WARRINGTON Town were made to rue a number of missed chances as their play-off hopes took a hit with a 2-1 home defeat against Stafford Rangers.
It would have been tough on the visitors had they chucked away a two goal lead, particularly considering they were winning the original game 2-0 when fog caused its abandonment deep in the second half before Christmas.
Goals from Jack Sherratt and Ben Haseley put Stafford in control, and despite Scott Bakkor’s penalty 15 minutes from time, the Yellows couldn’t stop a reverse that sees them drop out of the play-off places.
There was a change in the Yellows line-up as Michael Bakare came in for his debut up-front alongside Bakkor, with Ruben Jerome only fit enough for a place on the bench.
Though Warrington had the first chance, James McCarten heading over from Dylan Vassallo’s corner, Stafford enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, Tony McMillan out sharply to smother an early chance.
Mitch Duggan’s tame shot was comfortably saved by the Stafford keeper, before another chance for the visitors was snuffed out by McMillan as Haseley looked to poach on Izak Reid’s flick.
Reid was causing the Yellows problems and his work down the right helped build the attack that opened the scoring. Sherratt held off a couple of defenders and then placed a left-foot shot in to the bottom corner to give them a 1-0 lead on 24 minutes.
Warrington finally came to life in the final quarter of an hour of the half, and should really have gone in at half-time at least on level terms.
One of Vassallo’s seemingly countless corners fell to Evan Gumbs who short fiercely and was denied by Stafford keeper Adam Whitehouse.
Whitehouse certainly earned his corn towards the end of the first half as he entered in to a personal duel with Bakare.
The striker somehow failed to get the Yellows back on terms when he took on Bakkor’s flick, seemed to round the keeper before Whitehouse managed to get a body part back to divert the ball away.
Bakare was then denied from point blank after hitting a first time shot from Vassallo’s pull back and then Duggan had a shot deflected just wide after a nice one-two with Michael Monaghan.
A poor touch by Bakare meant another opening was wasted, but he had a chance to redeem himself in injury time, cutting in and shooting, and although Whitehouse got a foot to it, the ball would have spun in if it hadn’t been for Matthew Bailey racing back and hacking away from on the line.
The way they ended the first half would have given Warrington encouragement, but the break came at a perfect time for the visitors.
They settled back in to the game, and all the Yellows could muster in the first seven minutes of the second half was a Billy Smart shot that was straight at the keeper after the midfielder had done well to win the ball back in Stafford’s half.
The killer blow came on 53 minutes when the excellent Reid squeezed the ball away down the left and set up a simple tap in for the unmarked Haseley running in at the back post.
Jerome entered proceedings shortly after the hour mark, but even he was unable to replicate his super substitution efforts from earlier in the season.
He did force a strong wristed save by Whitehouse on 63 minutes and in the end the Yellows did get a goal back – Bakkor sending the keeper the wrong way from the spot after a handball.
It was a lifeline for Warrington and they spent the final minutes of the game camped in Stafford’s half.
The mother of all goalmouth scrambles, with Warrington keeper McMillan up for it, resulted in a number of chances cleared off the line and ultimately they couldn’t do enough to force an equaliser.
Wins elsewhere for Nantwich, Buxton, Whitby, Workington and Stourbridge impact on the Yellows play-off hopes, with a big trip to Whitby due next Saturday.
Pictures John Hopkins
Warrington Town: McMillan, Duggan (Carden), Askew, Williams, McCarten, Gumbs, Vassallo, Smart, Bakkor, Bakare (Codling), Monaghan (Jerome). Unused subs: Ventre, Shaw.
Stafford Rangers: Whitehouse, Lyttle, Griffiths, Tolley (Taylor), Morris, Bailey, I Reid (L Reid), Heath, Perry, Haseley, Sherratt (Batchelor). Unused subs: Barton, Bowen.