When Roland Ballinger turned up at Stratford Town’s Masons Road ground on 22nd January 1955 he was told the news that he had not been selected for that afternoon’s match. However amazingly he was then offered a transfer for the day to play in the Worcestershire Combination match for the opposition Halesowen Town who were a player short!
The unusual sporting gesture was made by Stratford Town despite chasing a promotion place and sitting in second place just a few points below local rivals and leaders Evesham. It must have been a surprise for the supporters when the teams were announced and the Herald reports they were not impressed when Halesowen took the lead through Chater after just two minutes.
It is clear that Ballinger was not holding back on his Halesowen debut with the paper reporting ‘Roland gets full marks for sincerity and honesty of purpose. Towards the end of game in an unaccustomed position his sleeves were down and his face was plastered with mud. He had been hard put to it to try to halt Wainwright and company’. The report demonstrates this commitment mentioning that ‘he framed up’ to club colleague Wainwright which he laughed off after the incident.
The match itself was a lively encounter with a hat trick by Eric Perrins and some eratic refereeing which included restarting the game whilst the Halesowen trainer was still on the pitch attending to an injury to Halesowen’s Leeming who had collided with town’s goalkeeper Hammond.
Despite a 60th minute goal from Richardson for Halesowen the match was being controlled by town who added a fifth goal with a penalty that was scored by Livingstone in the final minute to round off a 5 -2 league victory. Looking back at the programme it features advertisements from town retailers such as Baildham & Son Ironmongers, Alan Brownlow Chemist and Hind & Westwood sports kit suppliers. The programme details the future arrangements for showing match cancellations at the Fish Shop in Greenhill Street and in the window of the Herald Office in Rother Street.
Of course this was a totally different era in football before the arrival of substitutes when injured players often carried on playing through injuries or were sent to play on the wing! Many of the teams that Stratford Town played in the 1950″s are still regular opponents in today’s Southern League such as Banbury United, Stourbridge, Redditch United and of course Halesowen Town.
It should also be recognised that the town will finish this season in their highest ever position in league football so this Saturdays game against Halesowen Town is the ideal opportunity to come down Arden Garages Stadium and cheer the club towards the play offs and possibly the Conference League.