SEASON REVIEW – THE VIRUS DELIVERS A KNOCK-OUT BLOW
HOW THE 2019/20 SEASON DIDN’T HAPPEN – MATCH REPORTS BELOW REVIEW
The 2019/20 season was the season that wasn’t.
It started like any other with everyone full of optimism after the summer break, but it ended like no other after being swept away by a previously unknown virus that originated in the remote Chinese city of Wuhan and soon spread worldwide at devastating speed with its impact on football being of no consequence in comparison to the misery and disruption it was responsible for elsewhere.
The 2018/19 season had seen Town achieve heights never previously achieved with their best ever fifth place finish in the Southern League Premier Division Central, which earned them a promotion play-off spot, plus history making with progress in the F A Trophy to reach the First Round proper and the lifting of silverware with the Southern League Challenge Cup all combining to propel supporters into dreamland.
But any thoughts that it would be more of the same in 2019/20 didn’t last long. Within a fortnight of the play off defeat at Kings Lynn Head of Football Thomas Baillie had departed only to reappear shortly afterwards in a similar role at Tamworth, and the break-up of his squad soon began.
Jamie McAteer who had missed the closing weeks of the season quickly switched to Barwell but what stunned supporters was the departure of playmaker Will Grocott who was quickly lured away to Stourbridge.
A fixture in Town’s midfield for the past three seasons Will was Town’s longest serving player having clocked up 153 appearances, and the dejection among the Town faithful increased when the equally popular striker Mike Taylor, who revelled in the nickname of “the Beast,” also decided that his future lay with the big spending Glassboys after 119 appearances and 44 goals.
And Stourbridge were not finished yet as soon after they swooped for central defender Jordan Williams while there was another hammer blow as inspirational skipper Jimmy Fry followed Baillie to Tamworth.
So for the second summer running Town were searching for a new manager, and it didn’t take long for the appointment of Tommy Wright to be announced. Tommy had recently left Darlington and had previously been in charge at Corby Town when they won the Southern League Premier Division title in 2014/15.
It was also confirmed that Paul Davis would stay on as Assistant Manager along with Steve Walker as First Team Coach and Head of the Academy.
And Tommy Wright immediately got off to a good start with Town supporters by holding a well attended open meeting at which the ex-Evesham United manager Paul Collicutt was introduced taking on the role of Head of Football Operations.
Several challenging topics were discussed including new players, budget and whether Town could repeat last season’s heroics. All were dealt with by Tommy in an honest and open way which left supporters feeling that in spite of all the departures it was not all doom and gloom and there was room for optimism as well.
Tommy soon began to draft in some new faces starting with the addition of the 6 foot 9 inch keeper Sam Lomax and the speedy winger Kurtis Revan plus the experienced Callum Ball, who numbered Derby County among his previous clubs and who had been with Tommy Wright at Corby Town, and the equally well travelled Liam Hughes who had played under Wright at Darlington.
And there were plenty more newcomers such as midfielders Joel Gyasi and Luis “Love Island” Morrison, defender Dan Vann and striker Chris Wreh when the pre-season friendlies began starting with a trip to Yeovil Town where Tommy Wright fielded a different team in each half.
Familiar names included from last season were Chris Cox, Cody Fisher, Kynan Isaac, Nabil Shariff and Lewis Wilson, but those Town supporters who journeyed down to Somerset expecting to see Albi Skendi in Tommy Wright’s side had a surprise when they arrived as he had agreed a move to the Glovers having been offered a full time contract following his stand out form in Town’s midfield last season and was lining up against them.
Further friendlies against Racing Club Warwick, Worcester City, Cheltenham Town, Aston Villa Under 23’s and Leicester Road followed and although results in these games are pretty well meaningless they were all won which could only boost everyone’s confidence.
Other players now involved included keeper Elliott Taylor, defender Lyndon Dovey, and midfielders Morgan Brown, Mitchell Glover and Ivor Lawton together with the return to Town of James Hancocks and also the ex-Town Youth hotshot Dylan Parker after his spell at Walsall.
But missing from all of this was Wilson Carvalho who had secured a move into the full time game with League One Accrington Stanley as he followed Ben Stephens from twelve months ago into the EFL.
The final two friendlies against a strong Brackley Town side and near neighbours Evesham United were both lost, but in spite of those results and then being hit by the sudden and unexpected departures of Chris Cox and Kynan Isaac Tommy Wright proclaimed himself satisfied with how the preparations had gone announcing that he was looking forward to the new season and couldn’t wait to get started.
Following all the summer comings and goings it was pretty much an unrecognisable Town side both on the pitch and in the dug-out for the opening match of the season at home to Needham Market.
Only Nabil Shariff survived from the starting line-up in the Kings Lynn play-off tie to start this time although he was joined by Cody Fisher, Tom Fishwick and Lewis Wilson who had been on the subs bench then, but Town at least got off to a winning start thanks to as added time strike from Chris Wreh.
But history then repeated itself in their second match when Town again had to travel to Stourbridge and just as twelve months earlier were dealt a reality check as Will Grocott and Co strolled to a 3-1 win with Town having the added embarrassment of Luis Morrison being red carded.
Back at the Arden Garages Stadium the following Saturday it was another late goal from super-sub Chris Wreh which rescued a point against Kings Langley in a 3-3 draw which Tommy Wright described as “a great game for the neutral but a nightmare for the managers.”
But the talking point of the afternoon was the return to Town of the unpredictable Kynan Isaac. Having apparently made peace with Tommy Wright he went straight into the starting line-up, but it was a one game wonder as he had gone again by next weekend before eventually returning in January after spells at North Leigh and Banbury United.
Chris Wreh was promoted to the starting line-up for Town’s third Saturday home fixture in a row and took his tally for the season to four with two quality finishes as Tommy Wright’s side turned on the style to convincingly beat Rushden and Diamonds who had arrived with a 100% record.
Seven points from their first four games represented a promising start for the new look Town side, but some of the gloss was taken off as the next two outings ended in disappointing setbacks.
Two days after the Rushden game an August Bank holiday Monday trip to Rushall Olympic’s brand new 3G pitch saw Town on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline and the following Saturday Biggleswade Town took all the ;points from the Arden Garages Stadium with a 2-1 win.
And that was Cody Fisher’s last Town game for the time being as he soon followed the by now familiar path to Stourbridge before making the reverse journey shortly before the season was shut down.
League action was then put on hold as Town’s next two games were Cup ties with dramatically contrasting results.
Boldmere St Michaels were old rivals from Town’s MFA days but they were overwhelmed in the First Qualifying Round of the F A Cup as Tommy Wright’s side romped to a 6-1 win with Nabil Shariff helping himself to a hat trick before it all went wrong for Town three days later.
Even though they were the holders of the Southern League Challenge Cup they were drawn to play in the Preliminary Round at home to Halesowen Town. The Yeltz had been relegated from the Premier Central Division at the end of last season but reinvigorated under new manager Paul Smith they were a totally different proposition now, and with the only goal of the evening they deservedly went through as Town’s defence of the trophy won so ecstatically back in April ended at the earliest possible opportunity.
Town needed an immediate response to lift the gloom and did so with a battling draw at Coalville and then a comfortable home win over Alvechurch who like Town were having to rebuild after reaching last season’s play-offs and were now under the care of ex-Town boss Darren Byfield.
By now new faces were appearing in the squad with left back Charley O’Keefe debuting against Halesowen followed by midfielders Joe Curtis and Luke Rowe against Coalville.
But Halesowen weren’t finished with Town yet and after their League Cup win ten days earlier they were understandably confident of repeating that result in the F A Cup Second Qualifying Round tie at the Grove.
And on an afternoon when Town were simply desperate the Yeltz romped to a 4-1 success with Nabil Shariff adding to Town’s woes by being sent off halfway through the second half.
The bare result was bad enough, but it was to have far reaching consequences not least financial as any hopes of further prize money were dashed.
By the following weekend’s league fixture at Hitchin Callum Ball, Lynden Dovey, Joel Gyasi, Ivor Lawton and Luis Morrison had all been released with Morrison going on Twitter to say that his departure was “not for footballing reasons” and Tommy Wright subsequently confirming that a cut in the playing budget was behind this mass exit.
So new signings were needed and Kairo Edwards-John and George Heaven were both introduced at Hitchin, but it was another limp Town display which handed the struggling Canaries their first league win of the season
But after a turbulent couple of weeks which had started with their F A Cup exit at Halesowen followed by the budget cut, the subsequent player departures and the defeat at Hitchin the fixture list seemed to have given Town the perfect chance to get their season back on track.
