The Lee Beeson Show

Stamford’s Lee Beeson helped his club to an historical FA Cup First Round Proper tie against Hartlepool United by scoring two penalties, one in the original tie at Stamford and then again in the replay at Wrexham.

His first spot kick earned his side a well-deserved 1-1 draw against National League side Wrexham, who are three tiers above them at non-league level.

His second put Stamford one goal up in a monumental tie at the Racecourse Ground. Stamford would go on to be 2-0 up only for the Welsh side to peg them back to 2-2 in the closing minutes. In extra time, Jake Duffy’s free kick put Stamford through, making history for the club. They face Hartlepool in what will be their first appearance in the First Round Proper in the club’s 120-year history.

I thought I’d post both his penalties on here for Stamford fans to savour.

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Stamford Joyous At Wrexit Result

Stamford created a huge slice of history on Tuesday, October 18, by beating Wrexham in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round replay at the Racecourse Ground, meaning they will appear in the First Round Proper for the first time in the club’s 120-year history.

Having drawn the original match 1-1 at Stamford’s Zeeco Stadium, it may have seemed that their chance had passed them by. But despite being dominated for large periods of the replay, they progressed with a 3-2 win after extra time which sets them up with an away tie at Hartlepool United on the weekend of November 5.

Wrexham, three tiers above them in the football pyramid, had the lion’s share of possession in a frustrating first half for the Dragons, who were limited to half chances and long range efforts. An early shot from Forest loanee Gerry McDonagh was one of the best, forcing a smart save from Stamford’s Sam Donkin. John Rooney also brought gasps from the crowd with a curling 25-yard free-kick which arced just wide of the post.

But, as the half began to peter out, the visitors were awarded a penalty after a rare break into the Wrexham box. Lee Beeson, whose penalty set up this replay, took the spot kick and rifled it past a hapless Shwan Jalal.

The 52 supporters who had made the long trip from south Linconshire – and one from Derbyshire – were ecstatic. A shock was on.

After the break it was more of the same for the hosts, who played like 11 strangers for the most part, dominating play but with no end result.

Then, from a rare Stamford corner, Wrexham failed to clear their lines and the ball fell to midfielder Kern Miller who fired in a ferocious volley into the roof of the net, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead and a real chance to dream.

Many of the home side’s supporters vacated their seats at this point, unable to watch an embarrassment unfold before their eyes.

What they missed was pure FA Cup drama. Shaun Harrod pulled one back on 87 minutes, giving the remaining home support renewed hope and providing a nail-biting finish for the small band of diehards from Stamford.

After Wrexham then hit the bar and had the subsequent rebound cleared scrappily off the line, it looked like plucky Stamford had done enough. Alas, they had not. Substitute Jordan Evans drilled in a late-equaliser in the 92nd minute! Stamford’s players collectively collapsed to the floor, gutted. They had come so close but now, with tired legs, they had to face an extra 30 minutes.

Wrexham came out of the blocks raring to go, now seeing Stamford as a wounded animal ready for the taking. But this is the Cup, and Stamford completed the famous victory when Jake Duffy’s late free-kick found the back of the net to put the visitors into the first round proper for the first time in their history.

A proper cup shock, and a privilege to see it unfold in such a famous old ground.

The Ground

It’s fair to say that at least three sides of Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground, officially Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium, has seen better days. It has stood since 1807, and used as Wrexham’s home since 1864 when Wrexham FC were formed in the local Turf Hotel pub, a pub which I visited. It’s a very proud Wrexham pub as you’d expect from a place which founded the club, but away fans are welcomed in small numbers.

The Kop – an all-standing terrace able to host 5,000 supporters, has an element of decay to it. A smattering of grass has sprung on the terracing, giving an almost derelict look to it.

The Mold Road stand is the newest, and secured lottery funding. However, it now somehow looks incongruous in such old-fashioned surrounds.

The away stand’s seating is, how do I put this, ancient. The seats are made of old plastic that looks look it would snap with very little force. The kiosk is tiny, not much more than a hole in the wall. But it does your standard footy fayre, and you can get cider and beer in bottles. These cannot be taken into the stands, which meant firstly fans had to quickly down their beers before the second half began.

Well worth a visit is The Centenary Club at the back of the The Yale stand, which houses both away and home fans. It’s a modern, well-furbished clubhouse which sells good beers, serves pies and shows Sky Sports. Away fans are also made very welcome.

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The tired-looking Kop terrace

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The Yale Stand which housed both home and away support. In the foreground are the Stamford supporters; in the background is the Kop.

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The Mold Road stand, a somewhat incongruous image amongst an aging stadium.

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The Glyndŵr University Stand behind the goal

Stamford Waste Late Chances To Wreck Wrexham

Stamford and Wrexham will have to do it all again after a 1-1 draw in the Fourth Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup in South Lincolnshire on Saturday.

Wrexham, who are rudderless having sacked manager Gary Mills in the week, were considered favourites in a tie that pitted them against a team three levels below them on the pyramid.

