Pitching In Northern Premier League
Tuesday 25 January 2022
A gutsy all round display saw Stafford Rangers keep their Play Off hopes alive with victory away to Radcliffe.
Tom Tonks scored the only goal of the game shortly before half time but Rangers had to withstand a late onslaught from the home side to ensure they returned home with maximum points.
Rangers were unchanged from the side that drew at Atherton and started brightly but it was Radcliffe who created the first opening when Tom Miller’s long ball put Luca Navarro in but Andy Burns came across quickly to clear the danger.
Luke Pilling caught a header from Navarro a couple of minutes later before Jack Moore fired into the side netting when well placed.
Navarro, who scored three goals during a short spell with Rangers at the start of the season, tried his luck with a speculative effort from the right touchline, but Pilling wasn’t deceived.
Rangers created an opening on the half hour when Ben Woods beat his man and picked out Tonks but the Rangers’ midfielder produced an “air shot” and the chance passed by.
Rangers’ keeper Pilling was again his side’s saviour when he tipped a shot from Moore over the bar and the Radcliffe no11 missed out again with a poor connection which allowed Pilling to gather.
Tonks’ goal was the finish to a smart Rangers move with an excellent ball from Alex Fletcher picking out Joe Kenton on the right. Kenton centred and Tonks drilled home his 9th goal of the season from around 10 yards out.
Rangers looked comfortably in control of proceedings at the start of the second half and could have extended their lead when home keeper Jack McIntyre picked up a back pass but, from the free kick, Tonks sent his shot skywards and out of the ground.
The home side looked a greater threat after the introduction of Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro and the last 20 minutes saw Rangers have to keep out wave after wave of attacks. A combination of resilient defending and poor finishing saw Rangers through.
Olly Thornley headed straight at Pilling following a corner before Akpa-Akpro hit the bar and Navarro missed his chance with a poor follow up.
Pilling and Burns combined to deny Bobby Grant while Pilling kept out another effort from Akpa-Akpro.
With better finishing, Navarro could have helped himself to a hatful of goals but his night was summed up in added time when he blazed over from 15 yards out.
At the other end, Rangers’ sub Joe Cuff was denied by McIntyre but the final say went to Rangers with Burns and Tonks on hand to keep Radcliffe out during a last ditch game of pin-ball in the Rangers’ area.
Radcliffe: 1 Jack McIntyre, 2 Tom Miller, 18 Taylor Jones, 4 Olly Thornley, 5 Jo Cummings, 6 Simon Lenighan, 7 Luca Navarro, 8 Jack Baxter, 9 John Pritchard (15 Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro 63m), 10 Bobby Grant, 11 Jack Moore. Unused Subs: 12 Tayt Trusty, 13 Joey Oldham, 14 Callum Gribbin, 16 Matthew Crothers
Stafford Rangers: 13 Luke Pilling, 2 Andrew Burns, 3 Ben Woods, 4 Alex-Ray Harvey, 5 Ethan Stewart, 6 Joe Dunne, 7 Joe Kenton (14 Louis Malandjou 90+1m), 8 Tom Tonks, 9 Kaiman Anderson, 10 Alex Fletcher, 11 Michael Tait-Moran (16 Joe Cuff 77m). Unused Subs: 1 Tyrell Belford, 12 Tre Pemberton, 15 Thomas Carr,
Cautions: Pritchard, Thornley (Radcliffe) Anderson (Rangers)
Referee: Gareth Thomas
Report: Chris Elsley