After last Saturday’s away win in the Vase, the Stan travelled to Waterhouses in County Durham to take on Esh Winning in the league. Covid restrictions meant that capacity was down to 150 and fans had to wear a mask throughout the match. To make things worse, by half time, with the Stan 2-0 down but luckily, and there is no chance of avoiding a football cliché, it was a game of two halves.
The Stan made 3 changes from the Vase win with Carr, Hall and Miller replacing Blackbourne, Bailey and Paterson. The rain and wind appeared just before kick-off and it got colder and windier as the match went on. The Stan started on the attack but the 1st 10 minutes were relatively even and uneventful except for Esh shooting just wide after 5 minutes. In the 10th minute though, Esh attacked and crossed the ball into the box with the Stan defence standing still which allowed North to head down to Stoker whose shot went through them and into the net. Regan nearly lost the ball a minute later to an advancing Esh player and soon after they attacked again but were offside. In 18 minutes, Hall and Regan cleared an Esh attack followed by a Campbell cross going wide and 2 Wright attacks being dealt with by the home defence. In 22 minutes, a Wright free kick was half cleared but Leech’s follow up shot was deflected wide for a corner with the ball from that being caught by the keeper. In 26 minutes, the Stan went further behind when, after Carr had lost the ball in the middle of the park, North’s effort went high over Regan and into the back of the net. Esh kept the pressure on and in 29 minutes they shot but Regan made himself big and blocked the effort. The Stan countered but the home keeper saved. Deagle was then yellow carded on the bench for dissent. In 34 minutes, Wright’s free kick into the box was cleared and soon after he wasted an effort on the right by shooting wide. He then supplied Carr who passed to Campbell but the keeper caught his shot. The Stan’s best chance of the half came in 39 minutes when a cross into the box saw Campbell hit the post and Burn’s rebound shot hit the bar with Waters follow up shot from distance going well over. The Stan kept the pressure on and in 41 minutes a Burns cross forced the keeper to stretch to save just before Campbell could get to the ball. Overall, it had been a very poor performance by the Stan and it looked as if they had an almost impossible task for the 2nd half.
The start of the 2nd half was relatively quiet until the home keeper had to make a double block in 53 minutes. Campbell then crossed to Wright but he shot over. Back at the other end, a free kick led to North heading wide. In 58 minutes, Leech made a run into the box and was brought down but nothing was given. Wilson then replaced Imray and this appeared to revive the team. The Stan attacked and Campbell was brought down in the box. The penalty was eventually taken in 63 minutes and Wright blasted it into the net. Soon after Wright attacked but shot wide. An Esh player was sin binned for 10 minutes for complaining and the Stan take advantage and put more pressure on. In 67 minutes, a Leech long ball into the box sees Burns head just wide. The home keeper tries to time waste and does so on a number of occasions although luckily, he will later regret doing so. The Stan kept attacking and a Wright cross saw the home keeper having to clear. The Stan then got a free kick just outside the box and the keeper had to get down to save Burn’s effort. It is all Stan now and the pressure pays off in 71 minutes when Carr passes to Campbell in the box. He is shoved away but Burns gets the loose ball and blasts it into the net for 2-2. Another Esh player is sin binned for complaining so they are temporarily down to 9 men. In 74 minutes, the Stan shoot just over followed by a Wilson shot being blocked. The 1st sinned player returns just before Burns blasts a shot from just outside the box which forces the keeper to put the ball over the bar. In 78 minutes, the Stan are ahead when Stoddart on the right crosses into the box for Carr to head into the net. The Stan keep the pressure on and in 79 minutes Wright’s free kick is caught by the Esh keeper. 2 minutes later and Wright is blocked in the box before Burns passes back to him and he is tripped in the box but nothing is given. In 83 minutes, Burns’ corner ball is punched away by the keeper and a minute later he shoots wide. Esh, now back to 11 players, then have their 1st attack for a long time although it is easily cleared and the Stan counter. The ball is passed to Campbell who is brought down in the box but nothing is given. In 86 minutes, he is replaced by Hoggins. It is still all Stan as they keep attacking although Esh have another rare attack in 88 minutes. The Stan attacks continue and in the 90th minute Burns is brought down just outside the box with Wright’s resulting free kick going just over thanks to the wind. Hoggins then supplies Carr whose effort is blocked. Esh have 3 attacks but with no end result and the 3rd, in 96 minutes, sees Wright counter and pass to Burns who supplies Hoggins who runs free into the box. The keeper gets a hand to his effort but it goes into the net off the post. Unfortunately, 2 minutes later, after the Esh number 4 complains to the referee, Hoggins is booked for kicking the ball away. The match ends with a 4-2 win for the Stan, which was definitely unexpected at half time. What a comeback and what will make it even more difficult for the Esh fans is that the last time the 2 teams met, at Grounsell Park in January, the Stan also came back from 2-0 down at half time to win 4-2.