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Brian Caffarey - 7th March 2008

3pm on Saturday 8 March 2008

Stafford Rangers provided the Cards with their first three point haul of the season when Frank Gray?s side travelled there in their third game of the campaign. It looked then as though Rangers would face an uphill struggle this season and so it has proved. They look doomed to relegation bar a miracle. Rangers fans were hoping that the miracle was the recent appointment of that old Wolves warhorse, Steve Bull, as their new manager. However, their home defeat against Farsley and the 6-0 thrashing at Kidderminster last Saturday quickly punctured the optimism engendered by some previous decent results away from home. Rangers won?t be a ?pushover?, though: after dismal results against other struggling sides recently, the Cards shouldn?t be in any doubt about that!


The Cards look to be safe from relegation, thanks to the form of the clubs below them rather than by dint of their own points haul, but they have played more games than other sides and could do with picking up some points on Saturday after three successive league defeats.

Frank will need to ponder his strike force. Marvin Morgan on current form is a certainty if fit, but who should play alongside him? Liam Marum, after his brilliant display against Burton Albion, has failed to cement his place. Jason Norville, apart from a late burst, did not make much impact on Tuesday evening against Sutton United. Giuseppe Sole took the opening goal well in that game but it is still unclear what his best position is. The right back position continues to be problematic too. On Tuesday evening Damian Batt showed considerable verve in attack but his defensive work after he came on at Rushden left a lot to be desired.


Then-manager Phil Robinson played a waiting game in the summer, leaving it till the last week of the pre-season to add eight signings. The best-known among them was former Leigh RMI and Morecambe striker David McNiven, snaffled from Halifax Town?s grasp at the last minute. McNiven has recently joined Farsley Celtic on loan till the end of the season. Other arrivals included Marco Adaggio, a 19 year-old Shrewsbury striker; Sebastian Arnolin, a midfielder from French Second Division side Chateauxroux; utility man Ross Draper from Shrewsbury; Tom Ingram, a 19 year-old defender from Notts 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 signed permanently from Crewe, having been on loan with Stafford all last year; two youth team graduates, Jemiah Richards (out with a broken bone in his foot) and Steve Hopkinson.

Departures included Guy Madjo, who signed for Crawley and who has since moved on to Shrewsbury Town; Robin Gibson and Ged Murphy, who both signed for Droylsden; and Del Olaoye.

More recent arrivals include defender Damian Jarratt from Tamworth, Keenan Meakin-Richards, cousin of Jemiah, Courtney Shaw and left winger Ishmale Reid. Neil Grayson, who shared the temporary manager duties with Kevin Street following Robinson?s departure on 1 December, is still a threat up front in spite of his 42 years.


Stafford lie in 23rd place, ten points from safety. They had a disastrous start to the season, losing nine and drawing one of their first ten games before winning at Weymouth on 22 September. Since then they have picked up one more win away from home ? a surprising 2-1 defeat of Forest Green Rovers a month ago ? and five draws (at Rushden, Crawley, Droylsden, Halifax and Histon). The 0-0 draw at Halifax marked Bull?s first game in charge, followed by a 3-3 draw at Histon. But a crucial home game against Farsley, in front of a large crowd a fortnight ago, saw a nervous-looking Rangers slump to a 2-0 defeat. Things got worse last Saturday when Rangers were demolished 6-0 at Kidderminster 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.

This season, Frank Gray?s side travelled to Marston Road in August on the back of opening draws against Rushden and Grays. A superbly-taken goal by Marvin Morgan in the 53rd minute proved to be enough to gain the Cards their first win of the season.

Come on, you Cards!

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