from Town website
By any measure the 2011/12 season was a disappointing and frustrating experience for Town and their supporters. The anticipated promotion challenge never materialised, and only a late flourish helped Town to a finishing position of 8th after they had languished in the bottom half of the table for most of the campaign.
Clearly something needed changing, and within a week of the season ending Carl Adams from Coleshill Town had been appointed as Joint Manager to work alongside Morton Titterton with the previous Assistant Manager Jason Cadden standing down. Paul Eden continued as Coach and Joe Perkins – also from Coleshill – arrived as Physio.
And it was soon obvious that Carl Adams was going to be a major influence as in a revealing interview with the Herald in late June to coincide with Town reporting back for training he indicated that he would have the final say in crucial matters such as team selection although emphasising that this would only be “with the rock solid support of Morton.”
He also promised a “change of direction” with the focus being on recruiting players experienced at MFA level who “know what it is all about and will do the business.”
And with Town finishing the season as Champions his philosophy proved to be absolutely right.
Nevertheless to begin with the majority of last season’s squad were retained, but among the players who did move on were the previous campaign’s leading scorer Mykel Beckley and experienced keeper Richard Morris both of whom were lured away by big-spending Daventry Town.
Joss Holford and Stuart Herlihy were two other regulars who went elsewhere, while a long term injury sidelined Chris Murphy until October when his return was limited to only 4 appearances – including 3 from the subs bench – before he switched to Southam United to join his ex-Leamington colleague Martin Thompson..
Among the new recruits were two keepers returning for a second spell with Town in Tom Cross and Chris Jay, defenders Jon Powis, Andy Morris and Luke Edwards, midfielders Joe Halsall and Ben Porter, and strikers Chris Gumery, Jamie Bailey and Luke Williams who had notched 20 goals for Coventry Sphinx last term.
But perhaps the most eyebrow raising addition to the squad was left back Harry Donaghy whose reliability during his previous stints at the DCS had been called into question more than once. This time though he was a model of consistency and was a regular in the team throughout the season.
The programme of pre-season friendlies produced the usual mixed bag of results but Carl Adams felt that the new look side were progressing and was in optimistic mood ahead of the Baker Joiner MFA kick-off.
Town’s first game was at Heath Hayes and only a late equaliser for the home side prevented Town from winning their season’s opener for the first time since 2005. Fittingly Town’s two goalscorers that day were Mark Faulds and Joe Halsall who – as Town’s squad developed during the course of campaign – were the only players who remained from the starting line-up then to also start in the final match against Gornal Athletic nine months later.
A midweek win over Highgate United at the DCS followed, but there was a sudden reality check on the second Saturday of the campaign when Town exited the F A Cup at the Extra Preliminary Round stage losing 5-2 at Tividale.
Adams described Town’s performance as “gutless and toothless” and no-one who was there would disagree.
Needing an immediate morale booster Morton Titterton and Carl Adams pulled off an apparent masterstroke by persuading the former fans favourite Tony Robinson to return to the DCS. The talismanic striker had been a man of many clubs since his sensational 2006/7 season when he powered his way to the MFA Golden Boot as he averaged better than a goal a game under the inimitable managership of Dennis Mulholland, but he seemed to possess a real affinity for Town and was quick to assert that he had arrived for the long haul and that a second Golden Boot was very much in his sights.
And his impact was immediate as Town won their next six matches beginning with a narrow 2-1 win at the DCS over Carl Adams’ old team Coleshill Town. This was followed by hugely encouraging away successes at Kirby Muxloe and Studley, and then on September 1st another at Heather St John’s which propelled them to top spot in the fledgling MFA table where they were to remain for the rest of the campaign.
A DCS win against Alvechurch and another impressive away win at Dunkirk completed the sequence after which many regular Town watchers started to believe that the impossible dream of actually winning the League might at last be possible.
But the return of the prodigal Robinson was not the only change to Town’s squad. Midfielder Aaron Forde made his debut against Coleshill, while Tom Cross and Andy Gregory left after the Tividale F A Cup exit followed by Chris Gummery, James Travis and Ben Porter after the matches against Coleshill, Alvechurch and Dunkirk respectively.