The following Saturday could have been left blank as it was the next round of the F A Cup and scheduled opponents Hednesford were still involved, but Town were able to bring forward their home game against bottom club Leiston who had also exited the competition and who had managed only a solitary point from nine outings conceding 36 goals in the process including eight against Peterborough Sports the previous Saturday.
And with the squad still seemingly evolving Town introduced two new signings in 19 year old keeper Mitchell Allen, who had just been released by Stoke City and who was making what turned out to be his only Town appearance, and defender Kyle Rowley who has had spells at Cheltenham Town and Alvechurch, and they became the 30th and 31st players respectively used by Tommy Wright this season.
But even though Town won 3-1 it wasn’t a convincing performance and Chairman Jed McCrory and the Board had seen enough. A few days later it was announced that Tommy Wright had been dismissed and following the previous departures of Carl Adams, Darren Byfield and Thomas Baillie it left Town to search for their fourth manager in 18 months.
His league record had been pretty respectable with four wins, two draws and four losses from ten games yielding 14 points but it was the two Cup defeats by Halesowen which did for him.
Nevertheless Town were comfortably in mid-table when he left and were never to be in that happy situation afterwards.
Paul Davis was named as Caretaker Manager and remained in that role for the rest of the campaign but his time in charge got off to the worst possible start as Lowestoft cruised to a 3-0 win at the Arden Garages Stadium and Town’s slide into the lower reaches of the table was under way.
Watford loanee Harvey White was in goal against the Trawlerboys while another new face in the starting line-up was midfielder Ravi Shamsi who had joined from Leamington and making their debuts from the subs bench were Boubakar Traore and Foday Nabay.
Nabay had been a teenage sensation at Birmingham City and in 2013 Fulham had paid £225,000 to acquire him from Birmingham City when he was just 15 years old, but he had been blighted by injury since and during his timer at Town seldom showed any glimpses of his earlier potential.
Meanwhile heading out of the exit door were James Hancocks and Dylan Parker to link up with former boss Carl Adams at Rugby Town plus Liam Hughes who moved to Bradford Park Avenue.
Four days later Town exited the Birmingham Senior Cup losing to Wolves Under 23 side after a penalty shoot-out when there were more debutants on show.
Defenders Kyle Ambris and Matt Bower were on loan from Tamworth and Bath City respectively, but far more significant was Courtney Richards who joined from Nuneaton Borough and went on to be an ever-present in Town’s starting line-up for the rest of the season.
With the next weekend’s opponents Royston still involved in the F A Cup Town instead opted for a low key friendly at Kettering in which the opportunity was taken to give a number of Academy scholars a taste of first team action before League action resumed with the midweek visit of Tamworth.
Town took an early lead but everything changed a couple of minutes before half time when Ambris gave away a penalty form which the Lambs duly equalised. Ambris was sent off for committing the foul and after a scuffle following the spot kick when Harvey White went to retrieve the ball from the back of the net the keeper was sent off as well leaving Town to face the second half with only nine players including defender Matt Bower taking over in goal.
Inevitably Tamworth went on to win, but it had been an unedifying return to the Arden Garages Stadium for last season’s Head of Football Thomas Baillie and skipper Jimmy Fry.
The following Saturday was scheduled to be a home F A Trophy First Qualifying Round tie against Hednesford but an overnight deluge meant that it was delayed until the following Tuesday.
And in spite of Shamsi firing Town ahead with a 40 yard wonder strike there was to be no repeat of the historic run in last season’s competition as the Pitmen hit back to end Town’s Cup interest for the season and, as the saying goes, leave them to concentrate on the League with 30 games left to play.
The tie did however feature three more debutants in keeper Jack Bennett from Bradford PA, left back Kai Woollard-Innocent on loan from QPR and midfielder Matthew Campbell-Mhlope who had joined from Kings Langley as the seasonal player count reached 41.
So with four games all at home resulting in two League defeats and two Cup exits the Paul Davis era had hardly got off to a promising start, but worse was soon to follow.
Next up was a visit to newly promoted Peterborough Sports. Town were only one down at half time but conceded five in the second half during which several Town players committed the unforgiveable and effectively gave up.
A seething Paul Davis described his side’s second half display as “capitulation” but in reality he was being polite.
It didn’t get much better a week later when in spite of five changes and the introduction of striker Kyle McFarlane on loan from York City another four goals hit he back of the net making ten in two games as Coalville Town cruised to a 4-1 win in front of the shellshocked Town faithful at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Nabil Shariff had departed for Rushden and Diamonds following the Peterborough debacle, and after the Coalville defeat he was followed out of the exit door by Tom Fishwick and Luke Rowe to Romulus and Worcester city respectively.
All of this meant that Town were still looking for their first point since Tommy Wright’s departure when the fixture schedule saw them next make the short trip to Nuneaton Borough.
The match was most memorable for a missed penalty taken by Nuneaton’s ex-Leamington keeper Tony Breeden early in the second half when the score was still 0-0. Hitting it with all the force he could muster the ball soared over the bar and crashed against a strip light in the stand behind the goal leaving it dangling but somehow still lit for the remainder of the afternoon and video of the incident immediately went viral on the Internet.
But two late strikes saw Borough take the points and Town had now slipped into the bottom six in the table.
But Paul Davis at last got off the mark at the eighth attempt the following Tuesday under the Arden Garages Stadium floodlights when Town gained at least a modicum of revenge for their F A Trophy defeat as they surged to a 4-1 win over a Hednesford team who were second best all evening.
Unfortunately though Town couldn’t immediately build on that winning momentum as they then had a blank weekend due to the scheduled fixture against Leiston having already been played and of course becoming Tommy Wright’s swansong in the process.
So it was another week before they were back in action with a testing Tuesday night trip to Royston. Town gave it their all but Royston had the better of the 3-2 scoreline which added to the importance of Town’s game at St Ives the following weekend.
If Town were struggling St Ives were doing even worse and went into the game having taken only one point from their previous seven outings, yet it was the Saints who seemed to be on their way to a rare win when they led 2-0 early in the second half only for Kyle McFarlane to come off the subs bench and rescue a point with two vital strikes the second of which came with only three minutes to go.
Any hopes that the late comeback at St Ives would spark an upsurge in Town’s results were quickly dispelled when Barwell visited the Arden Garages Stadium for a midweek fixture the following Tuesday as it was a case of “Peterborough revisited” with Barwell scoring four in the second half and romping to a 5-1 win.
Another home defeat to Bromsgrove Sporting followed next weekend with Mike Taylor having moved on from Stourbridge inevitably on the scoresheet against his former club.
Town had some relief when their home fixture against Hitchin was waterlogged off, but it was a third loss in a row in their final game before Christmas when a questionable penalty decision gave Hednesford the opportunity to take all three points.
By now Jim Scott, who was a part of the Northampton Town academy set-up, had been recruited as Assistant Manager, but he had hardly had time to make an impact when Town made the short trip down the M40 to face Banbury United on Boxing Day.
And there was precious little Christmas spirit as in an ill-tempered clash Banbury emulated Barwell by striking four times after half time on their way to an eventual 5-0 scoreline which meant that Town had lost all four of their December games scoring just two and conceding thirteen.
After the debacle at Banbury it was decided that another revamp of the squad was required and for the New Year’s Day home fixture against Rushall Olympic four new signings were introduced followed by two more at Needham Market three days later and another four against Stourbridge the next weekend making ten in all which took the season’s player total to 58 with last season’s figure of 54 already left well behind.
There was also yet another return for the prodigal Kynan Isaac while Mo Sebbeh-Njie from last season’s squad was another to reappear after a brief spell at Kettering Town.
And changes weren’t confined to the players as the experienced Dale Belford had recently left Nuneaton Borough and took over as Assistant Manager from Jim Scott whose time at Town had lasted barely a month.
Most of the newcomers didn’t last long with only Reece Flanagan still being in the squad for what turned out to be Town’s final game of the season at Tamworth.
Solihull Moors loanee Dan Sweeney at least showed his quality with four goals in six games and Javia Roberts provided glimpses of ability during his eight game spell, but among the others Rheiss McLean and David Neligwa only made one substitute appearance each while the Senegalese defender Abdou Diakhate played the first half at Needham Market and was never seen again.
