Stafford Rangers v Woking
12:00am, Fri 17th Aug 2007
Stafford Rangers v Woking
3pm on Saturday 18 August 2007
The Cards travel to Marston Road tomorrow for what, on paper at least, looks like one of the less difficult away fixtures this season. As if to confirm this, Rangers have lost their opening two games. But it was at the corresponding fixture last season that the rot really set in when, after a superb televised win over Aldershot Town, Glenn Cockerill?s side went down tamely 1-0 and then proceeded to lose the next three league games on the trot.
The Cards have started the season more successfully than some of their more pessimistic fans expected, with 1-1 draws in their opening fixtures against two fancied sides, Rushden and Diamonds and Grays Athletic. Indeed, if Danny Bunce had managed to put away a last-minute penalty at the Recreation Ground on Wednesday evening, the picture would have looked very healthy. The defence looks reassuringly sound and, in the opening game at least, we perhaps created more chances up front than appeared likely during the somewhat barren pre-season games. But there must still be concern at how well a first team squad of 17, which itself includes several untested youth players, will cope when it suffers injuries and suspensions.
I spoke to Frank Gray yesterday evening to get his reactions to Wednesday?s game and his thoughts on Saturday?s trip to Stafford Rangers. I said that it sounded from reports as though we?d had to do quite a lot of defending at Grays. ?Yes?, said Frank, ?we defended very well and, although they put us under quite a bit of pressure, they created few chances and didn?t really penetrate us. I thought we looked strong in the last 15 or 20 minutes in particular. I was very pleased with our fitness.? I asked him if he?d had any hesitation about allowing Grays to score a ?free? goal to equalise the inadvertent goal scored by Matt Pattison. ?No, it was clearly the right thing to do. Ours was a freak goal and clearly wasn?t intended?, responded Frank. I asked what the players? reaction had been, in particular Nick Gindre?s. ?The players accepted that it was the correct decision. Of course, Nick?s a keeper and doesn?t like seeing a goal scored against him but he recognised that it was the right step.?
What about the penalty kick, I asked? Presumably Matt Gray or Giuseppe Sole would have taken it if they hadn?t been substituted by then? Was Danny Bunce nominated to take kicks in their absence? Frank confirmed that Matt or Giuseppe would have taken the kick normally, adding ?Danny was keen to take it but the keeper guessed the right way and made a good save. It was disappointing not to get the three points but, if you?d asked me before the game, I?d have been content with a point.?
Turning to Saturday?s game, Frank said that he?d been to see Stafford lose at home 3-1 to Kidderminster Harriers on Tuesday night. ?It was a tough game for them. They had some chances early on and if they?d taken them it might have been a different story.? I asked if he was aiming to get more than a point from this fixture. ?We approach every game looking for a win?, Frank responded. ?We went to Grays on Wednesday looking for a win but were forced to do quite a bit of defending. Every game is different and you don?t always know how it?s going to work out. For example, we could go to Stafford on Saturday and do most of the attacking. What is clear is that there are no easy games in this league.?
Manager Phil Robinson played a waiting game in the summer, leaving it till the last week of the pre-season to add eight more signings. The best-known among them is former Leigh RMI and Morecambe striker David McNiven, snaffled from Halifax Town?s grasp at the last minute. Other arrivals included reserve keeper Robert Duggan, a 20 year-old who had a spell on loan from Stoke City last season; Marco Adaggio, a 19 year-old Shrewsbury striker; former LA Galaxy midfielder Ramon Singh Manak ? I bet he was a lot cheaper than David Beckham!; Sebastian Arnolin, a midfielder from French Second Division side Chateauxroux; utility men Greg Stones from TNS and Ross Draper from Shrewsbury; Tom Ingram, a 19 year-old defender from Notts County; David Wood, 18, another defender, from Derby County; Djoumin Sangare, a 23 year-old French defender who played for Grays Athletic and St Albans last season; 21 year-old defender Richard Sutton, who has signed permanently from Crewe, having been on loan with Stafford all last year; another recruit from Crewe, 19 year-old midfielder Chris Flynn; and two youth team graduates, Jemiah Richards and Steve Hopkinson. A subsequent addition, on a month?s loan from Stoke City, is 19 year-old defender/midfielder Matthew Hazley.
