A SECOND PROMOTION IN THREE YEARS AS CARL ADAMS’ GOLDEN TOUCH CONTINUES
THE STORY OF THE 2014/15 SEASON
from old Town website
Having guided Town to the MFA Chanpionship followed by a creditable tenth place finish in their debut Southern League Division 1 South and West campaign Carl Adams could look back with plenty of satisfaction on his two seasons in charge, and also look forward to continuing his side’s upward progress in 2014/15.
Surely though not even the most optimistic supporter would have dared to predict that Town would end the campaign play off winners and Premier Division bound.
Twelve months before, with several of the title winning side moving on, he was faced with having to rebuild his squad, but at least he didn’t have a repeat of that situation now as Town had ended the 2013/14 season with an encouragingly settled line-up after plenty of changes early on as he sifted through a number of players to make sure that they were up to the demands of Southern League football.
And with virtually all of the season ending squad happy to remain at the DCS it was a far more relaxing summer break for the Town boss. There had been concerns that keeper Andy Kemp and Golden Boot winner Richard Gregory might be tempted away, but both opted to stay, and Carl Adams only felt it necessary to make two additions.
The first of these was a familiar name. Joe Halsall had been the inspirational captain during the successful MFA season, but had chosen to play elsewhere soon after the new season had begun. However his return to the DCS had been widely anticipated, and as Adams said he was “the type of player we were missing last season and he will give us a real presence in the middle of the park.”
The other new boy was striker Harvey Headley who had impressed Adams when playing against Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup last season – which incidentally was Halsall’s last Town appearance – but he never able to hold down a regular place and disappeared in mid-November after scoring just once in 13 appearances which included nine as a substitute.
And Town also received an unexpected and welcome bonus on the playing front with the return of Aaron Stringfellow who had been a vital member of the MFA winning squad and who had since taken a year out backpacking round the world.
Before leaving he had said that he would return to Town when he was back in the UK and Carl Adams was naturally pleased to have a player of his quality basically just turn up on his doorstep.
So understandably there was plenty of optimism amongst Town supporters when Kidderminster Harriers arrived at the DCS to kick off the pre-season friendly programme in mid-July, but a promising Town performance was overshadowed by an injury to Richard Gregory who limped off 20 minutes after coming on as a half time substitute.
There was more woe for Town in the friendly against Stourbridge when Halsall sustained a serious looking knee injury as he headed Town into the lead but as usual the pre-season results were more or less meaningless, although plenty of eyebrows were raised when Town managed to lose 6-2 to a fired-up Studley side, while bizarrely the eighth and final friendly against a Solihull Moors Under 21 side was abandoned at the interval after the DCS was hit by a thunderstorm of biblical proportions.
But Carl Adams seemed fairly relaxed and Town headed into their second season of Southern Leagie football in confident mood.
As it happened they couldn’t have wished for a better opening day fixture as they were at home to Bishops Cleeve who were destined for a season of struggle. Gregory had recovered from the injury picked up in the Kidderminster friendly to make the starting line-up and fired Town into a two goal lead as well as missing a penalty inside the opening 25 minutes as Carl Adams’ side cruised to an easy win.
More impressive was their performance in their second game when a Gregory free kick of Lionel Messi quality was the highlight of a 3-1 midweek win over Didcot Town, but Town couldn’t make it three wins from three as they slipped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Sholing which also saw Gregory go off with a groin strain which was to keep him out of the starting line-up for the next two months.
A hard earned draw at Shortwood was then followed with a third DCS win of the season against newly promoted Larkhall Athletic which seemingly set Town up nicely for their next two matches – an August Bank Holiday Monday clash two days later with local rivals Evesham United and then an F A Cup Preliminary Round tie at East Midland Counties side Blalby and Whetstone Athletic.
Suddenly though everything went wrong. Evesham took an early lead at a rainswept DCS and Town never looked like getting back on terms. A bad injury to an Evesham player near the end meant that the game was heled up for over half an hour, and when it restarted Evesham promptly scored again to make it 2-0 and hand Town a bit of a reality check.
Surely though Town would make amends at Blaby and remove the only blot on Carl Adams’ CV during his time at Town of never having won a knockout cup game of any description.
But it was not to be. Blalby defended resolutely with everyone behind the ball from the kick-off to crowd out the Town strikers and then caught Town with the sucker punch of a breakaway goal after half time to go through to the next round and leave Carl Adams pretty much in total despair.
Apart from the result the Blaby game was notable for the first significant changes to Town’s squad with Scott Hadland making his debut in midfield while it was Jamie Sheldon’s final appearance before his move to Sutton Coldfield.
