April review


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4 wins in the last 6 games saw The Bards officially safe with one game to spare and end up in 14th position, 13 clear of the relegation zone.

Barwell (h) 1-1 – although a draw was a fair result, Bards will be kicking themselves after spurning a golden chance to beat Barwell with 15 to go when Grocott’s weak penalty was saved by the opposition keeper and in desperation to get to the rebound, ending up being sent off after colliding with the keeper. Maybe Barwell felt justice had been done after it seemed a harsh award with the keeper punching the ball away before colliding with Charlie Williams. Barwell took the lead after 9 minutes when a through ball was converted. Charlie Williams drew the Bards level from 20 yards with a low shot into the corner just before half time. On 45 Barwell were through but the attacker over-ran the ball. It was a tough game with few chances and Bards are now 2 points above the safety line.

Redditch Utd (h) 2-0 – another midfield dogfight with little goalmouth action, Bards won this local derby fairly comfortably to go 5 clear of the relegation zone with 4 left to play. Bards defended in numbers, waiting for the breakaways, while Redditch played out from the back. In a rare moment of quality, Bards went ahead after 32 minutes with a fine move – Charlie Williams racing down the left and crossing perfectly for Callum Ebanks to thunder a header into the top corner of the net. Redditch upped it in the 2nd half but only had 1 shot on target (out of 4) the whole game. Bards made the game safe on 83 after a scramble with Ebanks scoring his 2nd of the night poking home from close range to win the man-of-the-match.

Mickleover (h) 2-1 – another splendid performance from the Bards saw Stratford rise to 14th place, 7 points clear of the relegation zone. One more victory from the remaining three fixtures and step 3 status is secure. Bards started on the front foot and went ahead after 13 minutes when Kyle Bennett fired in after a cross/shot was parried after good work by Molyneux down the wing. Bards continued to dominate the first half and again the defence held firm restricting the visitors to 1 effort off target. Mickleover came into it after half time and equalised after an hour with a low shot into the corner. Bards had 2 efforts cleared off the line including a lob from Kyle Bennett when clean through but did manage to go back into the lead after 80 when Dan Lafferty, moved into midfield, slotted home from a tight angle after the referee played advantage. Bards then held out for the last 10 minutes with the defence in excellent form again. A special mention to the match official who was consistent and allowed the game to flow aiding another fine match to watch.

Tamworth (a) 0-2 – Tamworth making use of the wind soon took the lead after only 6 minutes when a cross was bundled into the net by Dan Creaney, the league’s top scorer. After 58 minutes, Tamworth made the game safe with a low drive inside the penalty area after 58 minutes. Bards first shot on target didn’t come until the last 20 minutes. Bards slip from 14th to 16th and remain 7 points clear of the relegation zone with Kings Langley having 3 left to play, including against the bottom 2.

Coalville (h) 1-0 – Another splendid performance from the Bards saw Stratford regain their place in step 3 of non-league football. In the end Kings Langley losing made us safe anyway but it’s always more satisfying to secure safety ourselves. 7 points ahead of Kings Langley who had 3 to play, Bards fans were regularly accessing ‘flash scores’ to see how Kings Langley were getting on – news came through they were 1-0 down after 27 minutes so The Bards were currently safe. In front of the largest crowd of the season with many visiting fans from leaders Coalville, it was scoreless at half time despite both sides having chances in this end to end tussle. Bards defence held firm and when it was breached, the woodwork came to the rescue twice. Five minutes into the second half Bards hit the post twice too but luck was on our side as when Ebanks hit the post, the ball fell to Kyle Bennett who teed up his shot from a tight angle and drilled the ball into the net off the far post. The score remained 1-0 right to the end with Bards sitting deep and Coalville not really troubling Liam in goal despite needing the win themselves. 7 minutes of added time led to more tension before another excellent match official blew the final whistle.

Basford (a) 2-0 – Bards finished the season with 3 points at Basford to end the season 13 points clear of the relegation zone! Bennett headed in the opener on 35 and Charlie Williams drive made it 2 with 2 minutes to go before half time. The 2nd half was a bit of a non event although the hosts had a goal ruled out for offside.

Playershttps://www.stratfordtownfc.co.uk/teams/STRATFORD-TOWN/player-statistics . New captain Paul McCone (41) had the most starting appearances. Will Grocott made 40 appearances (6 as sub), Dan Lafferty and Josh Hawker made 39 appearances – some as sub. Josh Hawker was top of the bad boy list with 8 bookings and 1 sending off. Dan Lafferty finished with 7 yellow cards and 1 sending off. Will Grocott and Jack Storer were also sent off during the season. Bards top scorers were Andre Wright and Hawker with 6, Grocott and McCone had 5, Kyle Bennett, Callum Ebanks and Dan Lafferty scored 4.

League Table Tamworth (89 points) with 4 consecutive wins went up on goal difference (+53) above Coalville (+50) who lost 2 out of their last 4. Leiston (85) will play 4th placed Nuneaton (79) in the play offs, Rushall (73) will play Coalville in the play offs as they finished 1 point ahead of Mickleover.

Play Offs – saw Rushall Olympic (our bogy side) promoted after wining 2 penalty shootouts

Semi Finals 26/04 Coalville Town 1-1 Rushall Olympic (3-4 pens) (1,610) & Leiston 1-2 Nuneaton Borough (AET 1-1 FT) (464)

Final 01/05 Nuneaton Borough 0-0 Rushall Olympic (3-5 pens) (3563)

Bards in the end finished a comfortable 14th 13 points clear of relegation with 52 points after a successful month. Kings Langley (39) were the last team to be relegated. Hednesford and Rushden and Diamonds both on 31 points who improved after relegation finished ahead of Bedford (30) who lost their last 14 games and secured only 2 points from 19 since the start of the year.

Tamworth are top scorers with 93 (1 more than Coalville) aided by ex-Bard Daniel Creaney who topped the scoring charts with 35 goals, Will Davies (Leiston) scored 29 of their 84 goals. Tamworth (40) and Coalville 42 had the best defence. Relegated Rushden and Diamonds had the worst goal difference (-47), Bedford had the worst defence with 93 conceded.

1942 saw Tamworth win the league at Redditch, Coalville had 1710 in their final game. Tamworth had 2 crowds over 1,000, 1027 and 1240 v Leiston.

The 2 promoted sides last year to step 2Banbury finished 17th and Peterborough Sports 14th. Telford, Kettering and Leamington were relegated and hopefully will be in our division next year. Biggleswade Town finished 7th in Division One Central behind Biggleswade (2nd) who lost in the playoff semis. Lowestoft moved to the Isthmian League North where they finished 3rd but lost out in the playoffs.

Players In –

Players Who Departed –

For previous monthly reviews, see 2022/23 archive

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

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