To make way for all these arrivals however brief their stay there had to be departures. Nabay, Campbell-Mhlope and Bower never featured again after Banbury and Lomax played only once more while Chris Wreh left for Rushall after the Needham Market game followed by Ross Oulton going to Barwell and then Town’s current longest serving player Lewis Wilson switching to Banbury United on the eve of the trip to Kings Langley.
And in spite of the adherence to the revolving door policy of player recruitment results didn’t improve. The games against Rushall, Needham Market and Stourbridge were all lost although only by the odd goal extending Town’s losing run to seven, and after the Stourbridge game a small group of supporters vented their feelings in a heated exchange with Chairman Jed McCrory by the players tunnel.
Town responded by beating basement side Redditch United on a damp Tuesday evening on the Reds 3G pitch with Wolves loanee James Pardington debuting in goal, but further defeats at Rushden and Diamonds and Kings Langley followed leaving them uncomfortably placed in the bottom four.
So although well clear of St Ives and Redditch they were nervously looking over their shoulder at Alvechurch which meant the rearranged home game against Hitchin Town, who were only two places higher in the table although ten points better off, seemed to offer the chance of opening up a worthwhile gap.
That appeared very much on the cards when Town led 2-0 at half time and after being pegged back to 2-2 by a Hitchin second half revival they regained the lead to be 3-2 up going into added time.
But then a carelessly conceded and even more carelessly defended free kick enabled Hitchin to make it 3-3 and a frustrated Paul Davis could scarcely contain his anger afterwards at how a much needed three points had been thrown away simply by players not following his instructions.
After the Hitchin setback Town faced a testing trip to Biggleswade where the experienced duo of defender Michael Townsend and striker Kyle Perry plus Rob Thompson-Brown took the players used total to 64.
Thompson-Brown had been part of Morton Titterton’s MFA League Cup winning squad in 2011 before moving on to Kidderminster Harriers and Leamington among others, and had first returned to Town when he was part of Carl Adams’ play-off winning squad in 2014/15.
Now he was back again, and it was his introduction from the subs bench in the 72nd minute that changed a game which looked to be heading for a goalless stalemate.
Almost immediately his pace unnerved the Waders defence as he was brought down in full flight and from the resulting free kick Courtney Richards swept in the winner which meant Town had taken four points from two games having previously taken only seven from eighteen since Tommy Wright’s exit.
With the next scheduled fixture against Coalville having already been played in November when both sides had a free weekend after early F A Trophy exits Town now had a fortnight’s break before their return fixture at the Arden Garages Stadium against the apparently already doomed Redditch.
But it was not to be a peaceful fortnight as halfway through Dan Sweeney was involved in a controversial move to Hednesford. His one month loan spell from Solihull Moors expired and although he wished to extend his stay and Town were keen for him to do so he was persuaded to switch to the Pitmen leaving Paul Davis not best pleased to say the least.
Then Storm Dennis intervened and it was only due to the heroic efforts of Mark Bickley and his team of volunteers that the Redditch game went ahead with Town outbattling the Reds and the elements on their way to a 2-0 win which meant they had recorded back-to-back wins and also back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season
The game also saw the return of Cody Fisher and the debut of Leicester City loanee Rhys Davies who became Town’s seventh keeper of the season.
Town had now gone three games unbeaten and climbed out of the bottom four by leapfrogging Leiston, but that encouraging sequence didn’t survive the testing trip to the Far East aka Lowestoft Town. With the A14 not helping by having two lengthy diversions thus extending Town’s journey time to some five hours it was hardly a surprise that they never really got going as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat.
But four debutants at Lowestoft, including the return to Town of Luke Barlone who, like Thompson-Brown, had also been involved in the 2014/15 play-off success, took the season’s player count to a staggering 70 including a scarcely believable 22 in the ten games since the turn of the year.
With Royston sill involved in the F A Trophy Town now had another free Saturday until their next fixture which could hardly have been more daunting as it was away to table toppers Tamworth.
Further debutants Karnell Chambers and Henry Cowans took the seasonal total to 72 but couldn’t prevent the Lambs surging to a 4-1 win with Paul Davis taking some consolation that the four teams below Town all lost as well so that in his words “it was another game ticked off.”
But the coronavirus was now an ever increasing threat and soon intervened to ensure that the Tamworth fixture played on March 7th was to be Town’s final action of the season.
The next weekend’s game at Barwell was called off by the Southern League the day before it was due to take place and at the same time the home games against Royston and Peterborough Sports scheduled for the following Tuesday and Saturday were similarly postponed.
And as the situation deteriorated by the day the remaining games of the season were quickly also put on hold until the inevitable decision was announced on Thursday March 26th to end the season and declare it null and void with the results expunged and all promotion and relegation cancelled.
So any lingering relegation threat to Town was instantly wiped out although they would probably have been safe anyway. They had never been in the bottom three and they had key fixtures coming up against fellow strugglers Leiston, Alvechurch and St Ives in which the hoped for positive results would surely have propelled them well clear of the drop zone.
Nevertheless the abrupt and unprecedented end to the season can’t disguise the fact that it had been a particularly disappointing and frustrating campaign as they ended with only 28 points from the 33 games played. Even though none of that counted anymore it had been a long hard struggle for most of the time.
Under both Tommy Wright and then Paul Davis the team had never really got going and of Town’s five seasons at Premier Division level in terms of points per game this was the worst by some way.
Most regular Town watchers would put this down to the fact that a bewildering number of 72 players were used. With so comings and goings the team rarely displayed any cohesion or fluency on the pitch, while there was also a worrying decline in attendances as supporters struggled to come to terms with the constant change of names and faces in the Town shirts.
All of this brought the system of player recruitment under increasing scrutiny. It was certainly questionable at best and shambolic at worst with 34 of the players used featuring in five or less games and 14 appearing just once with 9 of those only coming on from the subs bench, and if Town are to do better next time round then there has to be a major rethink and improvement in this area.
But with a number of clubs expected to struggle financially over the coming months due to the abrupt and premature end of the season nothing much is likely to be the same for anybody in the future.
True success at this level is often just survival, and Town’s immediate priority is to ride out the ongoing uncertainties so that when football does return they are able to do so as well – whenever that may be.
