Result: Stamford 2-2 Trafford (Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division)
Venue: The Vic Couzens Stadium (Saturday 16th November 2013-3pm)
Another day, another ground. On this bright, fresh Saturday it was a trip to the Lincolnshire/Rutland border to the historic town of Stamford. As usual when an away trip features Trafford, I boarded the team bus for the 2 and a half hour drive south-east. It was unfortunate that this trip clashed with West Didsbury’s trip to AFC Blackpool, but due to this being the last season Stamford will play at this old ground, it had to be done now, otherwise it would be lost in the annuls of history.
So, after the aforementioned trip was completed, I set off into Stamford Town Centre. After a quick stop off in the St.Mary’s Vault’s pub, which has a separate games room upstairs.
A stop in the Sam Smith’s brewery pub which was being visited by an American couple, showcasing Stamford’s historical attractiveness to tourists, both international and domestic, before on the way to the ground an unscheduled stop at The Golden Fleece was made. Here, I met a trio of Stamford fans, who remarked how similar the two clubs are in size and ambition, and how they would happily take 20th place, as I am sure would be a view shared by their opponents today. The Three Stamfordteers made their way towards their spiritual home past a needle structure in front of the pub. We followed soon after.
On arrival at the ground after a 5-10 minute walk, including playfully trying to get in as u-16’s, ( based on the ages and appearances we have this was highly unlikely!!), I paid the £10 entrance fee, before I was delivered some shocking news. They had ran out of programmes!!! A crowd of around 270 had taken all the programmes. This is a very rare occurrence so high up the pyramid. Happily for myself, I later acquired one from long-term Trafford fan Gaz. Cheers.
Stamford’s Vic Couzen’s Stadium (Kettering Rd) is a small, somewhat crumbling ground which is why the club are moving imminently. It has two small stands, one on either side of the ground. One is all terraced, two rows deep, whilst the other near-sided ‘Main Stand’ is seated, with ‘SAFC’ emblazoned on the front. The two ends behind each goal are open, the left-hand goal is accompanied by a very small terrace behind it. It has a capacity of 2,000, with 250 of these seated in the main stand.
Stamford A.F.C. have been in existence since 1896, and are nicknamed ‘The Daniels’. Many of you will already be aware why, but for the benefit of those who aren’t, it is after England’s fattest ever man, Daniel Lambert, who died in the town, and is buried in St.Martin’s churchyard, close to the ground. Back to the club, and after spending their first season in the East Midlands League, and winning their first silverware, a pair of Hinchingbrooke Cup wins in 1906-’07 and ’07-’08, they dropped out of league football for a number of years, until 1909, when they joined the Northamptonshire League, winning the title in 1911-’12. In 1933, the league was renamed the United Counties League. They left this league in 1939, joining the Peterborough & District league for a season. After a break in football due to WWII, they rejoined the UCL in 1946, winning the UCL Knockout Cup in 1951-’52. The same season, the Daniels also lifted the Lincolnshire Senior B Cup, winning the latter cup again two years later. In 1955, the club once again departed the league, this time joining the Central Alliance, before moving on again soon after to the Midland League.
In 1972, the club once again rejoined the UCL, and became champions in 1975-’76, as well as lifting the UCL League Cup and Knockout Cup and reaching the FA Vase Final, losing 1-0 to Billericay Town, the most Irish-sounding non-Irish team ever to have existed, after extra time. The league was won again in 1977-’78, going on to win a hat-trick of titles by taking the next two seasons as well, a Lincs Senior Cup (A) was lifted in 1978-’79, and the club picked up a further two Knockout Cups, in ’79-’80 and ’81-’82, (82-83 saw another Lincs Senior Cup (A) win). As well as winning the cup in the former season, the club lifted FA silverware at the second attempt in 1979-80, defeating Guisborough Town 2-0 in the final, but lost 4 years later to Stansted, this time a 3-2 reverse. A further Knockout Cup success followed in 1985-’86.
After winning a UCL league title double in ’96-’97 and ’97-’98, along with a Hinchingbrooke Cup win, a further Lincs Senior Cup (A) win and the strangely named Benevolent Cup win in the latter season, Stamford joined the Midland section of the Southern League, which was renamed the Eastern Division, rather than Midland, at the end of their first season. In ’03-’04, the club finished in P7, and achieved promotion thanks to league restructuring, but were relegated after one season. In ’05-’06, they reached the play-offs, going on to defeat Wivenhoe Town 2-1 in the final to bounce straight back up. Their second experience of Premier Division football was a much more successful experience, as Stamford finished 8th, and lifted the Lincolnshire Senior Shield, beating Brigg Town at Lincoln City’s Sincil Bank. The following season, the club was switched to the Northern Premier League Premier Division, but were relegated after losing their manager, Graham Drury, and half the squad to Corby Town in mid-season.