Probably the last thing Town needed after their Cup exit was a lengthy away trip to face the early season League leaders the following weekend, but that was exactly what the fixture schedule gave them.
AFC Totton had been relegated from the Premier Division at the end of the previous season and looking to bounce straight back had won 5 of their opening 6 games, but Town produced a thoroughly professional away performance to take the points through Chris Sterling’s precision finish shortly before the interval with Carl Adams beaming that Town had done to Totton what Blaby had done to his side a week earlier.
Little did anyone know it at the time but Town had embarked on a ten game winning run which was see them soar to the number one spot as the table began to take meaningful shape.
A comfortable win over Wantage followed in midweek and the next weekend it was another 1-0 away success at North Leigh with Tyrone Fagan netting late on.
That result sent Town to the top of the table and they couldn’t have wished for a better next fixture as it was a mouthwatering clash at the DCS with the pre-season title favourites Merthyr Town.
And in front a bumper DCS crowd of 303 Joe Halsall’s 19th minute strike earned Town a famous victory and removed any doubts over their right to be table-toppers.
There was no stopping Town now. Another 1-0 away win at Bashley was followed by two 3-0 wins at the DCS over Yate and Wimborne and then an amazing 4-2 win at Mangotsfield in a game that was memorable for Mangotsfield having to use thee keepers in the first half hour with the original one going off injured and his replacement being sent off for handling outside the area.
So it was on the back of eight consecutive wins that Town faced a youthful Wolves side in the Birmingham Senior Cup. Ace marksman Gregory was back for this one having been restricted to just four substitute appearances since the Sholing game and reminded everyone one of his ability with two sumptuous free kicks which simply flew in, but Wolves had enough quality to run out 4-2 winners in front of 376 which was to be the biggest DCS attendance of the season until the Play Offs came round.
The next two games were Cup games as well and at last the “never having won a Cup tie” monkey was off Carl Adams’ back as a slick Gregory finish in the 90th minute gave Town another 1-0 away win in the F A Trophy at St Ives Town.
Youth team keeper James Cutts stood in for Andy Kemp who was on wedding duty and commendably managed a clean sheet on his debut.
And another Cup win followed immediately as a weakened Evesham side who had more than one eye on a forthcoming F A Cup tie were despatched 2-0 in the Red Insure Cup
A return to League action saw Town come back from behind to beat Cinderford 2-1, and then it was F A Trophy time again with the visit to the DCS of Stafford Rangers.
Town’s FA Cup win at Stafford in October 2011 had been a giantkilling at the time but since then Town had been promoted and the Rangers relegated meaning that they now met as equals while to add a bit of spice the Rangers were managed by ex-Town striker Neil Kitching.
But having waited so long for a Cup win Carl Adams made it three in a fortnight as Chris Sterling pounced for the only goal of the game to repeat the famous victory of four years ago.
Another 1-0 scoreline at a soggy Fleet Town even with Sam Adkins, Joe Halsall and Alex Price all suspended after clocking up five bookings apiece took Town’s winning League run into double figures and that feat grabbed the attention of the Non League Paper who featured Carl Adams in a full column interview the following weekend.
A midweek Red Insure Cup win over Daventry Town extended Town’s successful sequence in all competitions to 14 wins from 15 games with the Wolves Birmingham Senior Cup tie being the only reverse, but from then on Town’s form went into a sharp decline.
Next up was the F A Trophy Second Qualifying Round tie against Rushall Olympic who had always proved to be difficult opposition when both Clubs were in the MFA, and it was no different now as Town were comprehensively steamrollered and could have no complaints about the 5-0 scoreline.
That thumping seemed to take all of the confidence out of the side and a week later they were soundly beaten 3-1 at Tiverton as individual errors worryingly started to become a feature of Town’s performances
A waterlogged pitch put paid to a scheduled home game against Clevedon meaning that Town had a fortnight’s break before a home clash with Bridgwater during which time Carl Adams suggested that December would be a testing month with a daunting set of fixtures against top half of the table sides.
And how right he was. The Bridgwater game ended in a 2-2 draw and was notable for Richard Gregory being sent off at half time having earlier scored what proved to be his 52nd and last Town goal. By now last season’s Golden Boot hero was becoming a frustrated and disillusioned figure never having been fully fit after missing so much pre-season preparation and in and out of the side as a result, and Rugby Town began their pursuit which was eventually to be successful at the turn of the year.
