Evo-Stik Northern Premier League | Saturday 16 February 2019

Stafford Rangers picked up their first home win in two months in a tense battle against Bamber Bridge, a win that was enough to lift them above local rivals Hednesford Town in to 18th place. Rangers recalled Joe Cuff to the starting line up with new signing Paul Bignot taking a place on the substitutes bench. Missing from the 16 who lost at Scarborough a week earlier were Jed Davies and Andrai Jones.

There was a minute’s applause before kick off as tribute was paid to the late Gordon Banks and it was somewhat fitting that the two keepers on show in this Evo-Stik League encounter should put on a fine display to keep their respective sides in the contest. Bamber Bridge’s Lloyd Rigby was easily the busier of the two in the opening 45 minutes – a half dominated by Rangers – although he only made one significant save and that from the head of one of his own team-mates.

Rangers went on the attack from the start and, in the 3rd minute, a good ball hooked through from Jake Charles sent Cuff away in the inside left channel, but the young midfielder skewed his shot wide of the target. Five minutes later, Charles himself went wide from around 25 yards after Tom Thorley’s long throw had put the home side under pressure. Theo Bailey-Jones was next to have a look in, but he failed to produce the goods from the edge of the D after getting into a promising position. But, the early pressure finally produced some reward in the 11th minute when another Thorley throw fell to Charles with a yard of space, he made no mistake.

Cuff missed out on another good opportunity when Luke Jones’ long ball had Brig’s Matt Lawlor beaten – this time the Rangers man was unable to get in a shot and Rigby gathered up. A late challenge on Matt Hill by Danny Forbes earned the visiting midfielder the games’ only caution and from the free kick, only a fine tip over from Rigby prevented Forbes from heading into his own net.

Brig were always going to have their moments although they were few in the first half. Dan Burns made a good block to deny Alistair Waddecar – he scored four goals in his side’s 6-1 win when the two teams met earlier in the season – but it was Lawlor who squandered their best opportunity when he skied over following Matt Dudley’s free kick.

Having dominated so much of the play, it was appropriate that Rangers would end the half on top, but they went in at the break with just their one goal advantage after Cuff missed another two chances that fell his way while Burns’ header landed on the roof of the net. Whatever was said in the visitors’ dressing room during the interval must have hit home as Brig were the first to show at the start of the second half. They should have levelled just a couple of minutes after the restart when recent signing Scott Harries was put in by Waddecar, but he was denied by the feet of Rangers’ keeper Adam Siviter.

Stafford responded and Rigby tipped another over his crossbar – this time from Bailey-Jones, then, an error from Callum Spooner opened the door for Rangers once more before Lawlor made an important tackle to halt Charles. Rigby was Brig’s saviour again when he raced out of his area to beat Cuff to a pass from Charles while Thorley skied over from Charles’ lay off. But the visitors were still in the contest and piled on the pressure in the closing stages and Waddecar struck the post from a tight angle after a good ball from Harries.

A couple of minutes later, it was Stafford’s turn to be denied by the framework as Rigby somehow managed to get a fingertip to divert Andy Haworth’s rocket shot on to the crossbar. The Stafford sub is still searching for his first goal for the club having been on the scoresheet against Stafford when playing for Brig earlier in the season. But it was Siviter who produced what was ultimately the match winning save as he kept out Waddecar with a couple of minutes remaining after the Brig veteran was clean through.

Stafford Rangers: 1 Adam Siviter, 2 Sim Thandi, 3 Matt Hill, 4 Luke Jones, 5 Dan Burns, 6 Jack Sherratt (15 Louis Briscoe 67m), 7 Theo Bailey-Jones, 8 Tom Thorley, 9 Jake Charles, 10 Peter Williams (14 Sam Coulson 79m), 11 Joe Cuff (12 Andy Haworth 67m). Unused Subs: 16 Ben Mills, 17 Paul Bignot

Bamber Bridge: 1 Lloyd Rigby, 2 Callum Spooner, 3 Adam Dodd, 4 Matt Lawlor, 5 James McCarten, 6 Daniel Wisdom (16 Mark Buchan 83m), 7 Alistair Waddecar, 8 Danny Forbes (14 Chris Churchman 61m), 9 Matthew Dudley, 10 Scott Harries, 11 Regan Linney (15 Ben Thomas 73m). Unused Subs: 12 Phil Doughty, 17 Danny Roccia (gk)

Cautions: Forbes (Bamber Bridge)

Referee: Richard Walker

Att: 552

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