And led by the interim management trio of Joey Jones, Andy Davies and Dean Keates, that chasm looked like it might be a major factor after the National League side made the perfect start when Shaun Harrod converted close range after Martin Riley had headed John Rooney’s deep cross back into the danger zone after just six minutes.

The travelling Welsh fans, fearing the embarrassment of a giant killing, would have been happy to get the early goal and would have hoped their team could add a few more.

But the goal was just a smokescreen for Wrexham’s shoddy form of late. The team are struggling in the league, and they failed to capitalise in a pretty average first half.

And their lack of a cutting edge was to haunt them when, in the 57th minute, former Forest defender Hamza Bencherif brought down Jevani Brown in the box and Lee Beeson fired home from the spot to the delight of the bulk of the 1,264 crowd, a new record at the Zeeco Stadium.

Stamford were now buzzing and should have won the tie. Ryan Robbins and Jevani Brown each wasted one-on-one chances, with Wrexham ‘keeper Shwan Jalal saving the Dragons from embarrassment.

So it’s to Wrexham’s famous Racecourse Ground I go tomorrow night. A long trek on a Tuesday but it’s doable.

The Ground

The Zeeco Stadium, formerley known as the Borderville Sports Centre before sponsors came in, is a modern ground only two years old. It has a terrace behind one of the goals as well as an all-seated stand along the south side of the pitch with room for around 250 spectators.

Behind the opposite goal and the north side of the pitch is a simple fence on which fans can lean on. A huge bank of turf overlooks the ground from which thrifty fans can watch the game for free, if they can avoid the security guards who, at this game at least, were on hand to disperse those who climbed up there.

The club house is situated on the first floor of the main complex, giving thirsty fans a handy view from the balcony outside. You can even watch an entire game from inside the club house if you wanted to thanks to the windows.

Below is the ‘Larder’, where you can get your usual footy grub, and a burger van was also drafted in for this game, presumably to appease the high attendance.

On that topic it’s worth noting that the 1,264 who attended set a new record for the ground. For a club that normally attracts between 200-300 people, that’s a massive jump in local support and a big boon for the club.

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AFC Press the Self Destruct Button as Stamford Stand Firm

It was a game of high drama at the Forest Town Arena on Saturday (October 1) as plucky AFC Mansfield were defeated by Stamford in an Emirates FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round tie.

AFC had proven themselves to be giant killers in the previous two rounds, with victories over clubs two levels above them on the pyramid, first with a win over Stratford Town and then a smash and grab away win at fancied Coalville Town. So with Stamford playing in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League, one level above their hosts, another potential shock was on the cards. And despite AFC taking an early lead, it all unravelled in bizarre fashion.

Mansfield went ahead after  Matt Plummer’s downward header from a floated free kick was well saved by the Stamford ‘keeper only to rebound to in-form Oli Fearon, who planted the rebound firmly into the back of the net.

Stamford, backed by a large following that gave the hosts their biggest attendance of the season by far, were a disappointment in the first half. They found it hard to make their loftier level of football be told.

So, in desperation, Stamford boss Graham Drury used all three of his subs by the hour mark and it was one of those subs, striker Ryan Robbins, who drew the tie level with a smart finish low to Jason White’s right-hand post.

Then things began to turn on Mansfield. Goal scorer Fearon was given a straight red for retaliation after he thought he’d been unduly dealt with by a Stamford defender. The referee was given no alternative but to send him off after he raised his hands to the defender’s face.

That should’ve been Stamford’s cue to take the game by the scruff of the neck but instead, Jordan Smith used his elbow to flatten Mansfield’s Jimmy Ghaichen in an off the ball incident which resulted in him following Fearon down the tunnel early. 10 aside now, and all to play for.

In what had become an end-to-end, spicy affair, Mansfield were denied by the woodwork twice and the tie looked to be heading to Stamford for a replay. A fair result perhaps.

But with just seconds remaining, Mansfield’s Jimmy Ghaichen had a moment of extreme madness in his own box when he inexplicably lashed out at a Stamford man who was going away from goal. The referee had no option but to point to the spot. Quite what Ghaichen was attempting only he will know. There was no danger. Whether he was still fired up from being elbowed, or whether he panicked we’ll never know, but it was a crazy challenge.

With time ticking on, Ollie Brown-Hill stepped up to the plate and fired home. Huge cheers – largely in relief – were heard from the strong travelling support.

As the game commenced, the ball was touched a mere two times before the ref signalled the end of the game. Stamford had progressed with a 2-1 victory which was handed to them on a plate.

It means that my allegiance switches from AFC Mansfield to Stamford and a mouth watering tie against National League side Wrexham now awaits The Daniels.

Before I wrap up, I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed my three visits to AFC Mansfield. They’ve been a joy to watch, and some of their players could certainly play at a higher level. I wish them all the best for the season ahead.

For me, I now go to the Zeeco Stadium in south Lincolnshire later this month – if I can get a ticket; it’s rumoured to be an all-ticket match that will be in high demand.

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Stamford celebrate their equaliser

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Full time scenes

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More scenes after the final whistle

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My last look at the Forest Town Arena. For this season at least. Who knows, it may just be au revoir.