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Fri Jul 5

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Virgina Water (H)
Fri Jul 5 19:45
The Vanarama National League South

Stafford Let Off The Hook

Stafford Rangers

Stafford Rangers

Hodkinson (47, pen)
Slough Town

Slough Town

O'Connor (58, pen)
League Attendance: 690
Stafford Rangers will be relieved to have gained a point after Slough's trip to the Potteries on Saturday.

The Rangers never got to grips with the Rebels forward movement and a combination of fine saves and missed chances denied Slough the three points.

It was after 14 minutes that Paul McKinnon's superb far post header was brilliantly tipped wide by keeper Ryan Price and it was apparent that Slough would have to work hard to beat the highly rated Price.

The Rebels lined up with a new face in the forward line —Francis Joseph, late of Wimbledon, Crewe Alexandra and a host of football league clubs.

Joseph is currently training with Barnet and is to turn out for Slough on a match to match basis.

He certainly added a new dimension to the forward line with venomous hustle and bustle up front and some lovely touches to bring his fellow teammates into play.

Mick Putnam missed out in place of Darren Anderson who maintained his number five shirt with an accomplished display, with Gary Donnellan back from suspension but not gaining a place and Tony Knight coming in on the substitute's bench.

A deceptively strong wind blew down the pitch and Slough were kicking against it in the first half.

But Stafford only had momentary glimpses with the goal in sight as the Slough back four pushed up tightly and trapped the Stafford forward movement in their own half. Both McKinnon and Joseph came up against some more than physical stuff from the Stafford central defensive pairing of Fraser Wood and Steve Essex, with Joseph amazingly picking up a booking after Wood started a tussle.

After McKinnon's header Slough started to create some early openings but were never dangerous enough in the box. Mark Turkington was relishing his return to the side with excellent vision, control and passing in a midfield he dominated along with Colin Fielder and Steve Thompson, with Thompson back to his best form after a few difficult games.

Stafford began to dominate and at one stage Phil Stacey sold himself to the wind and Price's drop kick, with the resultant far post cross hammered in but Phil Burns able to make ground and save. This was the only clear cut opportunity that Stafford could forge in their brief moments of holding the upper hand and Slough quickly took control again.

But that was all to change with a dynamic start to the second half and again the Rebels were caught napping at the start of a half and paid the price.

Only a minute had passed when Peter Berks was sent through and in the ensuing melee the referee managed to award a penalty.

Berks half went down from a challenge from Allan Pluckrose, regained his feet, Burns was quickly off his line, smothered and as soon as he had the ball in his hands and safe, down went Berks and the referee pointed to the spot.

Andrew Hodkinson stepped up to convert and Stafford suddenly went into top gear.

Stacey was on hand to hack the ball off the line and then Mark Hill, who had another immaculate game, cleared from a header. Stafford were looking to add to their tally but the goal didn't come and Slough slowly wrestled dominance from the home side.

With 58 minutes gone and Slough looking to exert the pressure, a corner from the right skimmed across goal where Scott Lindsay handled and it was left for Eammon O'Connor to impressively convert the spot kick.

From here it was almost one way traffic.

Thompson had Philip Whitehouse twisting and turning with his skills on the right and both Turkington and Fielder spread the ball around from the midfield.

McKinnon and Joseph got into good positions and were a nuisance to the Stafford defence and as a result both Hodkinson and Essex went into the book.

With 20 minutes Joseph and Pluckrose combined for a far post cross that Thompson headed back across goal, only for Anderson to miss from no more than two yards with the goal at his mercy, though the ball looked an inch too high and just too fast.

Slough were well on top in the final minutes and played a lot of football. Their efforts were often parried or held by the immaculate Price, with Burns having a similarly impressive game at the other end when Stafford managed to carve out an opportunity.

The Stafford defence were sharp in their own box though and the Rebels were quickly shut down.

Joseph could almost have snatched it in the dying minutes when Thompson put him in but his touch was a bit too hard and the chance went.

Slough: Burns, Stacey, Pluckrose, Hill, Anderson, Turkington, Fielder, McKinnon, Joseph, Thompson, O'Connor.

"It concerns me why we don't beat sides like that," was Slough manager Alan Davies' summing up of Saturday's game with Stafford Rangers. Having dominated must of the game Slough failed to gain all three points and bad to settle for a draw against an unimpressive Stafford side.

"I was pleased with the way we played and a point is always good away from home, but we have to consider that as two points lost. Except for ten minutes at the start of the second half, we dominated the game. They got a dubious penalty be after that we got back on top."

"You worry when you don't make chances, but the chances were there and soon we will start taking these ."

Up front was new face Francis Joseph who impressed. "He was a young lad I played behind him at Hillingdon," said Davies. "From there we sold him to Wimbledon and he has also played at Crewe, Reading, Fulham, and trained with Tampa Bay Rowdies."

"I don't know the team, but he has been playing in Belgium and he is training full time with Barnet at the moment. I went to watch Barnet on Wednesday in the Capital League and Barry Fry told me about him. He hasn't signed for anyone and it's a situation where be could be with us for one game or two."

The 31 year old is currently a free agent and Davies is looking to see what develops, though be would be a huge asset to Slough if they could pick up his signature. Regarding other team
matters, Mick Putnam was left out of Saturday's line up: "Putty was in the week before and we went to Croydon and Darren had a good game."

"He's a little bit down after his header against Croydon and needs pulling out and putting back in again. A lack of match fitness saw Gary Donnellan left out despite his suspension being up.

Davies had praise for a number of players "They all played well didn't they." he said. "Thommo bad his best game since the start of the season especially with Turkington playing how be did. Turks probably passed the ball more on Saturday than he has done all season and at the back we looked strong. Fielder had a fine game and did ever so well and the lads were fall of praise for him after the game."

Stafford Rangers Lineup


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