First Team vs. Stamford AFC (2 : 0)
Evo-Stik League East Division
Sheffield FC moved into fourth spot in the EvoStik East Division, with a hard fought 2-0 win over an in-form Stamford side. The hero of the day was debutant Declan Bacon, who served up a match winning performance with two goals.
The opening chance came when Sheffield’s Adam Chapman fell victim to one of the many muddy patches created by Friday’s snowfall. He hit the deck whilst trying to defend and allowed John Sands to fire a speculative effort that was, luckily for Chapman, more danger to low flying aircraft than the Sheffield goalkeeper.
The home team were dealt a blow when they lost Ben Turner after just 20 minutes with a suspected hamstring injury, forcing Rob Darkin to take his place. However, this change seemed not to disrupt Sheffield, who were now pressing for an opener. That first goal very nearly came after a deep swinging cross from the right found Newsham unmarked, with his stinging volley being matched by a great save from Haystead in the away goal. Sheffield seemed to smell blood after this chance and almost immediately after they earned themselves a 1-0 lead. Marc Newsham was able to find debutant BACON, who held his nerve to slot the ball beyond Haystead to give his new club the advantage after 28 minutes.
After opening the scoring Sheffield seemed much more comfortable, capably dealing with John Sands as he looked to play off the shoulder in the search for an equaliser. Ryan Seal fashioned Stamford’s best chance of the half when he was set free into boundless space down the right wing.
He was able to cut inside and drill a low effort towards the left corner of the goal, but Jonathan Hedge produced an expert save with his foot to deny Stamford an equaliser.
In the second half Sheffield picked up up where they had left off, needing just 4 minutes to double their lead. Stamford’s defence had cleared but Sheffield were able to recycle the ball, finding Newsham in the box.
Newsham attempted to strike but mistimed his effort, a miss that mattered little given that the ball landed at the feet of BACON, who reacted infinitely quicker than the dumbfounded Stamford defenders to rifle the ball beyond Haystead.
Despite being 2-0 down, in the 55th minute Stamford must have believed a comeback was possible when Daz Winter’s hefty challenge left Oli Brown-Hill crumpled in a heap on the floor, eliciting a straight red card from the referee. James Gregory made way for Richard Patterson as Sheffield looked to shuffle the pack, with the home side taking a more reserved approach and absorbing pressure from Stamford as they endeavoured to make their one-man advantage count.
This tactical alteration saw Stamford gain the lion's share of possession, yet they struggled to fashion an abundance of clear-cut chances. When Brown-Hill stormed down the left flank it looked as though he was certain to score, but luck smiled down on the home side as his effort cannoned off the post and Hedge recovered to end the danger. They may have relied on good fortune here but for the most part Sheffield defended resolutely, using substitute Mitch Dunne as an outlet to stretch Stamford as they overcommitted going forward.
Brown-Hill’s effort proved to be the last significant chance for Stamford, who soon resorted to drifting a series of aimless long balls, most of which were claimed by Hedge. The game ultimately ended at 2-0 to Sheffield, a result that laid down a marker of intent against a playoff rival and saw them leapfrog Tadcaster Albion into 4thplace, whilst Stamford remain in 7th.
Sheffield FC: Hedge, Grayson, Turner, Winter, Robinson, Chapman, Cribley, Gascoigne, Bacon, Newsham, Gregory. Subs: Yates, Hastings, Darkin, Patterson, Dunne.
Stamford AFC: Haystead, Cooke, Egginton, Armstrong, Miller, Burgess, Morgan, Duffy, Seal, Sands, Brown-Hill. Subs: Peasgood, Challinor, Gitau-Eneremadu, Marselia, Tarris.