Deflated Badgers put in fine display

The ball hits the roof of the Stafford net as Eastwood open the scoring.
The ball hits the roof of the Stafford net as Eastwood open the scoring.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blue Square Bet North

STAFFORD RANGERS 0

EASTWOOD TOWN 2

Lee Stevenson 14

Peter Knox 90

EASTWOOD produced a defiant performance to overcome struggling Stafford on Tuesday - just hours after discovering their play-off hopes had been extinguished.

It was testament to the dedication and professionalism of the Eastwood players that they should produce such a fine display to beat a spirited Rangers side who knew a win would take them out of the bottom two.

And it was the hosts who started brightly, as Andre Francis had the first chance, capitalising on a mistake by David Haggerty and driving just over.

Stafford keeper Lee Evans then handed a chance to Chris Shaw with a clearance but his goalward header wasn’t quite high enough and the keeper redeemed himself.

The Badgers took the lead in the 14th minute after a series of corners. From the last, Haggerty powered his header goalwards and Lee Stevenson flicked the ball past Evans and despite the best efforts of Mark Dudley the ball flew into the net.

Five minutes later Evans kept his side in the game with a wonderful save from Meikle who controlled, turned and hit a shot aimed for the top corner only to see Evans tip it over.

From the corner Haggerty hit the crossbar with a powerful header.

In Eastwood’s very next attack, Sean Kinsella shepherded Lindon Meikle out wide before giving away another corner. Again Haggerty was on the end with a diving header and once again rattled the Stafford crossbar.

With the game pretty much all one way traffic, Andy Todd and Matt Rhead combined to free Meikle and his chip just cleared the goal, and Todd and Jon D’Laryea had shots blocked in a goalmouth melee moments later.

Former Redditch striker Marco Adaggio brought a good save out of John Danby in the 31st minute and Kinsella wasted a good opportunity after Francis picked him out with a cross.

In the dying moments of the first-half Stevenson and Meikle did well to free Todd down the right and his cross was met by Rhead but Evans prevented the Badgers going in two up at the break.

Within a minute of the restart Stevenson tried to chip a hopelessly stranded Evans who was caught off his line. Fortunately for the keeper the ball just cleared the crossbar.

A late flag then prevented Meikle bearing down on goal but there were signs that Stafford were gaining a foothold in the game.

Kinsella fired wide from 35 yards and the Eastwood defence stood firm blocking three shots on goal as they struggled to clear a Stafford attack.

With Stafford enjoying a spell of possession the Badgers were able to hit them on the counter. Michael Simpson’s superb ball down the line found Meikle who went around former Eastwood player Craig McAugtrie on the touchline before teeing up Stevenson but Jermaine Johnson managed to block his goal bound shot.

The industrious Luke Keen then chased a long punt forward, turned back inside and tried his luck from just outside the penalty area. Although Danby had it covered it took a bad bounce off the surface, deceiving the keeper but going wide.

Stafford’s best chance came in the 76th minute when Francis lifted a hopeful ball into the box, Russell Cooke left it, presumably for Danby, and Keen snook in but saw his glancing header hit the outside of the post and bounce out to safety.

In a frantic last ten minutes it was all Stafford with Eastwood hitting them on the counter attack, although with only one goal in it, the Badgers never looked comfortable.

Dudley needed to be alert and cleared for safety with Knox only a breath away and the next attack saw a lucky let off for Evans as his attempted clearance hit PEter Knox but bounced to safety with no Eastwood players nearby.

Stafford’s final chance saw Keen drive against Cooke’s body, the ball rebounding favourably to Kinsella who lacked composure and drove widely.

Simpson then picked out Knox on the edge of the box and he beat his marker and found Todd racing into the area but his shot sizzled just over the bar.

The goal that settled the contest was a beauty with Stafford throwing everything at the Eastwood defence.

Haggerty produced an important tackle on the edge of the Eastwood area and Stevenson carried the ball the full length of the pitch before finding Knox far right of the area. Knox controlled the cut back before curling the ball into the far top corner leaving Evans clutching at thin air.

Eastwood: 1 John Danby 2 Russell Cooke 3 Chris Shaw 4 Michael Simpson (c) (Emeka Nwadike 90) 5 David Haggerty 6 Adie Hawes 7 Jon D’Laryea 8 Lee Stevenson 9 Lindon Meikle (Peter Knox 75) 10 Matt Rhead 11 Andy Todd

Subs not used: Anton Foster, Paul Riley, Adam Muller

Att: 338 Ref: C Kavanagh

Best Badger: David Haggerty.