Bucking winless trend to put pressure back on the leaders

Buxton loan striker Liam Hardy.
Buxton loan striker Liam Hardy.

Second-placed Buxton Bucks gained a much-needed victory at Stafford Rangers on Saturday to keep the pressure on Northern Premier League leaders Blyth Spartans and the chasing pack.

The 2-1 comeback win followed a poor sequence of just one point from a possible nine, started by a 3-1 home defeat to Rangers.

Buxton manager Martin McIntosh made two changes from the side that slipped late on against Warrington the previous week with Danny Burns returning from suspension at the expense of Joel Bembo-Leta and Nicky Walker in for Alastair Taylor.

Despite having a lot of early possession, the Bucks failed to create clear-cut chances with lone striker Liam Hardy isolated.

Stafford though were starting to do well down the flanks with right-back Sam Griffiths linking with Izak Reid.

It was Griffiths who created the opening goal on 21 minutes. He received the ball on the right 10 yards out and dragged it on to his left foot before putting in an inviting cross that Richard Batchelor stretched to head in from close range.

The hosts should have doubled their lead on 36 minutes when Batchelor missed from 10 yards, prompting a change of personnel and formation from the Buxton management team as Niall Doran was replaced by leading scorer Bradley Grayson and the formation switched to 4-4-2.

The change proved fruitful in the second half, which the visitors started brightly.

Hardy and Grayson starting to create openings, but it wasn’t until the 61st minute that keeper Whithouse was forced to make a save of any kind when he comfortably gathered Hardy’s effort.

At the other end a terrific tackle by Greg Young stopped Batchelor.

Buxton levelled on 69 minutes when loanee Hardy latched on to a through ball from Brad Abbott down the left and went around the keeper before netting from a tight angle.

As the game opened up Nicky Walker’s turn and shot on 75 minutes went just wide of the Stafford goal, while Batchelor again went close for the hosts.

Hardy struck the winner 12 minutes from time, his sixth goal in four matches back at the Silverlands on loan from Darlington.

Abbott’s lofted ball into the area caused havoc. Walker’s shot was well kept out by Whitehouse, but Hardy’s close-range finish wrong-footed everyone.