The following Tuesday evening in-form Taunton – for whom Bristol Rovers loanee Aaron Ward-Baptiste really turned on the style – were full value for a 3-0 success, and a 2-1 reverse at Cinderford where Gregory made his final appearance and Tesfa Robinson made his first in a brief stay meant that Town had followed their ten game winning run with just a solitary point from four games.
Champions elect Merthyr had deposed Town as League leaders after the Bridgwater game never to be overtaken for the rest of the season, and Town’s only realistic ambition now was a play-off place as they reached the halfway stage of the campaign in third place with a 1-1 draw against Shortwood on the Saturday before Christmas with both goals being scored in added time at the end of a pulsating 90 minutes shortly after Tyrone Fagan had been harshly sent off.
Boxing Day meant the short trip to Evesham who came into the game on the back of five consecutive wins and comfortably completed the seasonal double over Town as they raced into a two goal lead in the opening 35 minutes before Tyrone Fagan pulled one back for Town late on.
Callum Burgess was substituted at half time in what proved to be his final appearance for Town as from then on Carl Adams decided on Guy Clark and Loyiso Recci as his first choice central defensive partnership, but Town were now on their worst run of the season having taken only two points from six League games since the disaster at Rushall..
Aaron Moses-Garvey had joined from Romulus to make an impressive debut in the New Year’s Day home game against Swindon Supermarine which was also the popular Simeon Tulloch’s 100th appearance. An undistinguished game looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Moses-Garvey fired in a spectacular winner three minutes from the end only to go from hero to zero as he was red carded for retaliation after the final whistle.
But at least that win ended a near two month spell without one although the monsoon weather meant that AFC Totton’s first ever visit to the DCS two days later had to be postponed and so Town’s next outing was a Third Round Red Insure Cup tie at North Leigh.
Floodlight problems delayed the kick off by twenty minutes and when play at last got under way the lights were only on half power. Town put in an encouraging first half display in the difficult conditions before being swept aside in the second to lose 3-1, but of more concern than exiting the last knockout competition of the season were the injuries picked up by Sam Adkins, Joe Halsall and Simeon Tulloch.
All three were ruled out of the next fixture which was the return game against Taunton who had soared up the table to second spot on the back of a ten game unbeaten run.
As Tyrone Fagan was still suspended Carl Adams brought in Luke Barlone on loan from Barwell but after being denied a first half penalty when seemingly brought down by the Taunton keeper Barlone was controversially sent off on the hour mark.
With Town already feeling as if the fates were conspiring against them Andy Kemp reeled off a succession of outstanding saves to take Town to within four minutes of what would have been a richly deserved point. But just as it seemed some sort of justice would be done a fluke own goal when a cross took a wicked deflection off Guy Clark gave Taunton the win and left Town feeling – to put it mildly – extremely hard done by.
But at least they were to have the last laugh in the play off semi final at the season’s end.
Richard Gregory had now moved on to Rugby, and needing a natural goalscorer to replace him Carl Adams pulled off a masterstroke in persuading Kevin Charley to switch from Barwell.
Charley had been the Leicestershire side’s leading scorer for several seasons including when they won the MFA title without losing a match, and he immediately showed his finishing quality by scoring the only goal of the game on his debut at Yate.
But while Yate signalled the arrival of Charley it also marked the beginning of the end for Tulloch who limped off early on with a thigh muscle problem which had been troubling him for some time.
After a brief appearance from the subs bench a fortnight later at Didcot his season was over.
Town followed up their win at Yate with a 6-0 demolition of bottom club Bashley which set them up nicely for a testing away game at fellow play-off hopefuls Didcot, but another typical poacher’s strike from Charley and an equally composed finish from Tyrone Fagan saw Town through to their fourth League win from five outings since the turn of the year and suddenly the optimism of September and October began to return.
But there was another reality check in their next game when Mangotsfield came to the DCS keen to avenge their “three goalkeeper” defeat back in October.
And that is exactly what they did. One up at half time they stunned the Town faithful by hitting three more in eight crazy second half minutes as Town conceded four in a League match for the only time this season.
A spirited comeback saw Town pull it back to 4-3, but although they did not know it at the time that was to be their last defeat until the season’s finale at Merthyr.
The following weekend Town’s defence was back to form with a crucial goalless draw at Larkhall although it could have been even better if Alex Price had not had his penalty saved by the Larkhall keeper.
Making his second Town debut in this match was the pacy Rob Thompson-Brown whose last appearance was in the Polymac Services League Cup final triumph at Walsall at the end of the 2010/11 season and who basically took over the wide right slot previously occupied by Tulloch.
