A superb half-volley by Alex-Ray Harvey ensured Stafford Rangers a deserved share of the spoils at Warrington Town.
Going into the weekend with the best away record in the division, Stafford were desperate for a win to keep alive their play-off hopes against a Yellows side currently occupying one.
The Yellows did have a home semi-final in their own control before, but the draw coupled with Matlock’s win at Basford means they’ll now need the Gladiators to slip up even before Warrington go there on the final day.
Stafford started brightly, forcing a couple of early corners, but fell behind midway through the first half.
On-loan Southport winger Isaac Buckley-Ricketts pounced on a missed defensive header and kept his cool to slide the ball past Mateus Hewelt.
Hewelt was in hot water on the half hour mark, booked for handling outside his box as Josh Amis chased a ball down the left channel.
On the stroke of half time, some nice link up play down the right between Buckley-Ricketts and Bohan Dixon resulted in Matt Regan digging a shot wide. Evan Gumbs headed over the bar from a Stefan Mols free kick in injury time.
Within four minutes of the restart, Stafford were level. A Tom Tonks long-throw, which were a regular occurrence in the second half, was headed out to Harvey on the edge of the box, and he hit a sweet left-foot shot on the half volley that went in off the inside of the post despite the best efforts of a stretching Dan Atherton.
Warrington Town boss Mark Beesley said: “I look at it as a point gained because they put us under pressure from set pieces and the long-throw ins. But if you asked me at half time I’d have said two points dropped because first half I thought we played well and should have been two or three up.
“We’ve had two great chances, one right on half time, and if one of them goes in it’s a different game. But fair play to them, they’ve come out second half and had a go, used the wind to their advantage and it’s a great strike for the goal.”
Indeed Stafford had the best chances to win it. A teasing Tonks cross that just evaded Kaiman Anderson was put into the side netting by Tre Pemberton, and substitute Theo Bailey-Jones hooked a late shot wide, moments after diverting Alex Fletcher’s corner over.
For the Yellows, their only threat in the second half came from a Sean Williams corner that was only half cleared, with Jay Harris’ shot tipped over the bar.
They travel to Atherton Collieries next Saturday, before Witton Albion visit Cantilever Park on Easter Monday.
The final league game of the season is away at Matlock Town on April 23, with a possible play-off semi-final scheduled for Tuesday April 26.
The Yellows are the reigning NPL play-off winners, having beaten South Shields in 2019, but automatic promotion to National League North for the winner is back in place after a super play-off was in force for that season only.
Warrington Town: Atherton, Duggan, Regan (Clarke), Harris, Roberts, Gumbs, Buckley-Ricketts, Mols (Williams), Amis, Dixon, Hough (Duffy). Unused subs: Grivosti, Mackreth.
Stafford Rangers: Hewelt, Burns, Dunne, Harvey, Stewart, O’Neill, Kenton (Bailey-Jones), Tonks, Anderson, Fletcher, Pemberton. Unused subs: Abbey, Endall, Woods, Charles.
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