Review compiled by Bryan Hale
average home crowd 233
Appearances as Substitute are shown in brackets and are included in the Overall Totals
FAC – F A Cup FAT – F A Trophy LC – League Cup BSC – B’ham Snr Cup
72 Players Used
|League (33)||FAC (2)||FAT (1)||LC (1)||BSC (1)||TOTAL (38)|
|Dan VANN||29 (1)||2 (1)||1||1||1||34 (2)|
|Lewis WILSON||27 (1)||2||1||–||1||31 (1)|
|Chris WREH||23 (9)||1||1 (1)||1||1 (1)||27 (11)|
|Ross OULTON||13 (1)||2||1||–||–||16 (1)|
|Ka WOOLLARD-INNT||15 (1)||–||1||–||–||16 (1)|
|Nabil SHARIFF||10 (1)||2||1||1||1||15 (1)|
|Foday NABAY||11 (1)||–||1 (1)||–||1||13 (2)|
|Tom FISHWICK||9 (2)||1||–||1||–||11 (2)|
|Mitchell GLOVER||8 (3)||1 (1)||–||1||–||10 (4)|
|Kyle AMBRIS||9 (5)||–||–||–||1||10 (5)|
|Ivor LAWTON||6 (1)||2||–||1||–||9 (1)|
|Ka EDWARDS-JOHN||7 (2)||–||1||–||1||9 (2)|
|Kurtis REVAN||7 (4)||2||–||–||–||9 (4)|
|Mat CAMPBELL-MHLIOPE||8 (6)||–||1||–||–||9 (6)|
|M0 SEBBEH-NJIE||8 (2)||–||–||–||–||8 (2)|
|Callum BALL||5 (1)||2 (2)||–||1||–||8 (3)|
|Luke ROWE||6||–||–||–||1 (1)||7 (1)|
|Lyndon DOVEY||5 (2)||2||–||–||–||7 (2)|
|Charlie O’KEEFE||4 (1)||1||–||1||1 (1)||7 (2)|
|Kyle McFARLANE||7 (3)||–||–||–||–||7 (3)|
|Dan ALESSI||6 (1)||–||–||–||–||6 (1)|
|Joe CURTIS||5 (1)||1||–||–||–||6 (1)|
|Joel GYASI||5 (1)||1 (1)||–||–||–||6 (2)|
|Leam HOWARDS||6 (3)||–||–||–||–||6 (3)|
|Jordan CLEMENT||6 (4)||–||–||–||–||6 (4)|
|James HANCOCKS||5 (2)||–||–||–||–||5 (2)|
|Tom MEHEW||5 (2)||–||–||–||–||5 (2)|
|Gedeon OKITO||4 (2)||–||–||–||–||4 (2)|
|Kyle PERRY||4 (2)||–||–||–||–||4 (2)|
|Abraham EZE||3 (3)||–||–||1 (1)||–||4 (4)|
|Will DAVIDSON||3 (1)||–||–||–||–||3 (1)|
|George HEAVEN||3 (1)||–||–||–||–||3 (1)|
|Yan OFUSO||2||–||–||1 (1)||–||3 (1)|
|Rob THOMPSON-BROWN||3 (1)||–||–||–||–||3 (1)|
|Dylan PARKER||1 (1)||1 (1)||–||1 (1)||–||3 (3)|
|Shiloh REMY||3 (3)||–||–||–||–||3 (3)|
|Jarrell HYLTON||2 (2)||–||–||–||–||2 (2)|
|Charles TEN-GROTENHUIS||2 (2)||–||–||–||–||2 (2)|
|Dan ATKINS||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Luke BARLONE||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Paul DOUGLAS||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Bekir HALIL||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Rheiss McLEAN||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Dan NELIGWA||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|David PITT||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Luke SHEARER||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
|Boubakar TRAORE||1 (1)||–||–||–||–||1 (1)|
GOALSCORERS AS AT 7th MARCH 2020
NB – Figures in brackets denote Penalties
FAC – F A Cup FAT – F A Trophy LC – League Cup BSC – B’ham Snr Cup
|Nabil SHARIFF||4 (2p)||3||–||–||–||7 (2p)|
|Dan SWEENEY||4 (2p)||–||–||–||–||4 (2p)|
|Callum BALL||2 (1p)||1||–||–||–||3 (1p)|
|LEWIS WILSON||2 (1p)||–||–||–||1||3 (1p)|
|Liam HUGHES||–||1 (1p)||–||–||–||1 (1p)|
|TOTALS||42 (6p)||7 (1p)||1||0||2||52 (7p)|
7th MARCH 2020 – TAMWORTH – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN FAIL TO SILENCE THE LAMBS
Tamworth – 4 – Waite 24 Obeng 47 Beswick 60 (pen) Carta 90
Stratford Town – 1 – Perry 49
Match Report by Bryan Hale
A shock result never looked likely on the 3G ;pitch at the CR MOT Centre Community Stadium on Saturday as League leaders Tamworth powered to a deserved success.
Town battled hard but Tamworth’s overall quality was decisive, and the only consolation for Paul Davis’ side was that the four teams below them in the table also failed to pick up a point.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from a fortnight ago at Lowestoft. Karnell Chambers who has joined from Chippenham Town replaced Rob Thompson-Brown while another new face in Henry Cowans – son of Villa legend Gordan – who has switched from Telford United took over from Leam Howards and the returning Kyle McFarlane came in for Kyle Perry.
Chasing a sixth successive win to consolidate their grip on top spot Tamworth almost went ahead inside the opening minute when Bilal Yafai slid in to connect with Tyrell Waite’s low cross from the right only for Town keeper Rhys Davies to react instinctively and push it behind from point blank range.
Soon after the dangerous Waite wasn‘t far away with a fiercely struck effort which fizzed narrowly wide and with Tamworth bossing the possession he followed that a minute later with another shot which was blocked by Cowans.
In a rare Town foray forward Chambers sprinted down the right to reach the byline and drive in as low cross which was only parried by Tamworth keeper Jas Singh with Lathaniel Rowe-Turner in the right place to complete the clearance.
A Kynan Isaac free kick in the 23rd minute resulted in a Town corner which the Lambs needed a couple of attempts to deal with but when they did get it away the speedy Ahmed Obeng broke away down the right to whip in a low cross which was met with an emphatic finish by Waite to give the table toppers a deserved lead.
Another full length Davies save from an Aaron Forde thunderbolt prevented Town from going two down with Dan Vann twice doing well to halt dangerous runs down the left by Waite and then Davies making a routine save from Forde as the Lambs continued to pile forward.
Jordan Gough went close with a header from a Ryan Beswick corner five minutes before the break, and right on half time only the woodwork stopped the Lambs doubling their lead when Yafai’s crisp right footer ricocheted behind off the outside Davies’ left hand post.
The reprieve though was only to be shortlived as two minutes into the second half the Town defence failed to deal with a bouncing ball in the penalty area allowing Obeng to fire past Davies from eight yards out.
But Town stunned the home crowd by pulling one back two minutes later when Perry, who had been a 33rd minute replacement for the injured Cody Fisher, headed in from a Chambers free kick.
The Lambs were soon back on the attack and regained their two goal advantage on the hour mark when Yafai was pulled down by Courtney Richards as he worked his way into the penalty area and Ryan Beswick slammed the spot kick past Davies with the minimum of fuss.
Obeng was now causing the Town backline plenty of problems with his pace and persistence firing narrowly wide after cutting in from the right followed by drilling in a cross which was inches away from the stretching Joel Carta at the far post.
But Town squandered a great chance of a second goal with twenty minutes to go when Chambers found himself one-on-one with Singh and skipped round the keeper only to then inexplicably delay his shot and be robbed by a perfectly timed tackle from Rowe-Turner.
With fifteen minutes to go Tamworth sent on the former Town favourite Jimmy Fry and he was joined by another ex-Townite in Chris Lait as they concentrated on seeing the game out and they added a fourth in the final minute with an assured finish from Carta.
STRATFORD : Rhys Davies, Dan Vann (George Heaven 67), Cody Fisher (Kyle Perry 33), Courtney Richards (c), Michal Townsend, Kyle Rowley, Karnell Chambers, Declan Benjamin, Kyle McFarlane (Leam Howards 75), Henry Cowans, Kynan Isaac Unused Subs – Reece Flanagan & Rob Thompson-Brown
TAMWORTH : Jas Singh, Ben Hart, Jordan Gough, Ryan Beswick (c) (Jimmy Fry 75), Joe Magunda, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Tyrell Waite, Aaron Forde, Gerry Mcdonagh (Joel Carta 63), Bilal Yafai. Ahmed Obeng (Chris Lait 81). Unused Subs – Henri Wilder & Rhys Hoeness
Referee – Richard Eley
Assistant Referees – Paul Sanderson & Connor Redpath
22nd FEBRUARY 2020 – LOWESTOFT TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN FAIL TO SPARKLE IN THE FAR EAST
Lowestoft Town – 2 – Linton 32 (pen) Lopez 90+4
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
For the second season running Lowestoft completed the double over Town who are still looking to take their first point from the Trawlerboys after four league meetings.
Even without leading scorer Jake Reed who was sidelined by injury they still had far more bite up front than Paul Davis’ side who disappointingly failed to build on the promise of their recent unbeaten three game run and secured the points courtesy of a first half penalty and a second goal with virtually the last kick of the game.
Town’s starting line-up showed one change from last weekend with new signing Declan Benjamin replacing Reece Flanagan who hadn’t recovered from the knock he picked up against Redditch.
A stiff wind was blowing diagonally across the ground straight from the North Sea which didn’t really favour either side, but it was the Trawlerboys who had the first serious goal attempt in the fifth minute with Jacek Zielonka firing over from the edge of the penalty area.
Both sides were finding it difficult to cope with the breeze but Rob Thompson-Brown’s persistence earned Town their first corner on 20 minutes while soon after at the other end Rhys Davies had to sprint a long way out of his area to, kick clear as Zielonka chased after a long pass down the left.
Another Lowestoft attack ended with Davies making a routine save from a Malachi Linton header and they went the closest yet to opening the scoring in the 27th minute when Marcus Wilkinson’s cross from the right reached the overlapping Josh Curry whose fiercely struck drive skimmed the bar on its way behind.
But disaster struck Town in the 32nd minute when Kyle Rowley unluckily handled the ball as it bounced awkwardly in the penalty area and Linton thumped the spot kick past Davies with the minimum of fuss.