Two home wins against Tiverton and AFC Totton then cemented Town’s position in the group of seven or eight teams chasing a play-off spot with Merthyr now pretty much over the horizon on their way to the title.
A second successive away goalless draw at Bridgwater in near gale force conditions kept Town right on track, and they then dealt North Leigh’s play-off hopes a blow with a convincing 3-1 success at the DCS which was the start of a play off clinching nine game winning run.
The next three games were all away starting with a midweek visit to Bishops Cleeve where Aaron Moses-Garvey’s spot kick gave Town three more vital points on an evening when neither side was able to cope with a bobbly pitch and yet more wind.
Town were more convincing the next weekend at Wantage where they eased to a 3-0 win and the play-offs were within touching distance a week later when a typical poacher’s finish from Charley late on saw them through to a 2-1 win at Wimborne.
Another Town old boy followed Thompson-Brown in starting at Wimborne although he came from a lot further back. Simon Forsdick had first played for Town as a 16 year old back in January 2001 before going to enjoy a successful career at Conference level with AFC Telford and Nuneaton.
Sidelined by injury he had missed all of the previous season and after a shortlived spell at Leamington came back to Town looking to regain his fitness. After coming off the subs bench for brief tastes of action against Bishops Cleeve and Wantage his outing at Wimborne was his first 90 minutes for some 20 months, but his quality both on and off the ball were instantly evident and were to prove invaluable to Town in the crucial run-in to the season’s end.
The other play-off contenders were thinning out by now while Taunton who had been Merthyr’s nearest challengers suddenly found points hard to come by, and Town were looking comfortable in fourth spot when they hosted Clevedon in an evening fixture at the DCS on the last day of March.
This game had been postponed more than once during the worst of the winter and represented Town’s game in hand on all their play-off rivals. Knowing that a win would propel them above both Taunton and Evesham into second Town were certainly up for it as they surged in to a 4-0 half time lead and added two more after the break to equal their six goal romp against Bashley.
Equally pleasing to Carl Adams was the fact that all six goals came from six different scorers, while at the other end Andy Kemp emphasised his tremendous form by breaking his own personal clean sheet record. He had reached 19 when at Banbury United three years ago, but the shut out against Clevedon took his tally for the season to 20 with at the very least still four more League games to go.
So Town went into the Easter weekend almost there and with a Tyrone Fagan heading the deciding goal in 2-1 win over Sholing on Saturday the play-off spot was secured.. Easter Monday saw Town make it seven wins on the bounce with a 2-0 success at Swindon Supermarine although few of the travelling Town supporters saw the goals. Town scored them both in the first eight minutes of the game while their frustrated fans were seething in Bank Holiday traffic jams at Moreton, Stow, Burford and Lechlade.
The final home game of the regular season was against struggling Fleet Town and it all looked so easy as Chris Sterling fired them ahead early on. Fleet then had a player sent off for headbutting one of his team-mates, but rather than inspiring Town to go on and boost their goals for column it had the opposite effect and instead they scrambled to an unconvincing 2-1 win.
But a win it was and with Taunton’s woes continuing Town were now certain to finish third at worst and so also be certain of a home tie in the play-off semi finals.
The last two games of the regular season were both away beginning with an ultimately comfortable 6-2 win at financially troubled Clevedon featuring a first Town hat-trick for Kevin Charley, and that just left the daunting trip to Champions Merthyr Town.
And that left Carl Adams with a real selection poser. Should he send his first choice team to Merthyr in the hope of securing the runners-up spot, or should he rest key players with the play off semi final due to be played three days later in mind ?
He decided on the latter and the Town team he selected, which included Youth team players James Cutts and Charlie Evans, put in a thoroughly respectable performance holding the Champions until the 70th minute when two quick strikes ensured Merthyr finished their season in style.
So with Evesham winning at Bridgwater Town finished third – a superb achievement in only their second season at Southern League level – but even better was to come as Carl Adams’ team selection at Merthyr was totally vindicated in the play-off semi final against Taunton the following Tuesday.
Two who did feature at Merthyr were Loyiso Recci and Tyrone Fagan with both making their 100th Town appearance, but three who didn’t were Andy Kemp. Guy Clark and Kevin Charley and all three had starring roles against om play off Tuesday as Carl Adams’ selection decisions were totally vindicated .
Taunton arrived on the back of only three wins in their last ten games but stunned a record DCS crowd of 617 by taking an early lead. Rob Thompson-Brown soon equalised and from then on the tie could have gone either way until Kevin Charley came up with another moment of finishing magic halfway through the second half.
