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Stamford AFC host AFC Telford in the Southern League Premier Division Central

Stamford manager Graham Drury feels a massive month of matches could shape the destiny of his side's season.

The Daniels host play-off rivals AFC Telford on Saturday in an eagerly-anticipated Southern League Premier Division Central clash at the Zeeco Stadium.

They then entertain last season's title rivals Halesowen Town the following weekend before matches against Berkhamsted, Mickleover, Bromsgrove Sporting and Nuneaton Borough.

Stamford manager Graham Drury. Photo: Rob O'Brien
Stamford manager Graham Drury. Photo: Rob O'Brien

The Daniels are currently in eighth spot in their first season back at step three of the non-league pyramid and are just two points outside of the play-off places.

Drury said: "We're in decent position but we've got some really tough games coming up in the run-in to Christmas.

"It will show us where we are at and, if we can be in the mix come Christmas, then my sides usually push on in the new year or we could be in that mid-table pack trying to play catch-up.

"It can go either way because there is nothing between the sides in this league.

"I've told the boys that we've got nothing to fear though because we've beaten a side like Hitchin twice and they're above us.

"We should have beaten both Leamington and Nuneaton on the day and, after being 2-0 up and losing on Saturday, that's seven points which we could have had.

"We've just to keep doing what we're doing, learning on the job and just being a bit more reliable on making better decisions.

"We're not halfway through the season yet but we're somewhere close and I think anybody would have taken where we are at the moment at the start of the season."

Saturday's visitors AFC Telford were relegated from the National League North last season and are only above the Daniels on goal difference in sixth place.

Lee Shaw heads in the opening goal at Leiston on Saturday. Photo: Rob O’Brien
Lee Shaw heads in the opening goal at Leiston on Saturday. Photo: Rob O’Brien

They have ex-Stamford players Ellis Myles and Nathan Fox in their ranks and this is the first meeting between the two sides since the Daniels won 2-1 in the 2021/22 FA Cup second qualifying round clash between the two sides.

Drury added: "They are a massive club at this level but we've gone there and beat them in their own backyard in the FA Cup a couple of seasons ago.

"They've got a top side though and I expect them to be in and around it come the end of the season but we've just got to be brave and do what we do and hopefully we can give them a game and come out on top.

"It's a big game and these are the ones which you want to be involved in. They should bring a few supporters and hopefully we can get a good crowd which should make for a good afternoon."

Stamford go into Saturday's crunch clash against the Bucks on the back of a 3-2 away defeat at Leiston last weekend.

They raced into a two-goal lead inside the opening nine minutes before their Suffolk hosts cut the deficit on the stroke of half-time.

Leiston levelled midway through the second half before Stamford were stung by a stunning injury-time free-kick winner from Chris Casement.

Drury said: "It was disappointing but also a strange one because I would normally be so frustrated at losing the game.

New signing Tiago Nassunculo. Photo: Rob O'Brien
New signing Tiago Nassunculo. Photo: Rob O'Brien

“It was the best we had played for 44 minutes and we absolutely blew them away. We should have been four goals up and out of sight.

"The goal just before half-time changed the game because we came in thinking how haven't we wrapped the game up and they're wondering how they're still in it but they were.

"Fair play to Leiston in the second half because they changed things and we didn't seem to get to grips with it very well.

"We had a chance to close down the second goal and, although the free-kick for the third was worthy of winning any game, we had spoken all week about it and how we were going to set the wall up.

"We had the biggest players in the wall but he's somehow got it over our heads as we've jumped and it's gone right into the stanchion."

New signing Tiago Nassunculo was in the Stamford squad on Saturday after joining from league rivals St Ives.

The attacking livewire has previously played at step three with Redditch and Barwell and also had spells with Spalding United and Wisbech Town.

Drury commented: "I'm pleased to get Tiago in and he's been really lively in training and has got a great attitude. He's mixed in with the boys well and will fit in with the dressing room."

Stamford's postponed league match from last month against table-topping Mickleover Sports has been rearranged for Tuesday, December 19.

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