The Heather match saw the debut in goal of Brendan Hazlett who had been so impressive against Town for Loughborough University last season, but the match at Kirby Muxloe was even more significant as it turned out to be Morton Titterton’s last appearance in the dug-out.
A couple of days later he underwent an operation for a tumour on the spine, and with recovery likely to be long and difficult he reluctantly decided to stand down a month later leaving Carl Adams in sole charge. .
Nevertheless Town could hardly have been in better form for their entry into the F A Carlsberg Vase against lower ranked Eccleshall from the North West Counties League who arrived at the DCS still seeking their first win of the season.
But it was a case of “Tividale revisited” as Town put in a desperately lethargic performance and surrendered tamely to a 3-0 defeat. Fortunately they put things right a week later when they blitzed nine goals past Continental Star who contributed to their own downfall by having their playmaker Aaron Garvey sent off in the opening half hour. ((MATCH REPORT BELOW)
The mercurial Robinson helped himself to a hat-trick as he gave notice that his pursuit of a second Golden Boot was deadly serious.
A draw at Tipton where – as at Heath Hayes – Town were pegged back in the closing minutes was followed by three more wins against basement side Ellesmere Rangers at the DCS and increasingly convincing away performances at Alvechurch and Causeway United.
By now Andy Morris and Luke Williams were no longer involved as Carl Adams was quick to put his own stamp on the side, and the squad was markedly strengthened with the addition of defenders Richard Robinson – who like his namesake had previous Town experience under Dennis Mulholland – and Aaron Stringfellow, midfielder Josh O’Grady and another Town old boy in the prolific goalscorer Tyrone Fagan whose striking partnership with Tony Robinson had explosive potential.
Progress was temporarily interrupted by a Birmingham Senior Cup tie against Banbury United when – entirely understandably – Carl Adams fielded a makeshift side which nevertheless fought back from 3-0 down at half time to force extra time before eventually going out 6-3.
Town then lost their 100% home record when a dogged Rocester held out for a draw on the weekend that the clocks went back, and as November arrived Town were frustrated by a postponement – which was to be first of many in a weather ravaged winter – at waterlogged Highgate.
But after a blank weekend Town returned to action with their best – and most satisfying – result of the season so far. Matches against Westfields had been increasingly ill-tempered in recent seasons, and this one was no different especially after the final whistle. But Town headed home with a 2-1 win and confidence among players and supporters was now very much on the up.
Another Cup game followed and their 100% record for the season in knockout competitions was maintained as visiting Highgate United dumped them out of the Polymac Packaging League Cup to leave Town – whether intentionally or not – with only the League to concentrate on for the remainder of the campaign.
In retrospect that scenario worked very much to Town’s advantage as their fixture congestion after the mid-winter postponements was nowhere near as difficult as that of some of their closest rivals who continued to be involved in various knockout competitions.
But it was not all going to plan. Town had managed an unbeaten 15 game start in the MFA, but they couldn’t make it 16 as four days after the Highgate Cup exit the super slick students of Lougborough University turned on the style at the DCS to send Town to a 3-2 defeat.
As Carl Adams was keen to point out if anyone had known before the season started that Town wouldn’t lose until their 16th game they would have been more than happy, and they finished November with another hard earned point against Dunkirk.
Monsoon conditions had made the DCS near enough unplayable but on a quagmire of a playing surface both sides gave it a real go and aided by some common sense refereeing somehow managed to put on an entertaining afternoon. For the single minded Carl Adams it was another point gained and another tricky match ticked off.
This turned out to be Brendan Hazlett’s last appearance as Chris Jay was preferred in goal for the next match and was an ever-present from then on.
The squad meanwhile was continuing to evolve. Defender Melvin Gourlay made his debut at Westfields followed by winger Simeon Tulloch against Dunkirk, but Jon Powis, Luke Edwards, Liam Reynolds and Chris Murphy all decided that their futures lay elsewhere while Chris Lait had so impressed Banbury United in the Birmingham Senior Cup clash that they offered him the chance to move up two levels and understandably off he went.
