|NPL Premier Division
Stafford Rangers’s fans have had little to shout about this season but this victory over play off hopefuls Guiseley will give them hope that their favourites can avoid relegation from the Northern Premier League Premier Division.
Rangers will have taken heart from the point gained at Hyde United a week earlier and went into the game with the same starting XI. The only change was on the substitute’s bench where George Burroughs replaced Niah Payne who has moved to Ossett United on loan.
On a bright sunny afternoon, the Boro made a bright start and both Sean Cooke and Isaac Lee had shots blocked – the latter’s effort seemingly by the hands of Luke Mariette but referee Richard Walker wasn’t interested. The man in black had a difficult afternoon trying to control a physical match but did himself few favours.
Joe Willis also tried his luck on goal from just outside the Guiseley penalty area and Oliver Battersby was forced to go low to his left to turn the ball out for a corner.
Having kept Rangers out during the opening spell, Guiseley went close through Jameel Ibel who fired just over. The visitors settled into the game and controlled play for long periods although they were restricted to just a couple of clear chances which saw Kallan Murphy denied by an excellent save from Cam Belford and Michael Afuye shoot across the face of the Stafford goal.
Guiseley created the first opportunity of the second half but Belford stuck out a foot to keep out Reece Kendall’s shot.
Throughout the first half, Stafford striker Kaiman Anderson had been manhandled every time he went anywhere near the ball but he finally managed to get away from Ible to latch on to a pass from Ben Woods although, moving away from goal, he sent his shot over the bar.
Woods was the man on the mark as Rangers opened the scoring on 55 minutes with the midfielder sliding in to convert a low centre from Connor Heath.
Aiden Walker tried to divert a long range free kick past Belford but the Stafford keeper was alert to the danger.
At the other end, Anderson got away from Ible again only to send his rising shot just over the Guiseley bar.
Guiseley sent on Gabriel Johnson and Tom Denton and, with five minutes of normal time remaining, the two front men combined to bring the scores level. Johnson crossed from the left and the latter used his height advantage to steer his header past Belford.
With both sides in need of points to maintain their fight at the respective ends of the table, the game remained open.
Tyreece Onyeka looked set to grab a winner only to be denied by a well timed challenge from Jordi Nsaka in the Guiseley area.
But the winner did come. Two minutes in to added time, Onyeka – on for Heath – found space on the right and sent in a low ball which Ible failed to deal with. Guiseley keeper Battersby could only parry and Anderson reacted quickest to fire into the roof of the net.
The referee played an additional ten minutes of added time, during which Guiseley’s Leigh Whelan fired over after seeing Belford make a goal line stop from his initial effort.
Rangers held on to complete their first win of 2024 and close the gap to safety to just three points.
Stafford Rangers: 1 Cam Belford, 2 Andy Burns, 3 Jack Stafford, 4 Owen German, 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 Isaac Lee, 7 Ben Woods, 8 Joe Willis, 9 Kaiman Anderson, 10 Sean Cooke (15 George Burroughs 90+5m), 11 Connor Heath (14 Tyreece Onyeka 77m). Unused Subs: 12 A-Jay Leitch-Smith, 13 Jack Sandel, 16 Lewis Porter
Guiseley: 1 Oliver Battersby, 2 Oliver Brown (17 Jordi Nsaka 46m), 3 Reece Kendall, 4 Leigh Whelan, 5 Aiden Walker, 6 Jameel Ibel, 7 Oluwagbenga (Michael) Afuye (15 Tom Denton 66m), 8 Prince Ekpolo, 9 Kallan Murphy, 10 Luke Mariette, 11 Kofi Moore (Gabriel Johnson 56m). Unused Subs 12 Liam Tonge, 16 Adam Dawson
Referee: Richard Walker
Cautions: Cam Belford, German, Lee, Cooke, Dale Belford (Stafford), Walker, Murphy, Tongue (Guiseley)
Report by Chris Elsley
KO KO 19 45 55 56 58 66 76 77 82 84 85 86 93 95 FT