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Stamford AFC beat Needham Market in the Southern League

Victory over the newly-crowned league champions has kept Stamford's play-off dreams alive.

The Daniels returned triumphant from Tuesday night's long midweek trek to Suffolk with a 3-0 success against title-winning Needham Market.

Lee Shaw scored twice for Stamford while Rhys Hilton was also on target in the Southern League Premier Division Central clash.

Lee Shaw. Photo: Rob O'Brien
Lee Shaw. Photo: Rob O'Brien

It was Stamford's second visit of the season to Bloomfields having seen their original fixture postponed shortly after they had arrived at the Suffolk club.

That left the Daniels facing a long midweek trip and they travelled without injured centre-half James Blunden following his withdrawal in the second half of Saturday's home win over Long Eaton.

Jon Challinor, Tendai Chitiza and Callum Chettle all came into the starting line-up for the first of three games in seven days for Graham Drury's side.

Stamford had given their hosts a guard of honour as the Needham players came out of the tunnel after they had clinched the league championship on Saturday.

But, once proceedings got underway, Stamford showed that meant business on the pitch with a lively start.

Skipper Rob Morgan came close to opening the scoring with a strong run and shot which was superbly saved by home goalkeeper Marcus Garnham.

However, Morgan was then the latest player to be hit by Stamford's injury curse as he was forced off after just 16 minutes and replaced by Rhys Hilton.

Stamford shrugged off the setback of losing their captain by taking the lead two minutes later as Shaw slotted his finish past Garnham.

The champions responded with Stamford goalkeeper Dan Wallis making an excellent save to turn away a header from Jamie McGrath following Tevan Allen's cross with Byron Lawrence firing the rebound just wide.

Ashton Offler then made a crucial block to deny the Marketmen before Garnham was equal to Challinor's effort as the Daniels took a one-goal lead into the break.

They continued to show the greater attacking promise in the second period and doubled their lead on the hour mark.

Hilton produced a piercing run at the heart of the Needham defence before curling home his finish beyond Garnham from the edge of the area.

Wallis again did well to repel a header from Seth Chambers before Stamford sealed their win with nine minutes remaining as Shaw lobbed home his second goal of the game.

That was enough to send Needham to their first home league loss of the season and keep Stamford within touching distance of the play-offs.

Fifth-placed Leamington were held to a 1-1 draw by Stourbridge on Tuesday night which leaves them just four points clear of the Daniels who have a game in hand.

The two sides face each other on Saturday at Leamington's Your Co-op Community Stadium with the winners being firmly in the driving seat for a top five finish.

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