December looked as if it was going to be a pivotal month as Town were initially faced with seven matches of which only two were art home. And they had a potential banana skin one to start with away at Bridgnorth who had only lost twice in the League so far. To add to Town’s difficulties they had to travel with a much depleted squad as O’Grady and Stringfellow had been injured in a car accident on their way to training the previous Thursday and Harry Donaghy was ruled out with the dreaded flu bug.
But the team put in a stunning performance to win 2-1 after trailing at half time and followed that up with a midweek win on a near frozen pitch at Highgate and then a battling home win against Heather St John’s after being behind with only a quarter of an hour to go.
With the closest rivals struggling for consistency Town had opened up an 11 point lead, and a fourth consecutive win followed a week later at Coleshill with Fagan netting the only goal of the game from the penalty spot before the weather intervened over the Christmas and New Year weekends. Of 44 MFA games scheduled for the festive period only ten survived the widespread waterlogging, but at least Town were involved in two
Boxing Day saw them lose their first away game of the campaign when a Coventry Sphinx side containing a number of ex-Town youth team players snatched a late winner, but Town were back on the winning trail on January 2nd when Studley were summarily despatched 4-0.
This match was notable for the second half dismissal of Mark Faulds. It was the popular midfielder’s first sending off on his 317th appearance – a remarkable statistic given that he always gives 100% plus in the thick of the action and has never been known to pull out of a challenge.
With Carl Adams always keen to bolster his squad defender Ashley Edwards joined from Tividale to make his debut against Sphinx and he followed this up with the signing that was to give Town’s title winning prospects a crucial and ultimately decisive boost.
Lei Brown had been last season’s MFA Player of the Year while with Studley and arrived at the DCS after a brief spell at Rushall Olympic. He marked his debut against his old club with a goal inside twenty minutes, and went on to finish with 13 from 16 appearances – an exceptional strike rate for a midfielder as he transformed Town from being a side which probably could win the League to a side that definitely would.
Carl Adams also added to his staff with the appointment of Jason Lanns as Assistant Manager. It was an ideal appointment as Lanns was familiar with Adams’ methods having worked with him at Coleshill last term and had briefly taken over as manager at Pack Meadow after Adams switched to Town.
As conditions improved a comfortable win at Boldmere extended Town’s lead to a staggering 16 points, but the weather then disrupted the season again with four consecutive Saturdays either rained or snowed off.
But if any of their rivals thought that the lay-off would disrupt Town’s progress they were to be mistaken. Town’s first match after 31 days of inactivity was a tricky midweek trip to Tividale where they had been humiliated in the F A Cup six months before.
But it was all so different this time. Town’s starting line-up contained only Ricky Baker from the F A Cup clash, and inspired by a super-sub performance from Jamie Bailey who came on with half an hour to go Town stormed to a 4-1 win.
The following weekend Town overwhelmed bottom of the table Ellesmere Rangers 7-0, and amazingly repeated that scoreline a week later at the DCS against Causeway United with Tony Robinson rattling in a spectacular hat-trick.
That took Robinson’s total to 20, but much to his own frustration he was to add only one more as his goal touch seemed to desert him during the season’s closing weeks and his dreams of a second Golden Boot soon faded away
With Town having won all five of their games in 2013 scoring a scarcely believable 27 goals in the process they were now a staggering 19 points clear of second placed Stourport Swifts even though the teams below them all had games in hand, notably their nearest potential challengers Gornal Athletic who – because of their progress to the F A Carlsberg Vase quarter finals – has played eight games less.
Inevitably that goal spree couldn’t last. In their next outing Town were held to a draw at Rocester and four days later faced a Tuesday evening trip to Stourport Swifts and their first meeting with previous boss Rod Brown.
In a bruising encounter Town went down 2-1, but of more concern to Town fans was the non-appearance of the ultra-reliable skipper and defensive mainstay Dan Parker. A couple of days later it emerged that he had left Town and he turned out for Halesowen Town the following weekend.
Carl Adams though was quick to quash rumours of dressing room unrest as his side headed into March and a run of six consecutive home games which would surely decide whether Town would finish as Champions or not.
Kirby Muxloe were first up and with Youth team hotshot Jamie Molyneux promoted to the starting line-up Town claimed the points with a 2-1 scoreline although the result was probably better than the performance. Four days later the performance was markedly improved with in-form Tipton Town handed a lesson in clinical finishing as Town powered to a 3-0 win with Molyneux grabbing two.