It began to get a bit feisty with Lowestoft’s Curry, Connor Deeks and Adam Tann all picking up yellow cards but in the middle of it all Wilkinson burst into the left of the Town penalty area five minutes before the break to clip the ball over Davies only to see it come back off the bar.
Then in first half added time Thompson-Brown hit a decent shot on the turn which Lowestoft keeper Luis Tibbles could only hold at the second attempt.
Kynan Isaac didn’t reappear for the second half after picking up an injury just before the break and was replaced by another recruit in Luke Shearer.
The Trawlerboys squandered a great opportunity to double their lead a couple of minutes after the restart when Zielonka’s cross from the right found Wilkinson unmarked at the far post but with only Davies to beat he completely miskicked and the chance was gone.
A minute or so later Thompson-Brown wasn’t far away with a 20 yard free kick which fizzed inches wide of Tibbles’ left hand post, but it was Lowestoft who were having more of the ball and it needed a point blank Davies save from a Linton shot just after the hour mark to prevent Town going two down.
A rare Town breakaway saw Leam Howards force a corner which came to nothing, and as the Trawlerboys continued to push for the second goal which would surely settle the game Paul Davis sent on David Pitt and then Luke Barlone for Perry and Thompson-Brown respectively which meant four debutants for the afternoon as Town’s player count for the season reached a staggering 70.
As the game headed into its closing ten minutes Town somehow survived a couple of goalmouth scrambles with Dan Vann blocking a goalbound effort from Zielonka and Davies beating away a close range effort from Louis McIntosh.
Another Davies save at the feet of Dylan Ruffles with two minutes to go kept Town in the game but four minutes into added time a scuffed clearance by the keeper was seized on by Miguel Lopez who had the simple task of slotting the ball into the empty net with the final whistle following seconds later.
STRATFORD : Rhys Davies, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Courtney Richards (c), Michael Townsend, Kyle Rowley, Rob Thompson-Brown (Luke Barlome 78), Declan Benjamin, Kyle Perry (David Pitt 69), Leam Howards, Kynan Isaac (Luke shearer 46). Unused Subs – Mo Sebbeh-Njie & Bekir Halil
LOWESTOFT : Luis Tibbles, Josh Curry, Kyle Richardson, Connor Deeks, Travis Cole (c), Adam Tann (Miguel Lopez 46), Marcus Wilkinson (Dylan Ruffles 76 ), Ross Jarvis, Malachi Linton, Louis McIntosh, Jacek Zielinka (Quintino N’buque 85). Unused Subs – Buster Honeywood & Jay Barbour
Referee – Aaron Farmer
Assistant Referees – Ashley Smith & Cameron Brown
Attendance – 369
15th FEBRUARY 2020 – REDDITCH UNITED – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN BEAT STORM DENNIS AS THEY DOUBLE UP OVER THE REDS
Stratford Town – 2 – Thompson-Brown 70 Perry 90+5
Redditch United – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
This game only went ahead thanks to the heroic efforts of Town groundsman Mark Bickley and his team of volunteers and they were rewarded for their endeavours as Town made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season by completing the double over the struggling Reds who battled hard but slipped to their 25th consecutive League defeat.
It was never going to be a classic in the conditions, but Town were in control pretty much throughout and with Storm Dennis not being as violent as had been predicted they were good value for a vital three points which takes them nine clear of third from bottom St Ives who were didn’t play today and eleven ahead of Alvechurch who lost at Stourbridge and who now only have three games in hand.
Town’s starting line-up showed four changed from a fortnight ago at Biggleswade beginning in goal where 20 year old Leicester City loanee Rhys Davies became the seventh keeper used by Town this season as he replaced James Pardington. Cody Fisher has returned after a short spell at Stourbridge and resumed at left back allowing Kynan Isaac to move into midfield at the expense of Mo Sebbeh-Njie.
Elsewhere Rob Thompson-Brown and Kyle Perry came in for the departed pair of Javia Roberts and Dan Sweeney.
Even though they were facing the howling gale from the Golf Course end Redditch started brightly, but it was Town who had the first chance of the afternoon in the tenth minute when Rob Thompson-Brown’s low drive was deflected behind, and they should have opened the scoring seven minutes later when Cody Fisher’s cross from the left picked out the unmarked Leam Howards who could only steer a free header wastefully wide.
Soon after Perry netted after Reds keeper Kieran Boucher had only parried another stinging Thompson-Brown effort but the offside flag was already up.
A perfectly timed tackle by Josh Endall prevented Howards from going clear in the 20th minute while at the other end a similarly crucial intervention by Dan Vann halted a promising run from Taimoor Hussain.
Town though were now forcing the Reds further and further back. Boucher comfortably held a crisp right footer from Reece Flanagan on the half hour mark followed by Vann heading over from another Fisher cross, but it was Fisher who came closest to giving Town the lead a minute before the break when he was released down the left by Isaac to surge into the penalty area only for his close range shot to cannon away off the advancing Boucher’s legs.
Town continued to be well on top after the restart and in the 50th minute Boucher did well to push away an Isaac free kick with Flanagan’s follow-up from the loose ball being charged down.
Flanagan again tested Boucher a couple of minutes later with a fiercely struck drive which the busy Reds keeper turned behind at the foot of his right hand post.
Town were piling on the pressure but frustratingly the afternoon was still goalless until the 70th minute when Perry was brought down in a central position some 25 yards out and Thompson-Brown’s free kick fizzed through the Redditch wall and squirmed under Boucher’s despairing dive into the bottom corner.
Boucher then had to make further saves from Perry and Howards but to their credit the Reds kept going and the second goal Town needed to wrap it all up didn’t arrive until the fifth minute of added time when Isaac cut in from the left and his shot looped off Boucher to come back off the bar and provide Perry with a simple tap-in,
STRATFORD : Rhys Davies, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Courtney Richards (c), Michael Townsend, Kyle Rowley, Rob Thompson-Brown (Bekir Halil 87), Reece Flanagan (Mo Sebbeh-Njie 81), Kyle Perry, Leam Howards (Kyle Ambris 90+3), Kynan Isaac. Unused Subs – David Pitt & Dominic Perkins
REDDITCH : Kevin Boucher, Tyreece Kennedy-Williams, Lance Moyo (Hostidio Santos 55), Sheldon Tweedie, Josh Endall, Ben Birch, Alex Yearwood (Josh Harris-James 61), Thomas Rankin (c), Jaden Owusu-Nepaul, Romario Martin, Taimoor Hussain. Unused Subs – Joel Whittingham, Moises Dominguez Castro & Ryan Pratt (GK)
Referee – Niall Smith
Assistant Referees – Tom Wall & Ben Watkiss
Attendance – 206
1st FEBRUARY 2020 – BIGGLESWADE TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
RICHARDS STRIKES LATE TO SINK THE WADERS
Biggleswade Town – 0
Stratford Town – 1 – Richards 81
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Skipper Courtney Richards fired in the only goal of the game with nine minutes to go at a breezy Langford Road on Saturday to secure a vital win in Town’s bid to move away from the Bet Victor Southern League Premier Division Central drop zone.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from the Hitchin game. Kynan Isaac switched to left back in place of Gedeon Okito, while new signing Michael Townsend, who played over 100 games for Cheltenham Town but who has more recently been at Coalville replaced Dan Alessi at centre half and Leam Howards came in to take Isaac’s midfield slot.
With a heavy pitch and a brisk wind both teams understandably took time to adjust to the conditions and the only serious goal attempt in the opening quarter of an hour was a long range shot from the Waders Corey Panter which was wide enough not to concern Town keeper James Pardington.
Five minutes later a Callum Donnelly cross from the left flew just beyond Shane Bush, and as the Waders began to have more of the possession Pardington did well to stretch to his left and hold a Jonathan Edwards header from a Matt Ball free kick.
And in the 25th minute the Waders came the closest yet to taking the lead when Edwards hit a thunderous right footer from some 25 yards out which fizzed inches over.
Town responded with Reece Flanagan having a shot blocked followed by a couple of corners in quick succession which ended with Kyle Rowley firing over.
Back came the Waders and on 35 minutes Oliver Swain had a great chance from a Dylan Williams left wing cross only to head wide of the far post from five yards out.
Town’s best opportunity so far didn’t arrive until two minutes before half time when Dan Sweeney’s trademark persistence caused panic in the Waders defence with the ball falling kindly to Howards who could only shoot straight at keeper Richard Walton.
Paul Davis introduced the much travelled striker Kyle Perry in place of Flanagan for the restart but the first chance of the second half came the way of Howards whose low drive was pushed behind by Walton.
