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Hemel Hempstead Town (A)
Sat Apr 1

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Hemel Hempstead Town (A)
Sat Apr 1 15:00
The Vanarama National League South

Whistle-stop madness

| League
Att: 658
Slough Town
Pluckrose (39), Donnellan (46)
2 - 2
Stafford Rangers
Heggs (6), Edwards (77)
Alan Pluckrose
Slough once again climbed down from the platform they had built for victory by conceding a late goal which allowed bottom Vauxhall Conference club Stafford Rangers to share the points from a 2-2 draw at Wexham Park. Notwithstanding this lack of professionalism, already the subject of criticism from team manager Alan Davies in previous matches, the Rebels were guilty of an astonishing naivety.

The two goals the Rebels conceded, in the sixth and 77th minutes, resulted from waiting for referee Graham Barber's whistle after judging for themselves that infringements should be punished. On both occasions Dennis Booth's Rangers, revamped since his arrival a month earlier to include a number of Football League players, had the presence of mind to keep a full head of steam and stimulate hopes of a rescue from the threat of relegation.

In the first instance Ian Miller, an import from Port Vale, robbed Mark Mallinson of the ball inside his own half. In carrying it forward down the right wing Mallinson attempted to stop Miller with a lunge which immediately had the linesman's flag up. The Slough players — and many spectators — thought he was signalling for offside against Carl Heggs — and stopped in their tracks to protest at Mr Barber's gesture to play on. Heggs, a 21-year-old striker from West Bromwich Albion, sensibly cocked a deaf 'un and, unchallenged, headed Miller's measured cross wide of Chuck Moussaddik, the Wycombe reserve keeper brought in to replace injured Trevor Bunting.

Feelings continued to run high when Alan Pluckrose's header from a corner was disallowed two minutes later, Paul McKinnon judged correctly to have been offside. Inevitably things died down after this sensational opening, with Slough, chasing their 13th Conference success, producing the more comprehensives build-ups. But all too often the final touch was unworthy of the work.

Patience was, however, rewarded in the 39th minute when Pluckrose forced home the ball in a crowded box after a neat flick by Neal Stanley gave Gary Donnellan the opening to fire low into the scrimmage. Pluckrose managed to get his toe to it before being flattened by Rangers keeper Ryan Price and needed a lengthy spell to revive.

Slough struck again within a minute of the restart, McKinnon nodding a through ball into the path of Donnellan who, one-on-one, easily beat Price from 15 yards. But during the long run in to the final whistle Slough's resolve appeared to evaporate. Instead it was Rangers, especially former Leeds United warhorse Keith Edwards, who kept a flame alight.

When Heggs beat Darren Anderson on the right, Edwards spun free on the cross into the box to feed Stoke City loanee Ian Berks and Moussaddik showed his Moroccan international class when saving the strike one-handed. Edwards, shrugging off Hemsley's challenge for a loose ball, then brought Moussaddik off his line to save with his feet, the pair sprawling in the clash. The lone Ranger was on his feet first to turn the ball back towards the target, but could only find the side netting from a difficult angle.

Finally Edwards, after a double substitution by Booth, did the trick for the Midlanders as Slough dropped their second danger. As Mallinson lay crumpled from a tackle near half way, Fraser Wood knocked the ball over the digressing defence and Edwards looped it over Moussaddik who had stammered forward off his line.

Slough, in a match which tilted from end-to-end with pinball dizziness, produced only two chances during the half. Anderson pulled a shot wide of the far post after Price had collided with his own full back from a corner and Mallinson squandered from a similar position late in the game.

A Slough substitution came with only four minutes remaining, Eamonn O'Connor never even breaking into a sweat after replacing Tony Knight. Mr Barber booked two players in the second half, Anderson for a late tackle and Edwards for petulance.

The spectacle attracted only 658 spectators — Diadora League standard on a warm, early spring afternoon. Even Rebels' top cat, Saisha, basking in a stand seat, lost interest and wandered off in disgust.

Stafford Rangers Line up

Price, Boyle, Bradshaw, Simpson, Henmming, Harle, Miller, Wood, Heggs, Edwards, Berks. Subs: Pearson (forBoyle), Hope (for Berks).

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