A stoppage time penalty cost Stafford Rangers the victory they needed to ensure their survival while keeping the title hopes alive for South Shields. The visitors enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes without managing a shot on target – the nearest claim they had to such an attempt came when Nathan Lowe’s effort was charged down on the edge of the area.
At the other end, the Stafford attack – featuring Ben Mills starting a league game for the first time since his return – was working hard but getting little change from the Shields defence. That all changed on 25 minutes when Rangers took the lead – somewhat against the balance of play. Tom Thorley’s long throw from the left was flicked on by Luke Jones and Theo Bailey-Jones side footed home from around 6 yards out for his 9th goal of the season.
Robert Briggs attempted to bring Shields back level with a shot from distance that Adam Siviter was able to gather although any sort of contact from Luke Daly might have produced a different outcome. Bailey-Jones went close to a second with a 25 yarder that Liam Connell tipped over then the Shields’ keeper smothered the ball at the near post after good work from Mills along the by-line. The last action of the half came from South Shields with Siviter again saving from Briggs.
As with the start of the first half, Shields looked the most likely scorers at the start of the second. Briggs wasted a good chance in the first minute with a poor free kick then Siviter denied David Foley with a superb save after Daly had put the Shields man through on goal. After Thorley went just over for Stafford with a 30-yard free kick, Daly wasted another good chance for the visitors when he shot wide after a long ball from Jon Shaw put him in behind the Stafford defence. But Stafford pressed a second and, in the last 5 minutes, sub Joe Cuff went wide from 15 yards when he should have hit the target. Soon after, Cuff supplied Jake Charles but his lob over Connell skimmed the outside of the post. They were to prove costly misses. With the game in stoppage time, Siviter spoiled an otherwise faultless performance when he dropped a high ball on the edge of his area. The scramble that followed saw Shields awarded a penalty after Siviter pulled back Josh Gillies and Briggs dispatched from the spot to earn his side a share of the spoils.
Stafford: 1 Adam Siviter, 2 Paul Bignot, 3 Sim Thandi, 4 Luke Jones, 5 Dan Burns, 6 Andrai Jones, 7 Theo Bailey-Jones (15 Andy Haworth 67m), 8 Tom Thorley, 9 Jake Charles, 10 Jed Davies (16 Jack Sherratt 67m), 11 Ben Mills (14 Joe Cuff 80m). Subs 12 Sam Coulson, 17 Louis Briscoe
South Shields: 1 Liam Connell, 2 Craig Baxter (12 Blair Adams 68m), 3 Darren Lough, 4 Jon Shaw, 5 Dillon Morse, 6 Nathan Lowe, 7 David Foley (16 Josh Gillies 63m), 8 Robert Briggs, 9 Ben Harmison, 10 Luke Daly, 11 Connor Bell (17 Lee Mason 81m), Subs, 14 Ursene Mouanda, 15 Philip Turnbull,.
Cautions: BIgnot, L Jones (Rangers) Shaw (South Shields)
Ref: Oliver Mackey
Report by Chris Elsley