2 in on loan from Cheltenham

https://www.stratfordtownfc.co.uk/news/a-pair-of-loan-robins-ready-to-face-the-crows-on-saturday – Youngsters Callum Ebanks and Adulai Sambu have joined on loan from Cheltenham. Callum played against for us for Cheltenham back in July in the pre season friendly. The club have stated in their Royston match report that Will Dawes has returned to Yeovil after being here on loan

Both have been added to our current players list showing their previous clubs on loan and both have played a couple of times for Cheltenham.

Adulai is a right sided player – wing-back, right hand side of midfield and featured as a make shift striker on his debut! He scored 11 goals in 13 games on loan at Cirencester inclusing a hat-trick in the FA Trophy at Basingstoke.

Callum is a powerful centre-forward who scored four times in an 8-4 FA Youth Cup victory over Portsmouth.

Kings Langley & 50 / 50 Draw Prize

The winning ticket worth £102.50 was claimed on an emotional day against Kings Langley in front of a large crowd remembering Cody. The profits from the draw were put towards The Cody23 Community Fund – https://crowdfunder.co.uk/p/cody-23 and with other donations we received, we put £200 towards the fund.

“Our football club is at the heart of the community and nothing shows this more clearly than the events that unfolded on Boxing Day. One of our own, Cody Fisher, was savagely taken away from us, totally needlessly, at the young age of 23. The whole football community has come together to show their support, and the club has received messages from every level of the game. Stratford Town supporters add their support and condolences to family and friends of Cody. Our thoughts remain with Cody’s family and friends and we will all miss his smiling face around the club. RIP Cody.”

As previously stated, the club does so much right off the pitch – moving tributes from Jed and the players, inviting volunteers to the blessing on Thursday night to join the board, staff and players as the Stratford Town family came together as one. On the day, temporarily closing down at 2.50 to give the chance for staff and volunteers to pay their respects to Cody witnessing the Guard of Honour by St Gregorys School, where Cody coached, and pupils taking the framed retired No 23 shirt into the centre circle. The Bards players all wore Cody 23 tops and a minutes silence was impeccably observed before the game and on 23, the match was stopped and a minutes applause was held with a tribute on the electronic scoreboard. A commemorative matchday programme was on sale, given away to those arriving early – some of whom were willing to make a donation via us for Cody’s fund. Also, top marks to the ground staff for enabling the game to be played despite very heavy rain on the morning of the game and even heavier driving rain in the 2nd half which saw fans scampering for cover.

A new name was in the starting XI, defender Hamilton Bunga who joins us from Rushden and Diamonds. Striker Karnell Chambers has also re-joined according to the league website. Redditch United have announced they have singed Martin Riley, Ashley Sammons who recently left has re-joined Halesowen and Jack Storer is now playing in Gibraltar for Bruno’s Magpies.

At half-time The Bards were 1 point from safety – at the end of the game, Bards were 7 points adrift after conceding 2 in the last 10 minutes. After being on top but missing chances, Bards had the ball in the net with a wind assisted in-swinging ‘cross’ from Josh Hawker going straight in on 45 and then immediately after, Mikey rattled the bar. Akubuine had a 1 on 1 chance on 57 but had his shot saved as The Bards remained on top but the game changed after subs were made up front. The visitors came more into the game as Bards sat deeper and levelled on 80 with a curling shot low into the corner. The winner coming from ex-Bard Ken Feyi with 3 to go after Bards fail to clear. More on the club match report – photos (including pre-match and 23rd minute) in club gallery

We’ll see you for the 2 home games – Leiston on Saturday 21st who are the only side we haven’t played yet and going for promotion and Redditch Tuesday 24th who we drew 2-2 away with earlier in the season conceding 2 very late goals. Bards have 3 home wins out of 3 against Leiston – 3-2, 3-1 and a 2-1 last season but it may be a lot different this time with both sides at opposite ends of the table. Bards and Redditch have been in the same division since Bards were promoted 8 years ago and Bards have 5 wins and a 4-2 defeat at home. Last 2 seasons have ended in 2-1 wins. Before then, we have an away game at Royston on Saturday 14th still looking for our first away league win.