But in the third game relegation threatened Heath Hayes repeated their opening day result with Carl Adams admitting that his side had had “a bad day at the office.” Harry Donaghy was red carded early in the second half, and Town’s ten men only rescued a point thanks to Joe Halsall’s sweetly struck free kick in the closing minutes.
Any hopes of quickly putting that below-par effort behind them were thwarted as the seemingly never ending wintry weather again intervened. More heavy rain meant that the next scheduled match against Westfields was waterlogged off, and it was even worse the following weekend when several inches of snow put paid to the much anticipated clash with Gornal with the entire MFA programme being wiped out.
With fixture congestion now a real issue the MFA took the decision to extend the season by a week and transferred the lost weekend’s fixtures to the new final day of May 4th. As Town’s original final match was due to be away to Gornal this switch meant that they would not face the Black Country side until the last two Saturdays of the campaign. by which time all Town supporters hoped that the title would already be theirs.
Third placed Bridgnorth Town were due to visit the DCS four days later and thanks to tremendous work by the groundstaff that game against all the odds was able to go ahead. The team responded with a comprehensive 3-1 win including a goal from Tom Berwick who had arrived from Leamington as cover for the suspended Tony Robinson to effectively end the Shropshire side’s title challenge.
This game also marked the welcome return to Town of Chris Lait, but to no-one’s surprise Ricky Baker opted to follow Dan Parker to Halesowen and a cartilage operation meant that Aaron Forde’s significant contribution to Town’s season ended after the Heath Hayes game.
Yet another postponement followed as delayed snow clearance efforts at Rushall scuppered Easter Saturday’s trip to Continental Star, but Town were back in action against Coventry Sphinx at the DCS on Easter Monday.
Loysio Recci – who had been at Coleshill with Carl Adams last term – had linked up with Town to fill the gap left by Parker’s departure, and he netted twice as Town emphatically overturned the Boxing Day result with a 4-0 scoreline.
The only downside to the Sphinx game was the sending off of Lei Brown who had forged such an effective midfield partnership with Joe Halsall since his arrival at the turn of the year, but by the time his ban came through the title race would be over.
Tividale became Town’s sixth consecutive opponents at the DCS the next weekend when Carl Adams’ side really showed their resilience by coming back from a goal behind to storm to a crucial win with Tyrone Fagan and Lei Brown netting three between them in the last eleven minutes.
By now Gornal and Westfields were Town’s only realistic challengers and during the next week both kept the pressure up by winning twice each while Town with no midweek fixture could only look on anxiously, but a sequence of results during the next five days were to propel Town to the brink of the title.
That outcome didn’t seem likely at the start of the weekend as they were faced with a potentially tough match at Loughborough University and with a number of players unavailable had to travel with a depleted squad. Town though showed the mettle that all true champions possess and in an immense performance brimming with character and commitment, exemplified by a scarcely believable effort from Aaron Stringfellow, who came in for Ashley Edwards for his first appearance since the end of November, they came away with a 2-0 win.
The same day Gornal slipped to a surprise defeat at home to Kirby Muxloe and on the Monday following it was their turn to visit Loughborough and were walloped 7-0. With Westfields being held to a draw at Continental Star the same evening Town faced Boldmere St Michaels at the DCS twenty four hours later knowing that a win would take them to 90 points which could only be equalled by Westfields while Gornal’s maximum was 92.
A Tyrone Fagan strike gave Town a narrow 1-0 win and the Mikes then did Town an enormous favour two days later by holding Gornal – for whom fixture congestion was now taking its toll – to a draw meaning that Town needed only a point from their next game to be Champions.
Of course it couldn’t be straightforward as that fixture was against Rod Brown’s Stourport Swifts at the DCS, but with Brown reportedly in Dubai and with a bumper crowd of 379 who preferred the football to the Shakespeare Birthday celebrations everything was in place for history to be made. (MATCH REPORT BELOW)
And no-one who was there on that gloriously sunny afternoon of Saturday April 20th will forget it. The quality of the football may not have matched the occasion, but with nerves on edge and emotions running high Town battled their way to the most valuable 1-1 draw in their history. Fagan sent the fans into raptures when he headed Town into the lead – scoring for the fifth game in a row – only for Stourport to equalise early in the second half.
