Stocksbridge Park Steels 1 Trafford 3

First published in Sport

TRAFFORD picked up another three points on the road on Satur, to all but cement their place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division next season, and officially relegate Stocksbridge Park Steels in the process.

The visitors were forced into two changes at Bracken Moor. With Tom Read unavailable, Hayden Buckley-Smith took over between the sticks for his league debut, and Callum Jones deputised for the suspended Nia Bayunu in central defence, otherwise the starting XI was the same as that what turned out against Worksop Town in midweek.

The game was played at a frenetic tempo throughout, and gained an air of a real end-of-season contest, the first chance arriving after just three minutes, when Shelton Payne gave Stocksbridge a warning of what to expect, as he fired wide from the edge of the box.

Stocksbridge responded quickly, and saw tall target man James Smith get clear in the area, but his effort was tame, and was deflected wide by Jones and out for a corner.

The yo-yoing nature of the game continued, when Reece Welsh forced a corner on the right flank.

The ball was fed back to Simon Hackney whose shot was charged down, the ball falling to Steve Mason whose shot on the turn was well kept out by Steels 'keeper Ben Scott.

Stocksbridge were almost gifted a goal soon afterwards, when a mistake by Buckley-Smith allowed Danny South to catch him in possession, and the ball ended up at the feet of Smith whose 20 yard curler crashed off the top of the bar.

Payne again spurned a great opportunity when firing just wide from 18 yards, and was almost made to pay for his miss, when Mason had to be alert to head an effort off the line as Stocksbridge looked to keep themselves alive for another week.

However, their hopes were to be dashed just before the break, when Shelton Payne's fleet of foot deceived Steels' centre back Brett Bowden-Lovell, and the former Stocksbridge man left him standing as he rushed into the box and fired low past Scott to put the North 1-0 up.

Unbelievably, this still wasn't the last chance of the half. This fell to the home side's Matt Hamshaw, who found himself free in the inside right position stepped inside but again a tame shot allowed Buckley-Smith to make a comfortable save to his left.

HT: Stocksbridge Park Steels 0-1 Trafford The second half couldn't have started worse for Trafford, and the Steels were level within three minutes. The dangerous Smith forced his way into a position to shoot, which he did. His effort looped up into the air off the knee of a defender, and through the grasp of Buckley-Smith, whom it looked as though should have kept it out.

It was now all to play for, and Stocksbridge were on top and looking the more likely, with Smith again wasting two great chances, before Trafford skipper Martyn Andrews had a superb chance to put his side ahead but, from Rory Fallon's pullback, he went for placement over power and allowed Scott to make the save diving away to his right.

This was to matter little as it turned out, as just three minutes later, a combination between Andrews and Payne forced Bowden-Lovell to handle in his own area, and the referee, with help from his assistant, awarded the penalty, and Bowden-Lovell a yellow card.

Payne stepped up and made no mistake to continue his impressive spot-kick record.

Payne was now on a hat-trick, and it didn't take him long to complete it. Just two minutes after converting from the spot, he latched on to a long ball over the top to curl around Scott from 25 yards and into the far corner via the right-hand post.

Trafford were now well on top and Payne was running the show, presenting Simon Hackney with a chance to test Scott, before he should have scored his fourth of the afternoon late on after rounding the Steels custodian but shot wastefully into the side netting.

Stocksbridge went down fighting with further chances for Smith and South going begging, but this wasn't to matter as Trafford held on to record a further three points and consign the Steels to First Division football next season.

Trafford’s next game is on Saturday, when relegation threatened Barwell visit Shawe View for a 3pm kick-off.

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