But Town had a let off in the 53rd minute when Pardington could only parry a fiercely struck Ball effort with Edwards smashing the rebound into the roof of the net before his celebrations were cut short as he turned away to find the offside flag already up.
As in the first half the Waders were the more threatening of the two sides but Townsend was adding increased solidity to the Town backline and with most of the Waders attempts being from some way out Pardingtion was rarely troubled.
Rob Thompson-Brown came on for Roberts on 72 minutes to become Town’s third debutant of the afternoon and their 64th player of the season before Perry wasn’t far away for Town and Ball similarly close for the Waders, but by now it was increasingly clear that one goal would probably be enough to decide the destiny of the points.
And it was Town who struck in the 81st minute when Thompson-Brown was brought down in full flight just outside the penalty area. Isaac’s free kick was not properly dealt with by the Waders defence and Richards seized on the loose ball to sweep it beyond Walton into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area for his first Town goal.
The Waders tried hard to find an equaliser and Town had to contend with six added minutes at the end but they held on to secure their second away win of the season plus their third clean sheet and more importantly three crucial survival points.
STRATFORD : James Pardington, Dan Vann, Kynan Isaac, Courtney Richards (c), Michael Townsend, Kyle Rowley, Javia Roberts (Rob Thompson-Brown 72), Mo Sebbeh-Njie, Dan Sweeney (Dan Alessi 87), Reece Flanagan (Kyle Perry 46). Leam Howards. Unused Subs – David Pitt & Dominic Perkins
BIGGLESWADE : Richard Walton, Devante Stanley, Corey Panter, Callum
Donnelly, Oliver Swain, Drew Richardson (Kweku Lucan 86), Dylan Williams, Shane Bush, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Hall (c), Treymayne Charles (James Peters Unused Subs – Reece Crowter, Taishan Griffith & Darryl Reid
Referee – Alistair Wilson
Assistant Referees – Michael Dunkley & Brian O’Sullivan
Attendance – 165
28th JANUARY 2020 – HITCHIN TOWN – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN DISTRAUGHT AS HITCHIN STEAL POINT IN ADDED TIME
Stratford Town – 3 – Vann 2 Roberts 45 Howards 73
Hitchin Town – 3 – Cawley 57 Hutchinson (2) 66 & 90+3
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Leading 3-2 as Tuesday’s evening clash at the Arden Garages Stadium headed past the 90 minute mark Town were ready to celebrate a vital win which would take them further away from the Southern League Premier Division Central drop zone.
But in the third minute of added time a carelessly conceded free kick resulted in Hitchin grabbing an equaliser and Town’s three points were reduced to just one leaving them six points clear of Alvechurch but having played five games more.
Town’s starting line-up showed one change from Saturday with Gedeon Okito replacing Kai Woollard-Innoncent who has returned to parent club QPR while there were a further two new names on the subs bench in David Pitt and Rob Thompson-Brown.
Thompson-Brown could however hardly be described as a completely new name as he had been part of Morton Titterton’s MFA League Cup winning squad in 2012 and had since been at a myriad of clubs including most recently with Stafford Rangers.
Attempting to build on their encouraging second half performance at Kings Langley Town poured forward straight from the kick off with Kynan Isaac having a well struck effort beaten away by Hitchin keeper Charlie Horlock inside the opening minute.
Another attack resulted in a left wing corner which was floated over by Isaac and headed in at the far post by Dan Vann. It was the defender’s first Town goal and it provided Paul Davis’ side with the perfect start.
But Hitchin soon showed the form that had seen them beat highflying Peterborough Sports a week ago and looked for an immediate response with Jacob Hutchinson having a shot deflected behind and James Pardington safely holding a teasing cross from Diogo Freitas-Gouveia.
And after a spell of Town pressure it was Hutchinson who again went close in the 18th minute as he surged down the inside right channel only to have his shot deflected behind off Dan Alessi.
Soon after Vann showed his defensive qualities as he blocked a Freitas-Gouveia shot a point blank range and from the resulting corner Stephen Cawley swivelled to hit a thunderous volley against the inside of Pardington’s right hand post with the ball ricocheting away to safety.
As at Kings Langley Dan Sweeney was causing ;plenty of problems with his willingness to chase down everything but it had now developed into a pretty even game although Town almost doubled their lead on 35 minutes when Javia Roberts exchanged passes with Sweeney before shooting across goal from the right of the penalty area.
Hitchin went close to an equaliser a minute before half time when Alex Marsh seized on a poor punch from Pardington to shoot inches wide, but they were then stunned when Town immediately doubled their lead as from the subsequent goal kick Isaac raced away down the left and squared the ball across to Roberts who had the straightforward task of slotting past Horlock to emulate Vann with his first Town goal.
But it was Hitchin who quickest into their stride after the restart and Hutchinson had a great chance to pull one back seven minutes into the second half when he pounced on a mistake by Okito only for Pardington to plunge to his left to make the save.
Hitchin though now felt they were getting back into the game and on 57 minutes they duly did so when a Hutchinson header came back off the bar and following g scramble in the six yard box Cawley stabbed in the rebound.
Suddenly it was a different game and after another Cawley attempt had been deflected behind Hitchin levelled it all up in the 66th minute when Hutchinson burst into the right of the penalty area and steered the ball through the advancing Pardington’s legs into the far corner.
But having been second best since half time Town came back to regain the lead in the 73rd minute when Sweeney flicked on a long clearance upfield for Leam Howards – who had only replaced Reece Flanagan moments earlier – to run on and skip round Horlock before rolling the ball into the empty net and become the third player of the evening to register his first Town goal.
Hitchin though were not done yet with Ben Walster not far away with a fiercely struck free kick and Kyle Rowley making a crucial block from another on-target Hutchinson effort.
Town were now hanging on desperately and it all unravelled in the third minute of added time when Courtney Richards lunged in with a rash challenge some 20 yards out.
As the Town faithful held their breath fearing the worst Walster’s free kick cannoned against Pardington’s left hand post and Hutchinson reacted the quickest to lash the loose ball into the roof of the net.
STRATFORD : James Pardington, Dan Vann, Gedeon Okito, Courtney Richards (c), Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Javia Roberts, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (Paul Douglas 78), Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan (Leam Howards 68), Kynan Isaac (Kyle Ambris 88). Unused Subs – David Pitt & Rob Thompson-Brown
HITCHIN : Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Josh Coldicutt-Stevens, Dan Webb (c), Lewis Rolfe, Lewis Barker, Alex Marsh, Stephen Cawley, Jacob Hutchinson, Diogo Freitas-Gouveia (Bradley Bell 68). Unused Subs – Max Ryan, Rio Da Silva, Brett Donnelly & Kyle Tearle
Referee – Neil Pratt
Assistant Referees – Paul Sparrow & William Doyle
Attendance – 144
25th JANUARY 2020 – KINGS LANGLEY – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN TRY HARD BUT THE KINGS NICK THE POINTS
Kings Langley – 1 – Hoskins 36
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town’s troubled season continued at the Orbital Fasteners Stadium as in spite of a battling second half performance they slumped to a ninth defeat in their last ten outings with Will Hoskins’ 36th minute strike being enough to secure the points for Kings Langley.
There was only one change to Town’s starting line-up with Kai Woollard-Innocent returning in place of the unavailable Lewis Wilson and taking over at left back allowing Kynan Isaac to switch into midfield, but there were two new names on the subs bench with ex-Banbury United striker Leam Howards arriving from Kidlington and Paul Douglas from Alvechurch.
The opening ten minutes were fairly even with both sides trading corners without being able to make them count, but the Kings went close to taking the lead in the 14th minute when Mitchell Weiss’ low cross from the right reached Hoskins at the far post who could only prod it wide from a couple of yards out.
Soon after Callum Adebiyi wasn’t far away with a stinging volley as he connected with another Weiss cross but Mo Sebbeh-Njie went even closer at the other end in the 25th minute with a thunderous long range effort which was spectacularly turned behind by Kings keeper Melvin Minter taking off at full stretch to his left.
The Kings were beginning to boss the possession and scored what proved to be the winner in the 36th minute when Jordan Parkes floated over a free kick from the right touchline which was headed back by Adebiyi at the far post and thumped past Town keeper James Pardington by the unmarked Hoskins from eight yards out.