From then on there were plenty of chewed finger nails and anxious looks at the watch as the minutes ticked away and the tension rose almost to breaking point, but Town held on to secure the 91st and most important point of the campaign and the joyous scenes at the final whistle said it all.
The Championship Trophy was presented to skipper Joe Halsall and his euphoric team-mates as the DCS went wild.
Town had four games left to complete their League programme beginning with a home fixture against Westfields followed by home and away games against Gornal either side of the trip to Continental Star.
Unsurprisingly though the intensity of their efforts in clinching the title were now having an effect, and with several players carrying niggling injuries they were unable to recapture the momentum which had kept them at the top of the table for so long.
So having only lost three times in winning the title Town now lost four times after doing so, and with Westfields ending their season with a late rattle to claim the runners-up spot Town’s advantage at the final reckoning had been reduced to a single point, but as Carl Adams rightly said he would have willingly accepted that back in August.
And overall those last four results didn’t matter as Town took their leave of the MFA after 19 years, leaving Boldmere St Michaels as the only surviving founder member, and they now wait to hear from the Football Association which League they will be playing in next term.
Carl Adams is already making plans for what lies ahead, but he was commendably quick to acknowledge the role played by Morton Titterton in Town’s triumph prior to his illness. “Morton brought me to the Club last summer” he said “and we were a great team until he had to stand down. In the midst of all the celebrations his input should not be forgotten.”
Those celebrations continued at Town’s Presentation Evening when their powerhouse midfielder and inspirational skipper Joe Halsall virtually swept the board by winning the Manager’s, Players’ and Supporters’ Player of the Year Awards, while the long serving Mark Faulds took the Herald Player of the Year Trophy and Tony Robinson collected the award for being Leading Scorer with 23 goals in all competitions.
A further Special Award was presented to Carl Adams in recognition of his achievement in leading Town to the Championship.
And it is only right that at the end of this magical, momentous and history making season Carl Adams should also have the final word
“The target at the start way back in August was the title,” he said as he reflected on the season after the final game “and it has been mission accomplished.” TOWN ARE THE CHAMPIONS !!
|Heather St Johns||2-1||192||1-0||72|
SELECTED MATCH REPORTS
Stratford Town – 1 – Fagan 42 Stourport Swifts – 1 – Pountney 48
There may have been the annual celebrations for Shakespeare’s Birthday in Stratford on Saturday but they were surely as nothing compared to the joyous scenes at the DCS at around a quarter to five when the referee blew for time at the end of the game against Stourport Swifts and Town had earned the draw which gave them the point they needed to clinch the Baker Joiner MFA title with four games still to play.
And with the title comes promotion to Step 4 of the Non-League Pyramid, which means that when the new season kicks off in August Town will be playing at the highest level in their history.
No wonder then that there were tears as well as cheers amongst the bumper crowd of 379 when a nervy and emotional 90 minutes were finally all over.
Town went into this game knowing that a single point from a draw was all that was required to make sure of the Championship, but they also knew that this was never going to be a stroll in the pleasant Spring sunshine. The Swifts were lying second in the table – although a massive 19 points behind Town – and they had been one of only three teams to beat Town in the League this season with a narrow 2-1 win back in February.
There was also the Rod Brown factor to take into account but this turned out to be a non-runner as Town’s former manager was apparently away in Dubai.
Yet for Town’s anxious supporters the omens before kick off were hardly encouraging. Although Harry Donaghy was able to return after completing his three match ban the influential Lei Brown’s nagging groin problem ruled him out and their commanding central defender Melvin Gourlay was unavailable. Richard Robinson came in for Gourlay while play-anywhere Mark Faulds having deputised at left back during Donaghy’s suspension now took over from Brown in midfield.
And the early minutes only added to the tension as Swifts were immediately into their stride and thought that they had gone ahead in only the sixth minute when Town struggled to clear a corner. Calvin Dinsley returned the ball into the six yard box and it was bundled in by Lewis Pountney only for the referee to rule it out for a foul on keeper Chris Jay much to Town’s relief.
