tom Marshall feature prominently.
Shortly after, Rangers went close as Nathan Blissett stooped to head Ben Woods’ corner. The ball struck the arm of home defender Sam Parker but referee Alistair Wilson waved away Stafford’s penalty claims.
L’Varn Brandy was causing Rangers problems on the Ilkeston left and, on one occasion, he forced Cam Belford to save at the second attempt.
The home side began to take a better foothold on the game as Declan Eratt-Thompson went just wide with a free kick while Zak Goodson fired over when well placed.
But Rangers had their own chances and another penalty appeal was turned down when Luke Cox pulled back Blissett as he tried to get on the end of another corner from Woods.
It was, however, Ilkeston who got the breakthrough on 38 minutes. Rangers failed to clear their lines despite more than one opportunity to do so and Walker picked out Waite who easily headed home.
On the stroke of half time, Belford did well to keep out a 25 yard drive from Eratt-Thompson.
Brandy and Walker both went close to doubling the lead early in the second half before Rangers had further cause to feel aggrieved at the decision making of the match officials.
Sam Bird’s free kick struck the base of the post but with the goal at his mercy, Blissett could only manage to send the loose ball back towards the stranded Matthew Yates.
The Ilkeston keeper clawed the ball away but the consensus of those nearest to the action was that the ball had crossed the line. Unfortunately those that mattered didn’t agree.
To add salt into the wounds, James Perch doubled Ilkeston’s lead on 71 minutes when he slammed home the loose ball after Eratt-Thompson’s free kick. Once again chances to clear the danger were missed by the Stafford defence.
A positive moment for Stafford came when substitute Ethan Morgan reduced the deficit with 10 minutes remaining but Rangers never looked like salvaging a point from the game.
Instead, it was Ilkeston who pressed and, after being denied by Belford moments earlier, Ben Starkie completed the scoring in the 89th minute via route one, latching on to a long clearance from Yates to fire past the Stafford keeper.
The result leaves Rangers with their worst run since a 12 match winless run in the Blue Square Premier in the back end of the 2007/8 season. Earlier in that same season, Rangers went 16 games without success.
Ilkeston Town: 1 Matthew Yates, 2 Thomas Marshall, 3 Sam Parker, 4 Connor Dixon (16 Callum Minkley 90+1m), 5 James Perch, 6 Luke Cox, 7 L’Varn Brandy, 8 Declan Eratt-Thompson, 9 Tyrell Waite (17 Alex Marshall 65m), 10 Zak Goodson (14 Ben Starkie 69m), 11 Jamie Walker. Unused Subs 12 Koby Eratt-Thompson, 18 Liam Loughlan.
Stafford: 1 Cam Belford, 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 Simon Njaria, 9 Nathan Blissett, 10 Kaiman Anderson (4 Ethan Morgan 53m), 11 Joe Willis, 12 Niah Payne (2 James Carvell 61m), 14 Andy Burns, 15 Taylor McMahon, 16 Sam Bird, 17 Ben Woods (8 Tyreece Onyeka 79m) Unused Subs: 3 Jay Ford, 7 Braulio ‘Edy’ Maieco.
Referee: Alistair Wilson
Report by Chris Elsley
KO KO 37 53 61 61 68 71 79 79 89 90 FT