A thunderous right foot volley gave the Taunton keeper no chance whatsoever followed by Andy Kemp then pulling out a couple of lead preserving saves and with Guy Clark putting in yet another assured performance as Taunton piled on the pressure late on Town were through to the play off final.
In the weeks leading up to the play offs the expectation had been that Town would at some stage have to face Evesham again, but Larkhall surprised everyone with a 3-0 win at the Jubilee Stadium and so Town were at home for the May Bank Holiday Monday clash against the Larks which would decide their season.
And what an occasion that was. This time the attendance was a whopping 1054 and town were off to a dream start with a third minute goal from Aaron Moses-Garvey. Joe Halsall doubled their lead shortly before half time, and when Tyrone Fagan made it 3-0 on the hour mark it looked all over for Larkhall.
But with twelve minutes left Larkhall pulled one back direct from a corner, and when they nicked a second three minutes later there were plenty of frayed nerves and chewed fingernails among the Town faithful as they waited and prayed for the final whistle.
Eventually it was all over and Town had achieved the seemingly impossible of a second promotion in three years under the midas-touch management of Carl Adams who has surely now qualified for legendary status at the DCS.
Prior to his arrival Town had finished the 2011/12 campaign in an undistinguished 8th place in the MFA with their final game at Boldmere being watched by a “crowd” of 96. Three years on and the crowd is over 1000 as Town build on their third spot in the Division 1 South and West table with a play off success and a place at Step 3 of the Non-League pyramid for the first time in their history.
A feature of this season’s success has been a remarkably settled squad. Carl Adams used 38 players in the MFA title-winning campaign and 44 last time as Town settled into the Southern League. This term only 29 players have made a first team appearance and eight of those played fewer than ten times.
So Carl Adams has – with the backing of chairman Craig Hughes and the other Directors – simply transformed Town from a club that had spent almost 20 years in the MFA wilderness into a club which is heading in the right direction at a rate of knots.
Next season at the higher level will present plenty of extra challenges, but after a summer’s rest you can bet that Carl and his squad will be more than ready to meet them.
ANOTHER CHARLEY “SPECIAL” PROPELS TOWN INTO THE PLAY OFF FINAL
Stratford Town – 2 – Thompson-Brown 19 Charley 69
Taunton Town – 1 – Price 10
On a dramatic evening at the DCS in front of a record attendance of 617 Town came from behind to edge out a spirited Taunton side and set themselves up for a Play Off Final against Larkhall Athletic on Bank Holiday Monday with a place in the Premier Division of the Evo-Stik League Southern awaiting the winners.
Taunton stunned the home supporters by taking an early lead, but Rob Thompson-Brown soon levelled for Carl Adams’ side and a closely fought game could have gone either way until a typical moment of finishing magic from ace marksman Kevin Charley decided the tie halfway through the second half.
Taunton had completed the double over Town in the regular league season but were without their midfield playmaker Aaron Ward-Baptiste as the Bristol Rovers loanee was completing a three match suspension, while Town’s Joe Halsall had finished his ban and, apart from Simeon Tulloch who is still recovering from injury, Carl Adams had a full squad available for selection.
And so all the familiar faces who were rested for the Merthyr game were back, and it was Town who made the brighter start. In only the sixth minute Aaron Moses-Garvey released Tyrone Fagan down the left with his shot from the edge of the penalty area being scrambled behind by Taunton keeper Lloyd Irish.
Shortly after Moses-Garvey was in the action again as he latched onto a long pass down the inside right channel ball to lift the ball over the advancing Irish only for it to drop tantalisingly the wrong side of the post.
But Taunton then went down the other end and went ahead on ten minutes with their first serious attack of the evening.
The two Jamies Price and Short combined to exchange passes in a patient build-up on the right, and as the Town defence stood off Price seized the opportunity to surge forward and drill the ball past Andy Kemp from the edge of the six yard box.
That was obviously not what Town wanted, but they quickly regrouped and nine minutes later it was all square again. The Taunton defence struggled to get the ball clear as Fagan and Charley indulged in a spot of head tennis in the penalty area, and it eventually reached the unmarked Thompson-Brown who lashed it past Irish from close in.
Both sides now settled down with the game already being played at a searching pace. Fagan up front for Town was giving the Taunton backline plenty to think about with his tireless running while Halsall was clearly glad to be back as he put in his trademark inspirational shift in midfield.
Thompson-Brown went close on the half hour mark when his jinking run down the right ended with a fiercely struck effort which was deflected behind, and when Fagan was tripped almost on the line of the penalty area Moses-Garvey’s free kick fizzed narrowly wide.
