by Peter Scherer
In the worst performance from Mickleover since they joined the Southern Premier League Central Division, three first half goals set the pattern for the rest of the game and an eventual 0-4 defeat.
Starting line-up: 1-Oliver Bosworth 2-Jake Bennett 3-Rhys Dolan 4-Dan Bradley 5-Finn Delap 6-Ethan Mann 7-Will Trueman 8-Ben Sault 9-Leon Clarke 10-Stuart Beavon 11-Oli Greaves, Subs: Fin Ryder, Matt Bowman, Marcus Barnes, Will Atkinson, Andy Dales.
The opening few minutes were fairly even as both sides felt their feet on a softish grass pitch, with Mickleover winning the first corner after two minutes.
Dolan then had a strong run down the left five minutes later, but his cross was a little too pacey for Clarke. Mann then charged through the middle to find Beavon, whose effort was blocked.
Stamford were becoming quite physical in their challenges and relying on breaks from their defence, but it was Bennett and Dolan pushing Sports forward, with little possession through midfield.
Duffy outpaced Mann in a 10th minute break for the hosts, but Morgan’s follow up shot was way off target. Burgess then found Duffy in the box again a couple of minutes later, but he was closed down before he was able to set up his shot.
A 17th minute corner from the right caused panic in the Mickleover defence, but Stamford earned a free kick on the left, Bartle’s kick saw Chitiza head home and it was 0-1 to the Dannies.
Mickleover were having difficulty breaking out of their own half, but they did manage a shot after 22 minutes with Bradley’s effort wide of the right hand post, after a Dolan Clarke one-two.
But the defence were coming under regular attack and the usually strong Delap and Mann combination in the middle, began to look very vulnerable.
Bartle put another ball around the back of the defence, before Chitiza set up Shaw, but on this occasion Bosworth had it covered, despite its close range.
25 minutes in and it was goal number two, another header from another set piece, with Duffy heading home from Bartle’s cross 0-2.
Barely had we kicked ff again and Vince broke clear, but fortunately for Sports his shot was wide. There had been a couple of ball’s into the Stamford half, but the whistle happy referee and an assistant who re-wrote the offside rules, did little to aid Mickleover’s cause.
Just after the half hour mark it was 0-3. Bartle’s long throw found Glennon, who picked out the unmarked Offler to put the ball home.
Mickleover managed to earn another corner after 37 minutes, but that was headed clear and Bennett found Clarke in the box, but his path was blocked.
Sault, Greaves and Trueman and been struggling to get into the game and it was 39 minutes before Sault tried a run only to find himself blocked before he crossed the half-way line.
Mann lost out in a chase with Duffy after he chased down a good through ball, but Bosworth was quick to reply and conceded a corner.
Trueman finally got some space on the left after 41 minutes, his cross rolled pass the goal, but there was no one to receive it. Stamford came straight back though, but Bennett headed away the cross for another corner.
Bosworth had to make another save from a tame Stamford effort, but the whistle soon followed to end a dire first half for Sports.
Barnes and Dales came on for Beavon and Clarke as the second half got underway. There was more pace and eagerness from Mickleover and Sault got as far as the Stamford box before his path was blocked after 50 minutes.
The confidence from their three goal advantage was still evident, despite Mickleover’s efforts to get back into the game. They had some pressure still from the home strikers, but Mickleover’s midfield were still struggling to make an impression.
Dales had a run and beat the defence on the left, cutting in with a cracking shot, well saved by Duggan after 66 minutes, before Greaves chased the rebound.
But four minutes later it was another goal for Stamford, set up by Bartle again, Morgan turned and fired home from the edge of the box, with Bosworth well beaten. 0-4.
Duffy was almost through again after 76 minutes, but Bosworth was quick off his line and saved the situation, but then Mickleover suddenly began to win possession with both Barnes and Dales testing the defence.
Bennett found Greaves in the 89th minute, he set up Sault but the effort was blocked. With six minutes added mainly for timewasting, Bennett burst through to have a shot blocked, before Bosworth had to make a diving save to his left, after another Stamford break.
Bowman had come on too for Sports, but was in the 96th and 97th minutes that Duggan faced his first real tests in the Stamford goal. Tipping over a Greaves lob and palming away a Sault effort.
Despite the second half transformation, Mickleover’s first half performance sealed the result, and probably flattered the Stamford side, who actually didn’t look that great.
It’s another grass pitch on Saturday when we visit Hitchin, as we try to break the run of defeats.