Gone are Guy Madjo, scorer of two goals for Crawley on the opening day of the season; Robin Gibson and Ged Murphy, who have both signed for Droylsden; midfielder Kevin Street; and Del Olaoye.
It?s the old warhorse, Neil Grayson, however, who has been getting most of the publicity. Now 42, he is still going strong, having netted over 50 goals for Rangers. Stafford still have too the formidable presence of Wayne Daniel and Craig McAughtrie in central defence. Perhaps we will try and pass our way round them this year?
RESULTS SO FAR
Rangers lost 1-0 away to Farsley Celtic on the opening day of the season, with Craig McAughtrie missing a penalty. On Tuesday night they lost at home 3-1 to Kidderminster Harriers, with a certain Justin Richards getting two for the visitors. But Phil Robinson was far from downbeat about Rangers? performance, saying that in the first 45 minutes his team played the best football in his five plus years at the Club. They failed to make their dominance pay, however, and were duly punished by the Harriers.
Last season was Stafford Rangers? first season back in the Conference following their relegation at the end of the 1994/95 campaign. They found it a struggle but battled hard to survive, ending in 20th place. They were the only part-time club to escape the relegation places, although Altrincham were subsequently reprieved by Boston?s demotion. As already noted, we lost 1-0 there in October, to a fine Guy Madjo strike, and in the return fixture we drew 1-1 at Kingfield in March, Craig McAllister equalising Robin Gibson?s goal for Stafford.
Stafford Rangers FC
Tel: 01785 602430
The coach leaves Kingfield at 10.30am. The cost is ?18 for members of the Supporters? Club and ?23 for non-members. Phone the Club Shop between 10.00am and 4.00pm on 01483 772470 to book.
The AA recommended route is as follows, using the M6 Toll:
M25 ? exit at J21 on to M1 ? exit on to M6 (signposted North West, Coventry (North), Birmingham) ? at J3A take right hand lane on to M42 (signposted the North West, M6 Toll, Tamworth) ? at J9 take right hand lanes onto M6 Toll (signposted the North West) ? leave M6 at J13 (signposted Stafford) ? at roundabout take 3rd exit on to A449 (signposted Stafford) ? continue on A449 to Stafford ? at gyratory follow Telford signs on to Wolverhampton Road (A 518) ? at traffic lights bear left into Newmarket Road (still A518)
The journey is 155 miles from Kingfield and is estimated to take just over three hours.
(If you want to avoid the M6 toll, the AA recommended route is M25 to J16, joining the M40 (signposted Birmingham, Oxford). Leave at J3A on to M42 (signposted M42 North). Leave at J7 to join M6. Leave at J13 as above.)
N.B. www.srfc.co.uk strongly recommends coming off the M6 at J14, not 13, in order to avoid the town centre. The route then is: take the first exit off the roundabout (heading for Uttoxeter A518 and A34); after about half a mile, go straight over the next two roundabouts, still heading towards Uttoxeter, RAF Stafford and the University; take the third exit on the right ; follow the road (Common Road) up and over the slight hill down past the Evode Factory; carry on for about a mile, over the old railway bridge and follow it around to the left at the bottom; the Rangers? ground is on the right opposite the Audi dealership.
There is a small car park at the ground. A better bet may be the road opposite, next to the Land Rover Garage, which leads to an industrial estate. This usually has enough places to park and is only a couple of minutes? walk away.
The 12.04 direct train from Euston would get you to Stafford at 13.49. On the way back there are trains at 12 minutes past the hour.
Directions from the station, which is about a mile and a half from the ground, are as follows: come out of station and bear left towards mini traffic island and ugly office block; keep this building on your left and cross river bridge and on to next traffic island; bear left past paddling pool and children?s play area, towards the old Windill building; head straight over at next island; keep Chinese restaurant, car park and Sainsbury?s on your left and the Lamb on your right; go up the slight hill to the next large traffic island; head diagonally across the island toward Stafford Prison (with the tall walls!); keep the Prison on your right and go past the funeral directors and the Greyhound pub (on your left); go past the petrol station towards another mini island (with the bookmakers on the corner.); straight over at this mini island, keeping the kebab house on your left; go past Chell's Motor Bike shop and straight on past the Shepherds Bushes; straight on past the Albion Inn, taking a right turn at the foot of the old railway bridge towards Astonfield Industrial Estate; the Rangers? ground is opposite the car dealership.
Come on, you Cards!