And the Kings then finished the first half with a bit of a flourish as Pardington pushed behind a Parkes shot at the foot of his right hand post and followed up by collecting a teasing cross from Weiss.
Town needed to impose themselves in midfield if they were to get back into the game and there were some encouraging signs in the opening minutes of the second half, but Javia Roberts wasted their best chance by shooting into the side netting when a cross to the waiting Dan Sweeney would have been the better option.
The Kings responded with Roddy Collins hitting a 25 yard drive inches wide and then letting fly with another on the hour mark which was acrobatically palmed over by Pardington, but Town were certainly making life uncomfortable for the Kings who were struggling to regain their earlier composure.
Howards was introduced into the action in the 66th minute replacing Roberts to become Town’s 60th player of the season but in spite of plenty of Town effort the equaliser was proving to be frustratingly elusive.
But they should have levelled in the 83rd minute when Reece Flanagan’s cross from the right picked out Howards six yards out but in spite of being totally unchallenged he could only steer his header tantalisingly the wrong side of the far post.
That proved to be their last opportunity and the point they deserved on their much improved second half showing had drifted away.
STRATFORD : James Pardington, Dan Vann, Kai Woollaerd-Innocent, Courtney Richards (c), Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Javia Roberts (Leam Howards 66), Mo Sebbeh-Njie, Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan, Kynan Isaac. Unused Subs – Gedeon Okito, Kyle Ambris, Paul Douglas & David Neligwa
K/LANGLEY : Melvin Minter, Alex Anderson, Kyle Connolly, Dean Hitchcock (Casey Linsell 76), Callum Adebiyi, Jorell Johnson, Mitchell Weiss, Roddy Collins (c), Will Hoskins (Saul Williams 67), Harry Crawford (Evans Lamboh 90), Jordan Parkes. Unused Subs – None
Referee – Joshua Crofts
Assistant Referees – Matt O’Riordan & Martyn Mitchell
Attendance – 245
18th JANUARY 2020 – RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS – AWAY – LEAGUE
TWO MORE FROM SWEENEY BUT DIAMONDS TAKE THE POINTS
Rushden & Diamonds – 4 – Akubuine 24 Acquaye 30 Dolman 63 Farrell 70
Stratford Town – 2 – Sweeney (2) 35 (pen) & 78
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town’s optimism after their midweek win at Redditch was swallowed up in the Hayden Road Sports Ground quagmire as the play off chasing Diamonds proved just that bit stronger where and when it mattered.
Dan Sweeney again impressed up front for Town but two goals in each half provided Damonds with some sort of revenge for the defeat at the Arden Garages Stadium back in August.
Town’s starting line-up showed two changes from the Redditch game with Kynan Isaac moving to left back in place of Kai Woollard-Innocent and Mo Sebbeh-Njie coming in for the Barwell bound Ross Oulton.
The Diamonds team included the familiar face of striker Nabil Shariff.
On a desperately heavy pitch only made playable by plenteous amounts of sand the Diamonds were first to threaten with Dan Alessi heading away a right wing cross from Gregory Kaziboni followed by keeper James Pardington doing well to collect an inswinging corner from Matt Slinn.
Yet it was Town, who were kicking up the slope and with the low sun behind them, who had the best opening so far in the 11th minute when Javia Roberts worked enough space on the right to hit a decent attempt which fizzed into the side netting.
Soon after some slick work down the left from Ben Acquaye earned Diamonds another corner but both sides were struggling to cope with the testing surface which was making a passing game virtually impossible.
But in the 24th minute Diamonds took the lead as they moved the ball down the right for Pat Casey to whip in a low cross. Kaziboni had a shot blocked only for the ball to fall kindly to Jesse Akubuine who drilled it into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
And on 30 minutes Diamonds doubled their lead courtesy of a horrendous mistake from Isaac who dithered fatally as he tried to deal with a long pass down the inside right channel. Kazibonmi pounced to nick the ball off him and slid it across to Acquaye who had the simple task of slotting it past the helpless Pardington.
Town though were handed a lifeline out of nothing five minutes later when Sweeney wriggled into the penalty area where he as upended by Jack Ashton and got up to blast the spot kick past Ben Heath with the minimum of fuss.
Back came Diamonds to force a succession of corners in the closing minutes of the half but their clearest chance fell to Nathan Hicks from a throw-in who could only hit a tame effort straight at Pardington.
The first opportunity after the break fell to Sweeney whose chip from the right drifted narrowly wide of the far post, and when play switched to the other end Kaziboni laid in a chance for Shariff whose shot was beaten away by Pardington.
On the hour mark Diamonds at last put a flowing move together only for it to be was wasted by the overlapping Casey who blazed wildly over, but they regained their two goal advantage three minutes later from the most unlikely of scorers.
Sam Brown launched a long throw from the right and the imposing centre back and skipper Liam Dolman climbed to direct a back header beyond Pardington into the far corner.
But a couple of minutes later only some heroic Diamonds defending prevented Town getting back into the game as Heath blocked Sweeney’s shot at point blank range and then Brown somehow got back to clear Roberts’ follow-up effort off the line.
On 70 minutes though Diamonds put the result beyond doubt when Kaziboni’s shot was parried by Pardington and substitute Ben Farrell who had only come on two minutes earlier reacted the quickest to sweep the loose ball into the empty net..
But Town and Sweeney were not quite finished yet and on 78 minutes the striker fired in a screamer from all of 25 yards out which rocketed past the motionless Heath for his fourth goal in three appearances.
Much to Town’s concern Sweeney limped off with five minutes to go but by then Diamonds had the points in the bag and saw out the remainder of the game in relative comfort.
STRATFORD : James Pardington, Dan Vann, Kynan Isaac, Courtney Richards, Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley (Charles Ten-Grotenhuis 75), Lewis Wilson (c) (Gedeon Okito 78), Mo Sebbeh-Njie, Dan Sweeney (Kai Woollard-Innocdent 85), Reece Flanagan, Javia Roberts. Unused Subs – Kyle Ambris & David Neligwa
RUSHDEN : Ben Heath, Pat Casey, Sam Brown, Jack Ashton, Liam Dolman (c), Jesse Akubuine (Ryan Dove 75), Ben Acquaye, Matt Slinn, Nabil Shariff, Gregory Kaziboni (Tom Lorraine 75), Nathan Hicks (Ben Farrell 68). Unused Sub – Ryan Dove
Referee – Andrew Ellis
Assistant Referees – Steven Bayliss & Davis Barratt
Attendance – 417
14th JANUARY – REDDITCH UNITED – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN EASE THEIR DROP FEARS AS THE REDS POINTLESS RUN GOES ON
Redditch United – 0
Stratford Town – 2 – Sweeney (2) 33 (pen) & 80
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town headed to the Trico Stadium on Tuesday evening still seeking their first away win of the season and could hardly have been handed a better opportunity as Redditch had lost their last 18 League since picking up their most recent point on August 31st.
And on Redditch’s 3G pitch it was Town who dominated the game to secure the points courtesy of a Dan Sweeney double and ease their relegation fears which had inevitably been increasing during their recent seven match losing streak.
Town’s team showed three changes from Saturday. There was a new keeper in James Partington who is on loan from Wolves and played for them against Town in the Birmingham Senior Cup earlier in the season, while Ross Oulton returned in place of Mo Sebbeh-Njie.
But the talking point was yet another return to Town’s squad of the prodigal Kynan Isaac after spells at North Leigh and Banbury United and he went straight into the starting line-up at the expense of Lewis Wilson.
Inevitably given their current form both sides made a cautious start with the only serious goal attempt in the opening ten minutes being a decent long range effort from Sweeney who was to add some much needed bite to Town’s attack throughout the evening.
But Town soon squandered two gilt edged chances to take the lead. On 17 minutes Dan Vann somehow headed wide from a Reece Flanagan left wing corner when completely unmarked at the far post, and a couple of minutes later Dan Alessi blazed over when the ball fell kindly to him after a free kick.
A promising run down the right by Roberts ended with a low cross which was gathered by Reds keeper Kieran Boucher at the second attempt followed by Isaac having a shot blocked and then Sweeney seemingly being clean though only to lift his shot over both Boucher and the bar.
But Town at last made the breakthrough just after the half hour mark when Sweeney was bundled over by Ronnie Hendricks with referee Ryan Williams immediately pointing to the spot and Sweeney getting up to blast the kick past Boucher.
