Brad Cooke’s team put in a pugnacious shift to bring home an hard earned point from sunny Staffordshire. On their only previous sojourn to this regal non league ground the black n white stripes coasted to a 3-0 victory. The natives were restless and vented their fury at the final whistle. Their own managerial team and the Colls players were targets for the intense vexation. Lockdown number whatever had allowed Rangers to regroup after a few barren years and they entered proceedings in ebullient mood. Last time out they had lowered the in form Matlock Town’s colours.
Colls are also going quietly about their business and the cup wins over Witton Albion and Colne in the last seven days were well deserved. A tough game was anticipated and that is how it turned out.
The hosts were quickly into their stride, they had a game plan. They were a big, tenacious set and put the Colls rearguard under relentless pressure. The long throw into the box was potentially a weapon of mass destruction but young keeper Luke Hutchinson was on his mettle. He was forced to punch the ball to safety on countless occasions. He was aided by his teammates who defended the onslaught with sheer determination. They had fetched their tin hats. Colls did have a goal chalked off. The Stafford custodian spilled the ball from a set piece and Marcus Cusani volleyed home stylishly. The lino flagged for offside rather than the usual foul on the goalie much to the chagrin of the healthy travelling brethren. Despite this, a breathless half ended goalless with the visitors by far the happier.
Stafford continued to have the territorial advantage but Colls struck gold just shy of the hour mark. Following a bit of ping-pong in the Rangers box, Matty Gillam curled an imperious shot into the top left hand corner of the onion bag. Just reward for the lone striker who had worked tirelessly against a man mountain of a marker. The home onslaught continued and Tom Tonks headed onto the top of the bar from close range. He will feel he should have scored but with fifteen remaining left on the clock he finally got his name up in lights. His peach of an effort went through a crowded penalty area and past Hutchinson before he had probably blinked never mind dived.
Both teams had chances to win the game. For the Collieries, Dylan Glass got on the wrong side of his marker but the ball wouldn’t sit and the defender gleefully hoofed it away to safety.
A first league draw of the campaign and a great return. On the balance of possession the rejuvenated hosts will definitely think they should have realised all three but the Colls work off the ball foiled them. Joel Amado was the standout performer but what a herculean team display.
After a few years in the doldrums Stafford Rangers have really got their mojo back and the old school yet bespoke non league arena was rocking. They must surely go from strength to strength.
Luke Hutchinson, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Niall Battersby, Danny Lafferty (C), Joel Amado, Ben Conway (Dylan Glass 76’), Lewis Doyle, Matty Gillam (Elliot Rokka 71’), Jack Lenehan, Marcus Cusani
Subs not used Luca De Freitas- Hansen, Danny Taberner
Bolton Arena Man of the Match - Joel Amado
Report - Emil Anderson
Photo - David Featherstone