Town were not making much impact up front although Simeon Tulloch used his pace to make a couple of eyecatching runs down the left, and it was Swifts who continued to be the more threatening of the two sides. Their strike pairing of Pountney and John Griffin had already notched over 50 goals between them this term, and the Swifts gameplan was simply to get the ball up to them as quickly as possible and hope that they would be able to add to that already impressive tally.
Fortunately Loyiso Recci was immense at the heart of Town’s backline with Aaron Stringfellow again putting in another admirably composed display on only his third game back, but even so the Swifts would surely had taken the lead but for the inspired form of Jay in the Town goal.
On 18 minutes he bravely smothered the ball at Pountney’s feet as the striker looked to get on the end of a Dinsley ball into the penalty area, and after a teasing cross from Paul Hurrell had floated beyond Pountney at the far post Jay pulled off a quite brilliant save as the half reached its midway point to keep out a header form ex-Town man Tim Jackson.
Again it was Hurrell who launched the ball over from the right and Jackson had a free header from eight yards out which was destined for the top corner before Jay leapt to his right to push it behind.
Josh O’Grady briefly raised the crowd’s spirits with a useful effort which flew into the side netting, but the Swifts continued to pile on the pressure with Griffin having a shot half stopped by Jay with Richard Robinson hacking the loose ball to safety and then Griffin heading over as Town once more had difficulty in dealing with another corner.
But three minutes before the break Town kept up their record of scoring in every game this season when Tulloch found some space on the left and floated over a teasing cross for Fagan to outjump Mark Benbow and direct a glancing header beyond Swifts keeper Hadyn Whicombe into the far corner of the net.
It was the fifth game running that the hardworking Fagan has been on the scoresheet, and he now has 13 for the season.
Having dominated play up to then the Swifts were stunned at finding themselves behind, and it could have got worse for them in the final minute of the half when O’Grady finished a promising with a well struck shot which was only inches wide of Whitcombe’s right hand post.
Having probably been fortunate to have been leading at the break the last thing Town wanted was for the Swifts could nick an equaliser soon after the restart, but that is exactly what they did. Richard Robinson tangled with Pountney as the Swifts dangerman chased a through ball towards the penalty area and although the subsequent free kick was blasted into the Town wall by Jackson it was not properly cleared.
Eventually it was picked up by Jordan Jones on the right who drilled it back into the congested penalty area where it was turned in by Pountney from close range for his 24th MFA goal of the season.
That really set the nerves jangling for the rest of the afternoon as Pountney continued to keep the Town backline at full stretch shooting narrowly wide from distance and often needing the combined attentions of Richard Robinson and Recci to prevent him from getting a proper sight of goal.
Town survived an awkward moment in the 66th minute when Jay was penalised for time wasting to concede a free kick a yard inside the penalty area but once more the Town wall did its job. Soon after it was an even narrower squeak when Dinsley’s inswinging corner from the left was touched onto the bar and over by the under-pressure Jay as the Swifts continued their high tempo long ball strategy.
Nevertheless the minutes were gradually ticking away, and with a quarter of an hour left a typical Tony Robinson lay-off sent Fagan away down the inside right channel only for him to be crowded out by the advancing Whitcombe with the help of the backpedalling Benbow.
Chris Lait was now on for Donaghy and was not far away with a 20 yard snap shot, and as the game headed into its closing ten minutes it seemed as if some of the fizz had gone out of the Swifts approach play.
Jay comfortably held a Benbow header and was smartly off his line to beat Griffin to another through ball, while a the other end only a perfectly timed tackle from Jamie Willetts denied Lait as he latched onto an O’Grady cross.
Into added time and with the crowd frantically counting down the seconds Lait shot straight at Whitcombe before the longed-for final whistle and at last the celebrations could begin.
The Championship Trophy was presented to skipper Joe Halsall and his ecstatic team-mates while the delirious Town faithful could rejoice at seeing history being made on a day which will be savoured for a long time to come.
