Bards will be at home to a West Bromwich Albion side in the 2nd round of the Birmingham Senior Cup on Tuesday 15 November (7.45 kick off). It will be the Baggies second visit to The Arden Garages Stadium this year after the sides met in a friendly in July – https://www.stratfordtownfc.co.uk/Matchreport.aspx?id=580477. It’s the last cup competition we’re in this season and it’s the first week of ‘The World Cup break’ so hopefully there will be a good attendance. It will be interesting to see if The Baggies field the same sort of side that came in July or as there is a 4-week break, whether they use the game to give some fringe players a run out
The club announced a double signing on Friday 4th November – going for experience – Mikey Taylor (who needs no introduction to fans) arriving from Bromsgrove and defender Martin Riley from Hednesford
34-year-old Mikey had 3 productive on and off seasons at The Bards from 2016/19 scoring 45 goals in 119 appearances (30 as sub) including being top scorer with 21 goals in his last season. As well as his goalscoring record, he became a fans favourite affectionally being nicknamed ‘The Beast’ through using his strength to bulldoze through the defence and holding the ball up. He returned briefly last year where he made 8 appearances (4 as sub). Mikey played against us for Bromsgrove this year
35-year-old defender Martin has spent most of his career in the higher levels of non-league football before dropping down to step 3 in 2020. More stats on Wikipedia
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A month of 5 goalkeepers, 4 league defeats, average 3 goals conceded – 2 goals minimum per game, 1 league win
The Bards clearly missed Liam this month and used 5 goalkeepers in his place conceding 15 league goals some of which were very soft and it was noticeable at times needing to use different goalkeepers affected the defending. We won’t win many points conceding an average of 3 goals per game and a minimum of 2 although we did manage to score 4 v Needham Market in a somewhat surprising result against the best defence after 5-0 and 4-0 league defeats. Despite being in 18th, Bards are 7 points off a play-off spot or 7 points from an automatic relegation spot and the game v Hitchin summed up how close the league is as The Bards went from 7th to 16th in their 13th game in the space of 23 minutes.
It is said there are 3 certain things in life – death, taxes and The Bards failing to beat Rushall Olympic. This time it was another thumping 5-0 defeat this season which ended our unbeaten home league record in emphatic style. It’s now 6 defeats out of 7 and 21 goals conceded against them! Jed apologised to the supporters after the game on behalf of himself and the players and it did seem some players were playing with knocks. Five goals of absurd simplicity stated the website, the 2nd was hotly disputed for a foul on Leon after a goal direct from a corner and the third past a clearly injured Leon resulted in his substitution by Callum Monaghan.4-star entertainment (Non-League Paper) it was not for The Bards fans!
FA Trophy – losing 2-1 to Royston for the second successive season, The Bards exited the competition at the first stage for the fourth year running. Despite the Royston keeper having a busier time than our debutant youth keeper Luke Bell, The Bards only goal came from a fine finish from a Royston defender 3 minutes (on the new scoreboard clock) into the game under no pressure from a cross. Bards conceded another soft goal just before half time with maybe the aid of a deflection. A tap in for the visitors with 15 to go saw the Bards exit. Still, it was good to see more first teamers back maybe some not fully fit yet and it has been acknowledged the service to the front 3 needs improving.
After a 5-0 defeat in the league, The Bards shipped 4 at Stourbridge without reply at another unhappy hunting ground for The Bards now losing their 4 games there at this level conceding 14 Niall Maher became the 6th goalkeeper to be used by The Bards who were 2-0 down at half time – moving swiftly on…
After 2 crushing defeats and no league wins in 4, against the meanest defence in Needham Market, Stratford scored 2 in quick time after a fairly even first 25 minutes with Jack Storer and Andre Wright opening their accounts for the season to make it 2-0 at half time. The Bards are still conceding sloppy goals and after we lost the ball in possession near the halfway line, Needham Market reduced the arrears. The Bards, however, hit back straight away to regain their 2-goal advantage – Storer finishing in the box again from a cross, one of many fine moves throughout the game. Once again, a sloppy goal was conceded but another fine individual effort from Andre won the game 4-2. Special mention to Will’s magnificent volley from outside the box which would have made the Goal of the Season shortlist had it not been for the offside flag! Many Bards fans were impressed with the slick passing moves throughout the game and there were a number of Man of the Match candidates – Dan Lafferty (tannoy), Andre (club award) and Jack Storer (Non-League paper). Sam Wilding also had a fine debut providing much needed defensive midfield duties. The front 2 benefitted from much improved service (compared to sometimes the striker(s) being isolated in previous games).