But it was Taunton who dominated the closing minutes of the first half with the Town defence having to deal with a couple of threatening corners and Steve Murray hitting a swerving drive from 20 yards out which flashed inches over.
The pace ratcheted up another notch from the restart as both sides realised that in such a tight game the next goal was going to be crucial, and the first chance after the interval fell to Scott Hadland who connected with a cross from Thompson-Brown only for his shot to be blocked at point blank range by Ben Mammola.
Moses-Garvey was then not far away with an audacious effort from all of 35 yards out which didn’t miss by much followed by Loyiso Recci heading over from a corner, but Taunton were impressively quick to break forward in numbers and Graham Mercieca had a chance with a free kick in a promising position 25 yards out which he blazed over.
Fagan was continuing to chase everything at one end while at the other Guy Clark and Recci were once more in the same immense form as they have been all season, and with the tie so evenly poised it was beginning to look as if it would be settled by a piece of individual brilliance or a calamitous mistake.
And on 69 minutes Charley came up with the former. Kemp’s goal kick was headed on by Fagan and helped into Charley’s path by Moses-Garvey’s first time flick. Up to now Charley had been well policed by the Taunton defence, but now without breaking his stride he swivelled to hit a sumptuous right foot volley which rocketed past the helpless Lloyd Irish into the top corner.
It was a spectacular strike with echoes of his goal at Clevedon ten days earlier, but it would have counted for nothing if Kemp had not then followed up with two breathtaking saves in the next few minutes as Taunton sought an immediate response.
When Short launched a free kick into the congested Town penalty area he did wonders to arch backwards and downwards to get his right hand to header from Owen Irish which had the Taunton defender turning away in disbelief, and after Lamar Powell had replaced Murray he prevented the substitute equalising with virtually his first touch.
The ball had rebounded off a Town defender towards the penalty area and Powell looked a certainty to reach it first for a straightforward finish, but Kemp had read the situation perfectly and was off his line at Linford Christie pace to spread himself and block Powell’s goalbound shot.
From then on the tension increased by the second as Taunton – with no option but to attack – piled on the pressure. Owen Irish was not far away with another header, skipper Steve Kingdon fired wide from the edge of the penalty area and Ben Carter was off target with a free kick.
But Clark and Co held on even if there were one or two close calls as the game headed into added time. The six extra minutes seemed like sixty as the Town supporters nerves jangled furiously, but at last the final whistle from referee David Avent signalled that Town had made it through to the Bank Holiday Monday Final which will determine whether the season has not only been a tremendous one but a triumphant one as well.
TOWN : Andy Kemp, Gary Moran (c), Simon Forsdick, Guy Clark, Loyiso Recci, Scott Hadland, Aaron Moses-Garvey, Joe Halsall, Tyrone Fagan, Kevin Charley, Rob Thompson-Brown (Alex Price 81). Unused Subs – Chris Sterling, Aaron Stringfellow, Luke Barlone & James Cutts (GK)
TAUNTON : Lloyd Irish, Jamie Price, Steve Kingdon (c), Owen Irish, Ben Mammola, Brett Trowbridge, Jamie Short, Ben Carter, Steve Murray (Lamar Powell 73), Rodney Marsh. Graham Mercieca (Craig Herrod 81). Unused Subs – Tom Hopkins, Lewis Waldy & Max Dyer
Referee – David Avent
Assistant Referees – Karl Tribe & Luke Scott
Fourth Official – Sam Lewis
Attendance – 617
Marstons Town Man of the Match – Guy Clark
The View From The Dug-Out – an ecstatic Carl Adams reflects on a tense evening
“What a tremendous result which totally justifies the team selection at Merthyr. It was probably not the greatest game as there was a lot of tension out there for both sides, but in play off games it is only the result that matters.
I felt that our lads showed great character to come back from going behind. As I’ve said before with Kevin on the field you’ve always got a chance, and once more he’s produced when it matters.
But the job’s only half done, and we now need to focus on Monday’s clash with Larkhall when hopefully there will be another 600 plus crowd.”
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
Town – GA 11 OT 5 BS 1 HW 0 CW 4 FC 13 OS 4 YC 2 RC 0
Taunton – GA 14 OT 4 BS 0 HW 0 CW 9 FC 8 OS 2 YC 1 RC 0
Town Yellow Cards – Recci & Moran
Taunton Yellow Cards – Price
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Having edged past Taunton Town in the 2015 Play Off Semi Final Town fully expected to face a daunting trip to local rivals Evesham United in the Final. The Robins had completed the double over Town in the League season and had leapfrogged them into the runners up sot on the last day of the campaign which would have given them home advantage if everything had gone to form.