The club narrowly missed out on the play-offs despite a 20-game league undefeated streak, a club record, but did defeat Boston United 4-1 inn the Lincs Senior Shield to soften the blow. In ’09-’10, Stamford reached the NPL President’s Cup final, but lost out to Belper Town, 3-1, at Quorn, where, incidentally, Trafford had won the same competition with a 2-0 victory over Quorn the previous season. 2010-’11 saw a disappointing league performance, but another Lincs Senior Shield was lifted, with Stamford again defeating Boston United, this time via a penalty shoot-out. 2011-’12 saw an improvement in the league, with the club just missing out on the play-offs with a 7th place finish, before Graham Drury’s return in May 2012, replacing Tommy Bookbanks. The club created a small piece of interesting history, by becoming the first sports club in the world to promote their twitter ‘handle’ on their shirt. During this season, it was announced by new chairman Chris Rivett that the club will move to a new stadium on the town’s Ryhall Road. Drury left mid-season for Boston United, with ex-pro player Wayne Hatswell given his first managerial job. This gamble paid off handsomely as Hatswell guided the club to 4th, and the lay-offs, culminating in a 2-1 win over Chasetown at home in front of 864 fans. Hatswell left to become a coach at newly promoted league club Newport County, with his assistant David Staff taking the reins.
Onto today’s game, and in all honesty it looked like two struggling sides, battling away for the points in a somewhat turgid contest, lacking in spark, other than Trafford’s captain, Shelton Payne, who netted two goals, and the man whose first goal his two strikes sandwiched, Ryan Robbins. Robbins first was converted from close range following Steve Mason’s slip. Payne’s first was a sweet strike from the edge of the area from Tom Schofield’s daisy cutting corner, and a free-kick delivered via the underside of the bar, past the rooted goalkeeper. Brett Mbalanda spurned a great chance to give the visitors a two-goal advantage, but struck the bar when he ought to have hit the target, the ball going over following the contact with the woodwork.
Half-time came and went, with a quick visit to Stamford’s small but smart clubhouse, and a meeting with Stamford’s own non-league dog, before after an action lacking second-half ended in controversy, when in the 92nd minute of 93, Kieran O’Hara, Trafford’s young on-loan Manchester United goalkeeper, had a bit of a rush of blood and connected with Robbins. Despite winning the ball, the assistant on the near side signalled for a penalty, which the referee duly awarded, much to O’Hara’s dismay. I think it was given for intent, which could be interpreted as correct, but it was very harsh to call it as a penalty. Robbins converted the resulting penalty impressively. It was an unstoppable shot, even if O’Hara had guessed correctly. 2-2 and full-time. O’Hara’s frustrations boiled over at the whistle, as he vented his anger at the officials, before being guided away towards the tunnel, not without a kick of the hoardings on the way off. It may be easy to criticize the young man for this, but I take a different view. I found it refreshing to see a lad come down from United, yet care so much about the team he is learning his trade with temporarily. Great to see.
After the game, I received a call from Mike Capp saying he was intending to go back into Stamford, and did I want to join him. I agreed, and after the short walk back we met a Welshman in the pub called The Millstone, before a second visit to the ‘Golden Fleece’ was undertaken, where we unwittingly rendezvoused with our new friends from the town. Cappy managed to namedrop my blog into the conversation, so guys if you are reading this, you know who you are, even if I don’t because I don’t think we ever found out your names! But it was great to meet such friendly and knowledgeable fans, who respectfully admit their club has limitations, that other clubs and their ‘supporters’ should be able to accept and identify too. A good day, in a ground soon to be consigned to the history books. Sad, but things move on…
My Stamford M.o.M.- Ryan Robbins
My Trafford M.o.M.- Shelton Payne
Game: 5/10- Poor on the whole.
Ground: 6- Nice and quaint, but outdated, The club will benefit from their imminent move.
Fans: 9- Know their stuff, but the younger lads who sang Trafford’s a s**thole lose a mark 😉
Programme: 8- Quite enjoyed the programme. Informative, and some interesting original articles in their too, including Douglas Bader!
Food: N/A: Line was too long and never moved from when I saw it! Think some were still waiting as the pen went in!
Value For Money: 7- As I say, standard amount for admittance, and a good programme for £2
Referee: 6- Felt he missed a fair bit, but did well to defuse the flair-ups that occurred.
STAMFORD: 1.Alex Lynch, 2.Shawn Richards, 3.Richard Wesley, 4.Ryan Walker, 5.Richard Jones(c), 6.Jon Challinor, 7.Dan Lawlor, 8.Alvin Jarvis, 9.David Moyo, 10.Jordan Smith, 11.Ryan Robbins(2),(1pen). SUBS 12.Liam Richardson(p), 14.Ash Robinson(p), 15.Jack Ashton, 16.David Staff, 17.Andrew Stevens.
TRAFFORD: 1.Kieran O’Hara, 2.Chris Palmer, 3.Luke Heron, 4.Steve Mason, 5.Nia Bayunu, 6.Rory Fallon, 7.Shelton Payne(c)(2), 8.Tom Schofield, 9.Michael Oates, 10.Brett Mbalanda, 11.Paul Ashton SUBS: 12.Jake Parker, 14.Ali Nsangou(p), 15.Clevon Beadle, 16.Omar McKenzie, 17.Callum Jones.