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At home games, we’ll be in our usual spot by the Tuck Shop selling our 50 / 50 tickets (average prize this year around £70), the excellent revamped programme, hats and scarves and will have membership forms with us if supporters would like to join on the day – it only costs £10 for adults a year. This year purchasers of 50 / 50 tickets are able to claim 10% off Car Servicing and have MOT’s for just £40 at Arden Garages when they present their ticket. Arden Garages have also helped to fund the cost of printing the tickets saving the The Supporters Association money.

We welcome volunteers to join us as and when supporters are available. The draw has been a tremendous success in raising thousands of pounds towards club projects over the last few years, so we would really appreciate your ongoing help and support on a matchday

Please could you let Jim or Chris Simpson know if you would be available to offer your time at any stage – either at the game or by emailing stratfordtownISA@gmail.com

DW – any views are those of the author

Bunga and Chambers join

Defender Hamilton Bunga who played for The Bards v Kings Langley was at Rushden and Diamonds until Boxing Day – his previous clubs are listed on our previous clubs page. According to the league website, striker Karnell Chambers has also re-joined. Karnell first joined us in March 2020 and made 1 start before Covid ended the season. 2 years later he made 1 sub appearance at Barwell

Redditch United have announced they have singed Martin Riley. Ashley Sammons who recently left has re-joined Halesowen and Jack Storer is now playing in Gibraltar for Bruno’s Magpies.

December review and coming up

3 league defeats leave us 3rd from bottom – our lowest ever position at step 3

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With 3 defeats from 3 games played in December, Bards winless run is now 9 games and only 1 win in 14. We are now averaging less than a point a game – in the 2 completed seasons in the new Central Division, teams have needed to average over a point a game to be above the bottom 4. Sides above the relegation zone this year are currently averaging over 1.2 points a game compared to Bards 0.9 – Bards are 7 points adrift from 6th bottom Barwell and 3 adrift of Alvechurch who have played 5 games less.

Ex-Hednesford boss Keenen Meakin-Richard was appointed as new Assistant Manager and Head Coach in the middle of December leading to the departure of coach Jimmy Fry.

Hednesford (a) 0-2 – it was extremely disappointing to read about a lack of desire from The Bards in this ‘six pointer’ with the one bright spot Will Dawes returning on loan. Hednesford had already hit the bar before taking the lead with a header from a corner after 25. They had numerous other chances before unmarked Leroy Lita made the game safe, tapping in the 2nd after 87 to give Hednesford only their 2nd win of the season – Highlights here courtesy of Hednesford. Steve Burr left Hednesford after failing to win the next 2 games – they are onto their 3rd manager in 5 months.

Bards then went to Alvechurch and lost 4-2 on a Tuesday night on their sloping pitch. Although Alvechurch were below The Bards, they had 5 games in hand due to their impressive FA Cup run to the 2nd round. Any hangover Church may have had after their cup defeat at Forest Green were quickly dispelled when they went into a 2 goal lead within the first 16 minutes. The first on 5 when Church rounded O’Brien with the defence appealing for offside – the 2nd a low deflected free kick. The Bards had their chances – Rod’s stats showed we had more shots on target (7 out of 12) than Church who had 5 on target from 9 – but a 3rd from Church from another through ball on half time gave Bards a mountain to climb. The Bards pulled one back on 56 from Lafferty when Grocott’s freekick was spilled by the keeper but Alvechurch made it 4 on 72 with a low shot from close range. Grocott pulled another one back 5 minutes later with a shot from Dawes’ (who hit the bar earlier) cross as The Bards slid into the relegation zone Highlights here courtesy of Alvechurch

The following away game on the Saturday at Bedford (who were 3 points above us at the time) was postponed due to a frozen pitch. Since that game they have appointed ex-Bard Paul Davis as their new manager. Paul was at Hemel Hempstead after leaving Bards.

The following day saw 3 inches of snow and temperatures of -12 and -10 at the ground in midweek which saw the Saturday game at home to St Ives postponed.

Tamworth (h) 0-4 – a first home game for a month, the match followed a familiar pattern of goals conceded early on and then the need to chase the game. Tamworth seemed fairly comfortable after going 2-0 up with a low bobbling shot from the edge of the penalty area (again a goal was conceded whilst we were counting up the 50/50 takings) and a simple tap-in after a woefully short back pass. Liam was still the busier of the keepers after making several saves to keep the score down and there was another man of the match performance from Will Dawes, who had one of the few efforts to really test the opposition keeper. 2 penalties scored emphatically for Tamworth in the last 5 minutes ended the scoring – the first of which most supporters around me were unsure why it was awarded – followed by another for a foul in the area – goals courtesy of Tamworth.