TOWN : Jay, Stringfellow, Donaghy (Lait 73), Recci, R Robinson, Faulds, Tulloch, Halsall, A Robinson, Fagan, O’Grady. Unused Subs – Molyneux, Mooney & Hazlett (GK)
STOURPORT : Whitcombe, Jones Willetts, Spencer, Benbow, Walker, Hurrell, Dinsley, Poutney, Griffin, Jackson. Unused Subs – Adams, Evans, Seekings, Williams & Kirby
Attendance – 379
Marston’s Town Man of the Match – Tyrone Fagan
The View From The Dug-Out – a jubilant Carl Adams reflects on a momentous afternoon
“First of all I thought it was an awful game. Their tactics place far too much emphasis on the long ball for me, and unfortunately we found ourselves being sucked into playing the same way.
It also didn’t help being without two of our key players for what was always going to be a challenging encounter, but we came through and I’m chuffed to bits.
And at last we are the Champions. I feel that we effectively won it in December and January when we built up a big lead at the top of the table, and nobody can catch us now.
This is also the right time to remember Morton Titterton. He brought me to the Club last summer and we were a great partnership until he had to stand down. In the midst of all these celebrations his input should not be forgotten.”
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
Town – GA 5 OT 2 HW 0 CW 2 FC 13 OS 6 YC 1 RC 0
Stourport – GA 8 OT 5 HW 1 CW 8 FC 10 OS 4 YC 1 RC 0
Town Yellow Cards – R Robinson
Stourport Yellow Cards – Hurrell
Match Report by Bryan Hale
RUTHLESS TOWN HIT NINE AGAINST TEN MAN STAR
Stratford Town – 9 – A Robinson (3) 40, 69 & 90 Donaghy 45 (pen) Edwards 55 Forde 60 Lait (3) 62, 82 & 89 Continental Star – 0
A week is a long time in football and that was emphatically proved by Town at the DCS on Saturday.
Just seven days after their dismal performance against Eccleshall in the F A Carlsberg Vase they bounced back to blast nine goals past a stunned and ultimately shell shocked Continental Star side, including seven in a sustained second half blitz which saw Chris Lait and Tony Robinson both end up with hat-tricks.
Admittedly Star – newly promoted to the Baker Joiner MFA after being Champions of the Athium Midland Combination last term – contributed hugely to their own downfall by having their influential midfielder Aaron Moses-Garvey red carded in only the 25th minute, and with joint manager Morton Titterton watching his first game since his operation a month ago Town mercilessly exploited their numerical advantage as Star wilted after half time to give a massive – and perhaps – crucial boost to their goal difference which could easily be worth a point in the end of season reckoning.
Following the Eccleshall loss Town’s starting line-up showed four changes of which the most significant was the return of Dan Parker – whose playing time this season had so far been restricted to the first six minutes of the opening match at Heath Hayes – to the centre of the backline. Elsewhere Chris Jay was recalled in goal in place of Brendan Hazlett with Mark Faulds and Josh O’Grady being promoted from the subs bench in place of Chris Lait and the injured Luke Williams.
Still favouring a 3-5-2 formation Town made a bright start with Tony Robinson and O’Grady combining promisingly on a couple of occasions, but Star showed that they could also knock the ball about with Garvey catching the eye with his skill in possession and incisive distribution, and although there was little goalmouth action the first twenty minutes were very much even.
O’Grady came closest for Town with a 25 yard free kick which landed on the roof of the net while Star’s most threatening move came when Moses-Garvey released Liam Sankey down the left to whip in a cross which was expertly dealt with by the impeccably positioned Parker.
But the whole complexion of the game changed shortly after when Moses-Garvey was dismissed after an altercation with the referee, and without their playmaker Star had the odds heavily stacked against them for the rest of the afternoon.
Indeed they could have been trailing inside a minute as Jamie Bailey worked his way down the left to pick out Joe Halsall with a low cross which the Town midfielder drilled narrowly wide.
As it was Town initially found it hard to make their extra man count as their passing lacked the necessary sharpness and instead of spreading the play wide they tended to concentrate on trying to work an opening down the congested middle.
And Star were quick to break when they had the chance with the lively Sankey testing Jay with a useful effort on the half hour mark, and Shane Paul firing inches wide after outmuscling Luke Edwards inside the penalty area.
