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Mark’s On The Spot

Weymouth had Stafford’s rugged central defender Craig McAughtrie and new goalkeeper Jason Matthews to thank as they pocketed a day one bonus under manager Geoff Butler’s new incentive-based pay scheme.

The tall McAughtrie, who frustrated the Terras and their fans with his uncompromising defending, needlessly stuck out a hand to give away the 70th-minute penalty that Mark Rawlinson converted to separate two evenly matched sides.

Rangers, whose day began badly with a nightmare eight-hour coach journey that resulted in the kick-off being delayed for over an hour, were then denied a late leveller when Matthews plunged fearlessly at the flailing feet of a rampaging Daniel Davidson in the last minute.

Football came back to the Wessex Stadium with more of a whimper than a bang.

With Rangers snagged in a 12-mile tailback on the M5, the air of excitement that usually greets the new season was somewhat diluted by the time the 700 restless fans who had decided to sit out the long wait, were lifted by the sight of a quick-change Stafford squad sprinting more or less straight from their coach on to the pitch.

However the delay seemed to have affected the Terras more than their opponents who, pleased to have the chance to stretch their legs, made the running in a subdued first 15.

Davidson won a couple of headers against Terras new central pairing of Alex Browne and Mark Kenway, sending one wide and the other at a comfortable catching height for Matthews.

Then Robert Heath, with time and space on the edge of the area, produced a heart-stopping moment for a stranded Matthews with a lob that cleared the crossbar.

With David Laws struggling to make any impact, the Terras relied heavily on the pace of Lee Phillips whose head brought the home side’s first goal attempt on 22 minutes when he out-jumped a defender to meet Simon Browne’s long diagonal cross to the far post and flash a header a couple of yards wide.

Alex Browne, again the Terras’ outstanding defender, joined the attack after 35 minutes to go a lot closer from Steve Tully’s centre and then had Rangers’ stopper Ryan Price fingertipping another header over the bar.

But as the home side began to get their act together it was the speed of Phillips which brought the big talking point over the half-time cuppa.

Benefiting from a rebounded clearance, Phillips went off like lightning through an off-guard defence and looked set to slot past Price from near the penalty spot when Rangers’ skipper Lee Barrow lunged from behind to send him sprawling as the ball rolled harmlessly to the keeper.

But as Phillips had lengthy treatment on an ankle injury, Terras’ penalty claims fell on deaf ears and when referee Bruce McLaren blew the half-time whistle two minutes later a still-seething Phillips had to be dragged away by Simon Browne as he made his feelings known to the official.

Weymouth’s second half start was much more positive and the rock-like McAughtrie first halted Mark Robinson’s promising surge through the centre before hurling himself into another challenge to deflect Alex Browne’s goalbound drive.

It was still nip and tuck however with Rangers’ David Berks failing to find the target from 18 yards after running at a depleted home defence and Price nudging a Phillips thunderbolt over the top after Tully’s pin-point 50-yard pass again exploited the star striker’s electrifying pace.

With a tiring Ryan Ashford replaced in midfield by fellow newcomer Martin Barlow, the Terras got the penalty breakthrough.

McAughtrie, tucked in behind Alex Browne as the Terras skipper shielded the ball with his back to goal just inside the area, inexplicably handled right in front of Mr. McLaren and Rawlinson, sending Price the wrong way with his stuttering run-up, slotted home from the spot.

The Terras owed much to Alex Browne in an edgy last 20 minutes as Rangers sought an equaliser.

He closed down a threatening Davidson deep inside the area, then fortune favoured the brave when he toe-poked the ball away from Stafford substitute Andrew Bott and watched in relief as it looped over Matthews before dropping inches over his own goal.

McAughtrie’s day went from bad to worse when he missed the chance to switch from villain to hero by putting a far-post header wide from a couple of feet in the 79th minute.

Then, after an offside flag cut short Davidson’s premature goal celebrations, Bott was a whisker off target with Matthews beaten. The goalkeeper rescued his side again when Davidson broke through the middle.

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