After the game, everyone was saddened to hear of the loss of Cody Fisher that night

Players – Will Grocott is still the only ever present in the league, with Andre Wright making 12 consecutive appearances (the first as sub) since joining. Josh Hawker still leads our league goal-scoring charts with 4, Dan Lafferty, Will Grocott and Andre Wright have 3.

League Table Tamworth (48 pts from 23) are 3 clear of Nuneaton who beat Leiston 2-1 to move a point ahead of them although Leiston have 2 games in hand. Rushall (41) are 7 points clear in the play offs, 5th placed Coalville on 35 have 4 games in hand. Kings Langley (22 from 23) Bards (19 from 21), Hednesford and Rushden and Diamonds both 12 from 23 make up the bottom 4 positions. 3 sides above the drop zone have 26 from 20. Alvechurch are 3 clear but have played at least 5 games less.

Tamworth are top scorers with 53 aided by ex-Bard Daniel Creaney who is top of the scoring charts with 21 goals – ex-Bard Daniel Sweeney is 2nd with 14 goals for Bromsgrove. Leiston have scored 51 from 21. Despite being in the lower half of the table, Needham Market have the best defence conceding only 23 goals. Rushden and Diamonds have scored the least (20) and conceded the most (59). Stourbridge had a bumper crowd of 1263 for their Boxing day game against Bromsgrove and Ilkeston had 1,000 against Basford.

The 2 promoted sides last year to step 2 are in their top 10 – Banbury are 7th in a play off spot and Peterborough Sports 11th. The sides relegated last year, Biggleswade Town are mid-table in 10th in Division One Central and Lowestoft moved to the Isthmian League North where they are in a play- off position.

Players In – Will Dawes was back from Yeovil, who he joined in September, on a three-month loan deal that is subject to an immediate recall

Players Who Departed – Ashley Sammons, Sam Wilding, Jack Turner (loaned out) and James Mace (on-loan) all departed the club the week before Christmas.

Looking ahead to January – 6 games scheduled including some re-arranged games (fixtures subject to change so check club website).

After Bromsgrove was postponed, we start the month with a home game against Kings Langley on Saturday 7th who are near The Bards at the wrong end of the table. In the away game, we conceded in the very last minute after taking the lead through Adam Rooney. Let’s hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us. They include Ken Feyi and Wilson Carvalho in their squad. Bards have 2 wins and 2 draws against them at home including a 2-1 win two seasons ago, Langley then swapped to the ‘South Division’ for a season.

We then have an away game at Royston on Saturday 14th, who we have drawn and lost to this season at home. Bards won there 2-1 in 2017/18 but haven’t won since including a 3-0 defeat in the penultimate away game last season with many youngsters making their debuts after injuries hit the team.

We then have 2 home games against sides we have a good record against – Leiston on Saturday 21st who are the only side we haven’t played yet and are one of the sides going for promotion and Redditch Tuesday 24th who we drew 2-2 away with earlier in the season conceding 2 very late goals. Bards have 3 home wins out of 3 against Leiston – 3-2, 3-1 and a 2-1 last season but it may be a lot different this time with both sides at opposite ends of the table. Bards and Redditch have been in the same division since Bards were promoted 8 years ago and Bards have 5 wins and a 4-2 defeat at home. Last 2 seasons have ended in 2-1 wins.

We then finish the month with 2 away games – a crucial game at Rushden and Diamonds on Saturday 27th in the relegation zone, who we beat 2-0 in September at home and won 3-1 away last season thanks to 3 spectacular goals from Jack Storer and Ashley Sammons who have recently left The Bards. The other 2 games there have resulted in defeats. We finish the month with a trip to Bedford on Tuesday 31st who we drew 1-1 to conceding another late goal in our opening game of the season. It is Bedford’s first season with us at step 3. We will face Bards old manager Paul Davis who recently joined Bedford from Hemel Hempstead.

Off the field, we have raised another £86.50 from the 50/50 to bring the total this season to nearly £1,000

For previous monthly reviews, see 2022/23 archive

DW – any opinions in this article are the author’s