City were looking to get off to a quick start straight from kick off, and they did just that. The home side were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position not long after the whistle. Robert Wilson was the man to step up, and he didn’t disappoint, nestling the ball in the bottom right corner inside 3 minutes. City had the lead.
Throughout the opening encounters, Rangers struggled to trouble the home side with barely any chances being created. They opted to use the long ball tactic, which was dealt with well by the back four and Ashton in goal.
Most of Stafford’s action has come down their left side, with Andrew Haworth having most of the ball for the away side on the attack. However, they struggled to really craft any clear-cut chances.
City found themselves two goals to the good on the half-hour mark, from yet another Wilson free kick, this time drilling a low ball into the area where it was flicked on to Armer who made no mistake when smashing the ball home. 2-0 up from two Wilson set pieces.
From then on it was all City, with Blinkhorn coming close to making it three after turning his man in the box. The number nine used his body strength well to hold up the ball when City were on the attack.
Rangers still had on reply in terms of chances created. Their only choice of attack being to lob the ball forward and see what sticks. But, thanks to a solid first half display form Hudson and Dawson on the left flank, City were comfortable.
The away side would not learn from their mistakes and constantly kept giving cheap fouls away, much to Lancaster’s delight. It was almost 3-0 towards the end of the half, with a City player having a clear sight of goal, only to be stopped by a piece of heroic defending from one of Stafford’s back four.
At half time, City would have been more than happy with how they performed in the opening 45 minutes, with Stafford posing very little threat to the Dolly Blues.
City started the second half rather slowly, with Stafford looking the sharper of the two. It seemed that City were happy to let Rangers retain possession so they could then play on the counterattack. That tactic almost paid off with Norris leading the counter, only to be brought down with no foul being given.
City ‘keeper Samuel Ashton was to have a busy 45 minutes ahead of him, with Stafford slowly but surely finding chances to get shots off on goal. Ashton produced a smart save to deny the away side from getting a goal back.
After the opening 15 minutes of the half, the game began to simmer down, much to the relief of Mark Fell’s men. Both teams were struggling to keep hold of the ball in middle of the park, with the centre circle becoming somewhat of a warzone for who could get the ball!
Ashton would be called into action on a number ofoccasions later on in the second half, with City once again opting to catch Stafford out on the counter. Unfortunately, when the chances came for City, they went begging.
Stafford never stopped applying pressure to the City backline and kept them pinned in their own half for long periods. Eventually, they got their much-deserved goal. Ashton was brought into action once again and made another superb stop, but the ball then made its way to substitute Evan Garnett, who lashed the ball into the net. Suddenly, City were on strings.
The pressure continued to pile on the Dolly Blues defence, and a huge chance to make it 2-2 came and went thanks to some heroic blocking to prevent Stafford from levelling the game.
City continued to try and catch Stafford on the counterattack till the end, and in added time, it almost paid off. Substitute Sam Joel used his tidy footwork to create chances and help build up play. He almost sealed the victory for City, when he sent a curling effort just wide of the top right corner.
In the 94th minute, the referee called the game to a holt. Stafford fought hard to get something out of the game, but in the end City pulled through thanks to some fantastic defensive work.
The opening league game of the season ended Lancaster City 2, Stafford Rangers 1.
City: Sam Ashton, Paul Dawson, Jack Armer, Niall Cowperthwaite, Glenn Steel, Ben Norris, Ben Hudson, Rob Wilson, Matt Blinkhorn, Bradley Carsley, Charlie Bailey.
Subs: Lewis Fensome, Simon Wills (used), Sam Bailey, Luke Thompson (used) and Sam Joel (used).
Stafford Rovers: Lewis King, Paul Bignot, Matthew Hill, Luke Jones, Daniel Burns, Alex-Ray Harvey, Theo Bailey-Jones, Tom Thorley, Jake Charles, Joe Berks, Andrew Haworth.
Subs: Evan Garnett (used), Sam Coulson, Josh Green, Jed Davies (used) and Jack Sherratt (used).
By Adam Smith