Next up, playing Hitchin Town who were without a win in 6 and the 2nd lowest scorers gave The Bards fans hope of another victory under the new brighter floodlights. Jack Storer’s fine control and shot looked to have given Bards the lead after half time only for the offside flag to be raised late and after consulting the assistant, the referee disallowed the goal. Dan Lafferty’s pile driver on 58 minutes after another fine move did put us ahead and moved The Bards close to a play-off position. But another defensive mix up (the sort of goal that makes the Christmas ‘blooper’ DVD’s with defender heading past their own keeper after a punt upfield) drew Hitchin level. After Hitchin scored their 2nd with 10 to go, there were a couple of scrambles in the Hitchin box and what looked like a foul on Sammons in the area waved away by the ref as frustration grew. Hitchin held on as the game neared the 100th minute and leapfrog us scoring from both their shots on target. As Gavin said – “As a Manager I was really happy in how we played, how we created and how we kept our shape but if you’re not clinical in both boxes you won’t win a game you won’t even draw a game. For 85% of the game we dominated the game and played some great football but we beat ourselves“.
In their final game of the month, Stratford again lost to a side below them at Barwell . It was encouraging Liam was back on the bench but with just 2 minutes gone, another ‘calamity in defence’ saw indecision from the keeper leading to Barwell nipping in and opening the scoring. That said, Louis made some fine saves in the game. The game began to swing after Jack Storer came on and Andre Wright drew the Bards level with a crisp shot outside the box with fans now expecting a win. That lasted 2 minutes as Barwell scored a winner after slack marking.
Players – James O’Neill and Will Grocott have been ever present, Sammons and Molyneux (sometimes coming on as sub) have missed 1 game. The 3 goals Andre Wright scored in his first 3 games mean he is now joint top league goal scorer alongside Josh Hawker.
League Table – Tamworth have opened up a 10-point sizeable gap at the top of the table with 35 points after Nuneaton (25 points) failed to win their last 3 games including a surprise defeat at Rushden and Diamonds. Leiston join Nuneaton on 25 points with both having a game in hand, Redditch (24) and Coalville (23 with 2 games in hand) make up the play off positions. Leiston had the biggest win of the month, 7-1 at Bromsgrove. Bards are 18th with 16 points but Alvechurch (15) below us have 3 games in hand. The bottom 2 are Hednesford (8) and Rushden and Diamonds (9 points and with a minus 26 goal difference). Hednesford beat Rushden 5-0 for their only victory so far. Bards have kept their only clean sheets in the wins against the bottom 2 sides. Kings Langley (13) are in the relegation play-off spot. Needham Market still have the meanest defence in the league conceding 12 goals with 4 coming v The Bards. Ex Bard Daniel Creaney is top of the scoring charts with 18 goals (half of Tamworth’s total) – Ex Bard Leroy Lita is joint 2nd with 10 goals out of Hednesford’s 18. The 2 promoted sides last year Banbury (2nd at the start of the month) and Peterborough Sports are mid table in step 2.
Players In – goalkeeper number 5 Niall Maher after Leon was injured after replacing the injured Liam. Goalkeeper number 6 Luke Bell also signed the same week. Andre Wright was brought in up front to replace Adam Rooney. Andre has bought in much needed presence up front, linking up play well and scoring fine individual goals. Former Sunderland Under 23 captain defensive midfielder Sam Wilding also joined and the league website announced Jesse Akubuine joined from Rushden and Diamonds.
Players Who Departed – Adam Rooney left to go to Brackley Town after the FA Trophy game.
Looking ahead to November – (fixtures subject to change so always check club website). We play 2 new teams transferred from the Northern League and 2 against play off contenders. We start at home to Basford on Bonfire Night. We then have 2 away games in a row – the 12th sees us go to last year’s play off finalists Coalville who have started strongly again this year, 2nd top scorers and are usually thereabouts at the top end of the table. We then travel to the other new team play off hopefuls Mickleover on 19th. Back at home for a double header – we play Redditch Utd on Tuesday 22nd – a local derby under the new lights at The Arden Garages Stadium and end the month against Royston Town 26th looking to avenge our 2-1 defeat in the FA Trophy. There may be a Birmingham Senior Cup game against WBA as well on a Tuesday night.
Off the field, we have raised another £277 with your help and support at the 4 home games.
For previous monthly reviews, hover on the Archive tab – or click here
DW – any opinions in this article are the author’s
A fundraising race night had been organised way back in 2020 when COVID hit but I am delighted to confirm that a new date has been arranged for Friday 18th November.
Race sponsors and horse owners from the original date will be able to carry over their purchase but there are still races and horses to sponsor. Please let me or Hayley Sammon know if you would like either.
These evenings are great fun and a good opportunity to raise funds for STFC whilst enjoying a fun evening. If there are groups wishing to attend, you can reserve a table – again, please let me or Hayley know.
I hope you can attend and please let any friends or colleagues know – it’s free entry on the night and hopefully we can have a large crowd to participate.