Article: Adam Bateman
Photographs: Jonathan White
With the stalemate against Matlock not long behind them, Nantwich were looking to get back to winning ways, against their higher placed opponents, Stafford Rangers.
Both teams came into this game, safe in the knowledge that they could really have a go at each other, without too much in the way of serious consequences, and that is exactly how the game started.
Both teams looked to try to attack the other, and both had attacking instincts to the fore.
Alex Fletcher got the attacking proceedings under way after just a few minutes, with his shot for Stafford going just wide of Matty Gould in the home side’s net.
What then happened was the game turned into a game of one-upmanship between the two most exciting players on the pitch, who just happened to be wearing the same number for their respective sides, that number being “7”, Akiel Raffie for the Dabbers, and Theodore Bailey Jones, as both were causing havoc to both sides defences.
Jake Charles was the next to rest the reflexes of Matty Gould, as his header from a Stafford corner was very well saved, and tipped over for another corner, of which nothing thankfully came from it.
The aforementioned Bailey-Jones saw his shot saved low down by Gould, and things were starting to become one way traffic at this stage, and we had not yet reached ten minutes of play at the Optimum Pay Stadium.
Then a key moment of play, there was some really good use of the ball by Nantwich, with the ball finding it’s way to Kole Hall, who found Akiel Raffie out wide, he cut inside to the penalty area, and was then very unceremoniously brought down, to give the home side a penalty, and their first chance on the Stafford goal.
Up stepped the ever reliable Sean Cooke, and he put the home side ahead, with his shot going straight down the middle, to rapturous applause.
That didn’t seem to change the attacking instincts of either side however, and it wasn’t too long before we saw Jake Bickerstaff and then Akiel Raffie test Mateusz Hewelt in the opposing goal.
Then against the run of play somewhat, Stafford found an equalising goal, Andy Burns found himself free out wide, he put in a cross, which found its way to Michael Tait-Moran, who from close range, managed to put the ball into Gould’s net.
The game was very evenly poised after just over twenty minutes, and there was still more attacks from both sides, to try to get that winning goal.
Jake Bickerstaff thought that he had managed to do just that, but somehow, Hewelt thwarted him with an outstanding save from yet another Nantwich corner.
Kole Hall was fast becoming a danger to the Stafford defence and he created a chance by doing a few stepovers, only to see his shot from close range go very narrowly past the far post.
Both sides were really up for this game, neither side were happy with a draw, both were trying their best to put their side ahead.
Joshua Endall was next to see his headed effort just go over the home sides bar, before Tom Tonks, who had been causing a lot of havoc in the Nantwich defece with his lond throws, saw his own shot, very well saved by Gould.
For anyone here at the game, it was very much a case of money very well spent, as the attacking display by both teams was very much one to enjoy.
Then, just when it seemed the referee was going to blow his whistle for half time, the ball over the top found Sean Cooke running into space, and he helped to find Kole Hall who fired the ball into the back of the net, to put Nantwich 2-1 up, to the delight of the very big crowd.
That is how the teams went in at half time, and it was no more than Nantwich deserved.
With no great surprise, Stafford came out in the early stages of the second half, with the attacking intent very much still at the forefront of their mindset.
It was almost a basketball type of game, whereby one side had a good chance, then so did the other side.
With Raffie, then Fletcher doing so early on in the second half.
One player who really seemed like a person who really wanted to change things, was Jediael Abbey for Stafford, he had a shot from the edge of the area, that just went over, and then a few minutes later, saw his header very well saved by Gould.
These were nervous times, if you were a goalkeeper of either side, as the attacks just kept on coming.
The very impressive Bailey-Jones saw a header go over, then that was quickly followed up by another chance for the captain of Stafford, Tom Tonks, who saw his shot deflected over.
A key substitution for Stafford came when Michael Tait-Moran was taken of, to be replaced by Tre Pemberton, as the latter really came on and played very well.
Just after that Nantwich were almost two goals to the good, and could very well have secured the full three points, as the ball was put over the top for Hall to chase, Hewelt came out of his area, and Hall lobbed him very well, only to see his shot bounce off of the post, and into the very grateful hands of the Stafford goalkeeper.
The chances kept on coming, as the game was nearing full time, but neither side could quite find another goal, until right with the very last kick of the game, Alex Fletcher took aim, and thought that he had matched what Hall had done at the very end of the first half, but his shot from the edge of the area went agonisingly in you were a Stafford fan, just wide.
Then the referee blew his whistle on a really entertaining match, to give Nantwich the win in their final home game of the season, in front of a packed ground.
Joel Stair ©
Tom Tonks ©