But amazingly Evesham were swept away by Larkhall Athletic – who had only finished fifth in the table – in the other Semi Final which meant that Carl Adams’ side would face the Larks and not the Robins in the Final on May Bank Holiday Monday with the added bonus of the game being played at the DCS.
And no-one who was there will surely ever forget it. The official attendance was 1054 but in reality it was significantly more than that and it was a real roller coaster of an afternoon.
After an hour Town were three up and cruising but twenty minutes later Larkhall had pulled two back and the last ten minutes witnessed plenty of chewed nails before the final whistle signalled that Carl Adams’ midas touch had worked once again and Town had reached the Premier Division.
It had been arguably the biggest ever game in their history, and certainly the biggest ever result.
TOWN SURGE TO PLAY OFF TRIUMPH ON A DRAMATIC AFTERNOON AT THE DCS
Stratford Town – 3 – Moses-Garvey 3 Halsall 39 Fagan 61
Larkhall Athletic – 1 – Tumelty 78 Sibbick 81
On a tense and emotional afternoon in front of another record breaking DCS crowd of 1054 Town eventually came out on top in an enthralling Play Off Final to claim a place in the Premier Division of the Evo-Stik League Southern next season.
Aaron Moses-Garvey fired Town ahead inside three minutes and Joe Halsall doubled their lead six minutes before the break before Tyrone Fagan made it 3-0 on 61 minutes.
It looked all over for Larkhall, but Joe Tumelty pulled one back direct from a corner with twelve minutes to go and when Tyler Sibbick’s header brought it back to 3-2 soon after it made for a distinctly nervy closing ten or so minutes until referee Wade Norcott’s final whistle signalled that Town had secured a scarcely believable second promotion in three years under the midas-touch management of Carl Adams.
Unsurprisingly both sides opted for unchanged starting line-ups after their semi final wins last Tuesday, and Town made a dream start as they stunned the Larks by taking a third minute lead.
Rob Thompson-Brown began the move with a sweeping crossfield pass which sent Moses-Garvey speeding down the right before cutting in and drilling his shot past Larks keeper Josh Barrington with the ball clipping the inside of the far post on its way into the net.
Larkhall’s dangerman Sibbick – whose 30 League goals put him second only to Didcot’s John Mills in the Division 1 South and West Golden Boot standings – soon began to make his presence felt with his first chance on ten minutes being blocked by Guy Clark while the offside flag halted a couple of other promising moves.
Clark was then booked for a clumsy challenge on Sibbick as Larkhall moved up a gear, but Halsall and Scott Hadland were putting in their usual inspirational shifts in midfield and Town seemed to carry the greater threat going forward with Thompson-Brown trying a speculative effort from distance which was comfortably held by Barrington and Fagan heading narrowly wide from a Simon Forsdick cross.
But Town had to reorganise on 28 minutes when Forsdick limped off after pulling up sharply with Aaron Stringfellow coming on to take the right back slot and skipper Gary Moran switching to the left.
Tumelty was coming more and more into the game for Larkhall and Andy Kemp did well to cut out his whipped-in cross from the left while soon after only a perfectly timed covering tackle by Thompson-Brown prevented Dean Griffiths from having a clear shot on goal.
But in the 39th minute Town went two up after a delightful move starting with Thompson-Brown and involving Moses-Garvey and Kevin Charley with the ball being eventually being threaded through to Halsall who slipped it under Barrington from six yards out.
Town now needed to reach half time with their two goal lead intact, but they only did so thanks to Kemp’s fantastic reaction save two minutes before the break. Town struggled to deal properly with a corner from the left and the loose ball fell to the Larks skipper Ollie Price who let fly with a fiercely struck volley which was somehow turned away by Kemp at point blank range.
Three minutes into the second half Town had to make another enforced change when Hadland sustained a facial injury and was replaced by Alex Price.
The increasingly influential Tumelty then had the first opportunity of the half with his rasping effort being shovelled away by Kemp followed shortly after by Rob Hobbs firing wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Town responded with Thompson-Brown skipping past Barrington as the keeper came out to challenge and squaring the ball across the open goal tantalisingly just out of the reach of Charley as the striker slid in to try to make contact.
But in the 61st minute Town looked to have made the game safe. Stringfellow fed Charley on the edge of the penalty area and although Town’s ace marksman didn’t appear to hit his shot particularly cleanly it beat Barrrington and bobbled against the keeper’s right hand post before rebounding across goal where Fagan reacted quicker than anyone else to thump it into the roof of the net.
