Stamford manager Graham Drury refused to accept that fitness played a part in the Daniels’ 3-0 FA Cup defeat at the hands of SkyBet League Two club Hartlepool United.
The Evo-Stik NPL First Division South club frustrated their hosts during the first half, as their disciplined and determined performance led to Pools dominating possession without creating any notable chances.
After twenty minutes of the second half a spectacular free kick from Pools midfielder Nicky Deverdics broke the Daniels resistance, with two goals in the last ten minutes giving the scoreline a slightly harsh look for the visitors.
As he assessed the result post-match Drury believes it was quality, not fitness, that won the game for Craig Hignett’s side.
He said “We had done a lot more chasing at Wrexham, trust me! Especially when the game went into extra time.
“I think it was more tired minds than bodies, maybe we were just a bit deflated.
“They had a lot of possession, they were always going to have that but it was the same at Wrexham and we kept going right through to extra time there.
“I think the third goal was the deflection, it’s just one of them things.
“The first goal gives them a lift, the belief, I don’t think the result was down to fitness at all, it was purely down to quality”
This has been a historic cup run for Stamford, as they reached the First Round of the FA Cup for the first time in their one hundred and twenty year history.
Sleaford Town, St Neots Town, Gresley and, most notably, Wrexham have all exited the competition at the hands of the Daniels.
And it is the win over Vanarama National League club Wrexham that Drury believes will be the memory that lives longest for everyone connected with the club.
“I said to the players, when we go back to the first FA Cup game, we had a bit of a banana skin, just as today was for Hartlepool.
“We had a local derby against Sleaford Town, they are a level below us and they believed they could beat us.
“It was a really tough game and we won 3-0, we were professional and we have beaten some good sides.
“St Neots Town were a level above us and we won 4-1 in a replay at home, that was fantastic.
“To play Wrexham twice, we broke their hearts at home and we should’ve won really because we had three one-on-ones after the equaliser but we went there in the replay and dug in to get a result.
“The memory from this cup run has to be full-time at Wrexham, the free kick to win the game, that was a fantastic achievement and the players deserve all of the credit”
The Daniels’ determined performance on the pitch was certainly matched by their travelling support at the Northern Gasand Power Stadium on Sunday.
Just over five hundred Daniels supporters made the trip to the North East and they gave their side constant vocal support throughout the ninety minutes.
That left Daniels boss Drury to describe them as “a great bunch”.
“It was fantastic and they never stopped did they, they are a great bunch.
“Usually we get 350 to 400 at home so to bring 505 up here, I know it’s a special day and a special occasion but I thought they were fantastic.
“They kept going, they kept singing and at the end they were great with the lads”
Stamford return to league action with a home game against Loughborough Dynamo on Wednesday night as they look to move themselves up the Evo-Stik NPL First Division North table.
Their historic FA Cup run has come at a cost.
As the season heads into mid-November the Daniels have incredibly only played nine league games, meaning they sit third from bottom in the table.
However, they hold as many as eight games in hand on some opposing sides and could move into the play-offs should they win those games in hand.
Drury admitted they have a lot to do, as he challenged his side to get on with the “nitty-gritty” of league football.
“The bread and butter is the league, we are twentieth because of this cup run and we have only played nine league games.
“If we win our games in hand we will be in the play-offs but the pitches are turning at our level now.
“They become a leveller and maybe it’s better for teams to have points on the board.
“We have a lot to do, the adventure is over for us, the FA Cup is done with, it’s now to get on with the nitty-gritty”
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Image: Stamford AFC