Express & Star

Stafford Rangers 1 Basford United 0 - Report

Stafford Rangers were unable to claim their third Northern Premier League victory in a row, beaten 1-0 by Basford United at the Stan Robinson Stadium.

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Toby Ritzema’s first-half strike on the stroke of half-time was the difference between the sides as Dave Cooke’s Stafford fell to five points adrift of safety, and remain 21st in the standings.

The Rangers welcomed 17-year-old midfielder Kingston Fligg to their squad as the youngster arrives on loan from Stockport County. Meanwhile, Stafford midfielder Simon Njaria returned from injury.

A tense first-half began with Connor Heath testing former Rangers goalkeeper Kieran Preston in goal before Nathan Tyson blazed an effort high and wide approaching the 15-minute mark.

The Rangers were relieved when Jack Thomas squandered a fantastic opportunity in front of goal, firing off-target after good work on the break.

The away side continued to pile on the pressure, and captain Kieran Fenton was unable to turn his free header home just after the half-hour mark.

After Sean Cooke was unable to test Preston in goal entering additional time, Ritzema claimed the opener for Basford with a wonderfully placed strike into the bottom-right corner.

Searching to inspire a second-half comeback, Tyreece Onyeka found Preston’s gloves early on for the Rangers after striker Kaiman Anderson fell to ground looking for a spot-kick.

Cooke was denied by Preston’s knees before the shot-stopper denied Anderson superbly from a 55th-minute corner. The drama continued as Basford’s Thomas saw his effort blocked before it could find the back of the net, and Onyeka likewise was unable to turn home at the other end.

The side-netting was all Connor Heath could find in the 65th-minute as the Rangers rallied, but time was against the home side as Dave Cooke turned to attacking options on his bench in A-Jay Leitch-Smith.

Play remained scrappy and unattractive as Stafford offered Thomas an opportunity to test the goal, but the midfielder was unable to work Belford much to the home side’s relief.

Despite a frantic end where the Rangers attacked in waves, it was too little too late, and Sean Cooke blasted his effort over the bar capping off a disappointing afternoon.