Within a couple of minutes it could have been 4-0 as Charley turned onto Fagan’s flick-on to hit one of his trademark volleys which was brilliantly palmed away one handed by Barrington at full stretch to his right.
That prompted a double substitution from Larkhall but Tumelty blasted a 25 yard free kick well over and with Chris Sterling coming on for Thompson-Brown Town seemed to be coping in relative comfort until the 78th minute when Larkhall suddenly gave themselves a glimmer of hope with a goal out of nothing.
They were already into double figures in corners when Tumelty floated another one over from the left. All season long Kemp has gobbled up high balls launched into his six yard box, but this time he fatally got too far underneath it and it dropped behind him into the net at the far post.
And three minutes later the Larks were right back in the game when in their best move of the match Jake Gardner played the ball in to Hobbs and his chip towards the six yard box was met by Sibbick who coolly glided his header past Kemp.
It now really was nerve jangling and nail biting time as the remaining minutes saw desperate attacking, desperate defending and misses and mayhem at both ends. Charley had an on-target effort blocked and Moses-Garvey shot straight at Barrington while another decent try from Tumelty was well held by Kemp low down to his right.
Then Fagan set up an opening for Sterling and as his shot flew past Barrington the Town supporters rose to acclaim his 19th goal of the season until Gardner appeared from nowhere to block the ball right on the line.
The fourth official then ratcheted the stress levels up a further notch by indicating four added minutes, and with the Larks forcing yet another corner Barrington took off into Town’s penalty area, but this time the corner was overhit and was collected by Fagan out by the left touchline.
And although virtually running on empty after 90 minutes of his typical 100% plus effort he somehow found the energy to charge near enough the full length of the pitch before slipping it across to Sterling.
With Barrington still upfield Sterling took it round one defender and steadied himself to steer the ball into the net but as the by now frantic Town faithful looked on disbelievingly his shot was kept out by a combination of Gardner and the post.
Still those four minutes were not up but a final Larkhall shot was deflected away off Loyiso Recci before it was at last all over and Town had achieved what is arguably the most significant result in their history.
Certainly it has propelled them to their highest ever place in the Non-League pyramid and when the new season begins in August it is the likes of Poole Town and Weymouth who will be coming to the DCS.
And that will really show how far Town have come under assured and astute guidance of Carl Adams whose legendary status at the DCS must surely now be beyond doubt.
TOWN : Andy Kemp, Gary Moran (c), Simon Forsdick (Aaron Stringfellow 28), Guy Clark, Loyiso Recci, Scott Hadland (Alex Price 48), Aaron Moses-Garvey, Joe Halsall, Tyrone Fagan, Kevin Charley, Rob Thompson-Brown (Chris Sterling 73). Unused Subs – Luke Barlone & James Cutts (GK)
LARKHALL : Josh Barrington, Jake Gardner, Jamie Lyons (Ben Horan 64), Rob Hobbs, Ollie Price (c), Dan Jones, Joe Tumelty, Matt Thorne (Matt Morris 77), Tyler Sibbick, Dean Griffiths (Bradley Norris 64), Ross Lye. Unused Subs – Giorgio Wrona & Chris Pile
Referee – Wade Norcott
Assistant Referees – Val Anekwe & Tom Hall
Fourth Official – Mark Howes
Attendance – 1054
Marstons Town Man of the Match – Guy Clark
The View From The Dug-Out – Carl Adams is understandably euphoric after a tremendous climax to a terrific season
“It’s fantastic – I’m absolutely delighted – it’s my greatest achievement and I’m so pleased for all the lads in the team and everyone at this wonderful club.
The team we’ve got here has plenty of experience and that helped us today against a very good Larkhall side. We took our chances with some great finishing to go 3-0 up and although Larkhall had a lot of the possession I didn’t think they were really capable of hurting us until that goal straight from a corner.
But the lads dug deep in the last ten minutes to see it through. They’ve got a great togetherness in the squad and with the quality we’ve added since the turn of the year in Kevin Charley, Rob Thompson-Brown and Aaron Moses-Garvey we’ve been able to finish the season strong.
That’s what has ultimately got us over the line this afternoon.”
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
Town – GA 16 OT 9 BS 0 HW 2 CW 2 FC 12 OS 0 YC 3 RC 0
Larkhall – GA 10 OT 6 BS 0 HW 0 CW 15 FC 10 OS 5 YC 1 RC 0
Town Yellow Cards – Clark, Hadland & Price
Larkhall Yellow Cards – Lyons
Match Report by Bryan Hale
|CHARLEY K *||18||1||14|
|BARLONE L *||10||6||2|