There may be a shortage of petrol but for the Stan there isn’t a shortage of important matches as they travelled to Norton to take on new 2nd placed side Billingham Synthonia. Given the cold, wet & windy conditions, the travelling Stan Army would have benefited from being sheltered within the huge cantilevered stand at the Synners old Central Avenue ground. There were 2 changes with Stephenson replacing the injured Hornsby at right back & Proctor replacing the unavailable Burns.
The Stan kicked off this top of the table clash & had their 1st opportunity in the 2nd minute when Holmes just missed connecting his head with ball as the keeper just caught it 1st. Hall had to clear for a corner although it was eventually followed by a long shot that was easily caught by Regan. It was a nervous start for the Stan as the home team attacked again in 6 minutes with the ball being headed clear by McBryde. The ball was mainly in the Stan half & in 8 minutes Stoddart cleared from a corner. In the 10th minute Synners’s Howard(no10) elbowed Bailey in the face. The resulting Stan free kick into the box was cleared but in 12 minutes, the Stan finally had an opportunity when a long ball was sent into the home box for Carr but the keeper clattered into him before he could connect & nothing was given. The ball was then sent high back into the box but Carr’s header was easily caught by the keeper. The Stan were finally getting into the match & a joined up attack saw Proctor’s shot blocked by the keeper. In 16 minutes, the Stan had 2 corners with the ball from the 2nd being punched away by the keeper. Stoddart then sent a great ball back into the box & Hopper’s header went just over the bar. It was end to end now as both teams tried to attack. In 19 minutes, after another bad challenge from Howard, a Stan free kick saw the ball go just wide of the goal & McBryde headed wide under pressure after 24 minutes. The home keeper then had to make clearances from 2 Stan corners. Billingham countered & Bailey eventually cleared but Hall was fouled by Howard in the process. It was now mainly pressure from the Stan although the defence had to be alert. In 32 minutes, Stoddart was hacked down by Howard & he was then the victim of another dreadful tackle. In 38 minutes, Hopper is through but the keeper gets out to block. As the 1st half was about to end, a red smog descended on the pitch. Another bad tackle on Bailey from Howard led to an altercation between them. Almost the whole home bench then invaded the pitch as various other arguments developed. As with Howard’s previous actions, the referee did not intervene in the melee although eventually things calmed down & Bailey & Howard were booked. The half ended after a Stan penalty claim for hand ball in the box was ignored.
The 2nd half started a lot calmer, partly due to the referee talking to both managers at half time & Howard being substituted. The Stan started positively & were immediately 1-0 up in the 46th minute when a McBryde ball over the top to the advancing Hopper saw him head into the net. In 50 minutes Holmes wound into the box but was eventually blocked. The Synners were also trying to attack though & in 53 minutes Esdaille headed clear from a free kick. It was end to end now & in 55 minutes the composed Bailey shot just wide. The alert Regan gathered from a home attack & Holmes was floored. From the resulting Stephenson free kick in 60 minutes it was 2-0. Esdaille headed the ball across goal & although blocked Proctor puts it back into McBryde who blasted it into the net. It was still end to end & Holmes shot wide followed by Synners heading over. Synners remained physical & picked up more bookings. In 82 minutes Synners eventually came close when a long range shot beat Regan, came down off the bar & was eventually cleared. The last few minutes saw home pressure although the Stan defence worked well & there was some great tackling by sub Burn. In added time, the advancing Campbell was brought down & Burn’s free kick went high & wide before the Synners also sent a long range effort over. After the final whistle, the unhappy home manager was red carded twice. It was a hard fought match, in more ways than one, but a determined performance & a good team effort saw the Stan come back from early pressure & survive the Synners’s physical approach to take all 3 points. The Stan are now at home on the next 4 Saturdays as they hope to build on the recent success which includes a 14 game unbeaten run &an undefeated home record.