But Town should have gone ahead on 35 minutes when Faulds threaded the ball through to Aaron Forde down the inside left channel and he squared the ball across to Tony Robinson who was unmarked six yards out, but as the Town faithful waited for the net to bulge the mercurial Robinson went for power over placement and to everyone’s disbelief blazed wide.
Soon after Robinson did better with a far post header from an O’Grady right wing cross which was grabbed on the line by Star keeper Andy Pring, with frantic Town claims that the ball was already over being waved away.
Town though were now cranking up the pressure and at last broke through five minutes before the break when Parker received the ball from a throw-in on the right and lofted it into the penalty area. Faulds stretched to flick it on toTony Robinson whose glancing header looped over Pring into the net.
And in the final minute of the half Town went two up with a penalty after O’Grady was bundled over by Josh O’Garro as he latched onto another Faulds pass, and Harry Donaghy coolly sent Pring the wrong way from the spot.
Town were immediately into their stride after the restart with Bailey and Halsall both making threatening runs into the penalty area before being crowded out, and they effectively put the result beyond doubt in the 55th minute with a vital third goal. Donaghy was the provider with a teasing free kick from the left which was touched on by Tony Robinson and turned in by Edwards at the far post.
Pring then saved well from Forde but Town were now really buzzing, and Lait came on for Bailey to make an instant impression. He almost scored from close in with his first touch, and when the attempted clearance by the hard pressed Star defence fell to Forde 30 yards out the Town midfielder calmly took aim and let fly with a spectacular volley which rocketed into the net before the startled Pring could move.
Two minutes later Lait made it five as he gained possession halfway inside the Star half raced away to slot the ball past the advancing Pring.
And in the 69th minute it was a round half dozen for Town as Forde surged down the right to exchange passes with Lait before slipping the ball inside for Tony Robinson to sweep it past Pring from eight yards out.
In a by now rare Star attack an Allando Davis shot was safely held by Jay, but it was really all Town and Star’s nightmare first visit to the DCS got even worse as they conceded another three in the closing eight minutes.
Firstly Donaghy’s pinpoint cross from the left was thumped home by Lait from practically on the penalty spot, then Jon Powis floated the ball in from the right which Faulds unselfishly sidefooted to Lait who completed his hat-trick from close in. And in the final minute it was Tony Robinson’s turn to celebrate as he rifled in a low drive from the edge of the penalty area.
So in stark contrast to their Cup form Town’s exhilarating start to their League campaign continues with eight wins and one draw from their opening nine games. And with Stourport Swifts only drawing with Dunkirk Town have extended their lead at the top of the table to six points with Boldmere St Michaels now the closest pursuers.
Next up for Town is a testing Black Country trip to face Tipton Town, but with confidence now surely sky high Town supporters will be hoping for another positive result there to keep this spellbinding run going.
TOWN : Jay, R Robinson (Powis 74), Donaghy, Edwards, Parker, Faulds, Forde, Halsall (Porter 62), A Robinson, O’Grady, Bailey (Lait 59). Unused Subs – Morris & Hazlett (GK)
STAR : Pring, Stewart, Sankey, D Robinson, O’Garro (Tomlinson 66), Green, Hamilton (Powell 71), Hazell, Paul (Swaby 61), Moses-Garvey, Davis. Unused Subs – Brown & Price
Attendance – 178
Marston’s Town Man of the Match – Tony Robinson
The View From The Dug-Out – Carl Adams savours another League win
“After last week we were desperate to put things right, and we did exactly that. Obviously the sending off had an impact, but sometimes it can be equally as hard playing against ten and it is to our credit that we never let up.
Those nine goals are great for our goal difference and it is also worth pointing out that we have only conceded seven in nine games.
I’m very conscious that expectations are understandably high here and I know that League success is the priority. We have got off to the best possible start and we now have to keep it going.”
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
Town – GA 18 OT 11 HW 0 CW 5 FC 11 OS 10 YC 1 RC 0
Star – GA 8 OT 4 HW 0 CW 2 FC 18 OS 4 YC 1 RC 1
Town Yellow Cards – A Robinson
Star Yellow Cards – D Robinson Red Card – Moses-Garvey
Match Report by Bryan Hale