Sweeney was now really buzzing and five minutes before the break he had a header cleared off the line by Tyreece Kennedy-Williams and from the subsequent corner Oulton’s diving header flashed narrowly over.
A Roberts shot was held by Boucher low to his right in added time, but Town reached half time only one up in spite of having all the possession and all the chances.
The Reds forced an early corner after the restart with Gratias Katega having their first shot of the evening so far, but Town hit back with Oulton firing over and Isaac streaking down the left to deliver a cross which flew beyond both Sweeney and Flanagan.
But it was from another set piece in the 58th minute that Town came closest to doubling their lead when Boucher plunged to his left to push away a Flanagan free kick after Isaac had been brought down right on the edge of the penalty area.
A perfectly timed tackle from Josh Endall snuffed out a surge into the penalty area by the busy Sweeney in the 65th minute and soon after Roberts shot into the side netting after cutting in from the right.
Boucher then had to tip over s cross-cum-shot from Vann and a fiercely struck left foot drive fizzed inches wide, but with only a quarter of an hour to go there was still only one goal in it.
And the Reds had their best chance yet to level on 77 minutes when Luke Shearer found himself with time and space on the left only to fire into the side netting.
But three minutes later Town effectively put the result beyond doubt when Flanagan’s corner from the right caused mayhem in the Reds six yard box and Sweeney pounced to lash the loose ball into the roof of the net.
Sweeney then had a hat-trick attempt easily dealt with by Boucher who also saved from Wilson as Town comfortably saw the rest of the game out to clinch a vital win with the added bonus of their second clean sheet of the campaign as well.
STRATFORD : James Partington, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Kynan Isaac, Ross Oulton, Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan (Mo Sebbeh-Njie 86), Javia Roberts (Lrwis Wilson 78) Unused Subs – Will Davidson, Gedeon Okito & Charles Ten-Grotenhuis
REDDITCH : Kieran Boucher, Tyreece Kennedy-Williams, Ronnie Hendricks, Ben Stokes (Josh Harris-James 68), Josh Endall, Ben Birch, Gratias Katega, Tom Rankin, Brandon Diau, Jaden Owosu-Nepaul (Randane Larmond 73), Luke Shearer. Unused Subs – James Johnson, Mason Birch & Adam Masuriak (GK)
Referee – Ryan Williams
Assistant referees – Jack Ridge & Niall Nestor
Attendance – 158
11th JANUARY 2020 – STOURBRIDGE – HOME – LEAGUE
DOUBLE DELIGHT FOR THE GLASSBOYS
Stratford Town – 1 – Flanagan 20
Stourbridge – 2 – Nicholls 33 Tonks 42
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Although they took a 20th minute lead Town slipped to their seventh defeat in a row as Stourbridge hit back to lead at half time, and in spite of a spirited second half performance Paul Davis’ side couldn’t find an equaliser as the Glassboys followed up their win in the reverse fixture back in August to complete the seasonal double and reignite their play off prospects.
Yet again there was a scattering of new names on the Town teamsheet with Dan Alessi, Reece Flanagan, David Neligwa and Dan Sweeney taking the number of Town debutants in the three games since the turn of the year to ten and the overall total of players used by Town this campaign to a bewildering 58 – already more than the 54 of last season.
Alessi is an Australian defender who is also registered with National League North side Hereford while midfielder Flanagan joins from Rushall Olympic, wide player Neligwa is on a dual registration with Kidderminster Harriers and Sweeney arrives on loan from Solihull Moors after completing a previous loan spell at Gloucester City.
Alessi, Flanagan and Sweeney were all in the starting line-up replacing Abdou Diakhate, the suspended Ross Oulton and the departed Chris Wreh while Neligwa was on the subs bench.
A further change from the Needham Market game was in goal where Sam Lomax returned for Jack Bennett.
As expected the Stourbridge squad included ex-Town favourites Cody Fisher, Will Grocott and Jordan Williams.
Needing a win to get their play-off ambitions back on track after back-to-back losses the Glassboys made a lively start forcing a first minute corner followed by Kristian Green firing in a low drive from the right which was only held by Lomax at the second attempt.
The Town keeper was more confident in dealing with a Williams header before Town had a great chance to open the scoring in the tenth minute when Sweeney latched onto a long ball from Mo Sebbeh-Njie to home in on goal down the inside right channel only to have his shot blocked by the recovering Ashley Carter.
Sweeney wasted another opportunity on 17 minutes when a Javia Roberts pass left him with only Charlie Price to beat but the keeper was smartly off his line and spread himself well to block the shot.
But suddenly Town were buzzing and three minutes later Roberts had his effort charged down and the ball fell kindly to Flanagan who thumped it past Price from ten yards out.
The Glassboys looked to respond with Green whipping in another rasping drive from the right but found it hard to break down a resolute Town defence until the 33rd minute when Grocott floated over one of his trademark crosses from the right and Alex Nicholls gave Lomax no chance with a close range header.
Soo after Price dealt comfortably with a Roberts shot while at the other end Grocott wasn’t far away with a decent effort from 20 yards out, but the Glassboys grabbed the lead three minutes before the break when Kai Woollard-Innocent dithered over a clearance allowing Williams to nick the ball off him and lay it off for Anthony Dwyer to slip it across to Tom Tonks who had the simple task of firing past Lomax from the edge of the six yard box.
Another Woollard-Innocent mistake five minutes after the restart set up an opening for Nicholls who could only blaze wide followed by Dwyer shooting straight at Lomax and then hitting a curling effort inches past Lomax’s left hand ;post
Town threatened in a breakaway on the hour mark only for Price to sprint out of his area to beat Roberts to the ball, but Nicholls was proving difficult for the Town backline to deal with and on 68 minutes he laid on a chance for Tonks whose shot ricocheted away off a defender.
But Town almost conjured an equaliser out of nothing in the 70th minute when Sweeney twisted and turned to make room for a shot on the edge of the penalty area which Price only held at the second attempt.
And he went even closer a minute later when his header from a Tom Mehew free kick was acrobatically tipped over by Price.
Town were keeping going and when Stourbridge struggled to clear a corner with ten minutes to go Kyle Rowley let fly with a well struck right footer which flew narrowly wide.
Stourbridge though continued to be a threat and only a perfectly timed tackle from Alessi in the last minute of normal time prevented Glassboys substitute Andre Landell going clear immediately after coming on as they saw the game out to take the points.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent (Will Davidson 90 + 4), Courtney Richards, Dan Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (David Neligwa 79), Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan (Tom Mehew 65), Javia Roberts Unused Subs – Rheiss McLean & Charles Ten-Grotenhuis
STOURBRIDGE : Charlie Price, Kristian Green, Ashley Carter, Tom Turton, Jordan Williams, Jordaan Brown, Daviud Bellis, Tom Tonks (c), Antony Dwyer (Andre Landell 89), Will Grocott (Josh Ezewele 88), Alex Nicholls. Unused Subs – Cody Fisher, Jamie Willetts & Tom Kirkpatrick (GK)
Referee – Tom Wainman
Assistant Referees – David Hinton & Josh Sudbury
Attendance – 353
4th JANUARY 2020 – NEEDHAM MARKET – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN FALL TO LAST GASP PENALTY
Needham Market – 1 – Marsden 90 (pen)
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
A combination of resolute Town defending and wasteful Needham finishing appeared to have provided Town with only their third away point of the campaign at Bloomfields on Saturday until Dan Vann conceded a penalty for handball in the 90th minute which was thumped in by Joe Marsden to give Needham some sort of revenge for their defeat at the Arden Garages Stadium on the opening day of the season.
Town’s starting line-up showed two changes from New Year’s Day. Mo Sebbeh-Njie, who was part of last season’s play-off squad has returned from a spell at Kettering Town, while there was a Town debut for Senegalese defender Abdou Diakhate who has latterly been on loan from Parma at Belgian club Lokeren.
Dropping to the subs bench to make way were Gedeon Okita and Tom Mehew.
Early attempts from Lewis Wilson and Ross Oulton flew wide but Needham went closer in the fifth minute with a fiercely struck left footer from Will Hunt being deflected behind off Diakhate followed by the offside flag halting a threatening run from Adam Mills.
A foul by Dan Vann on Sam Squire five yards outside the penalty area offered Needham a better chance but Heath hit the free kick straight into the Town wall, and as Needham continued to press forward Jack Bennett pulled off a smart close range save from the lively Hunt to keep the scores level.
Another decent save from Bennett getting down low to his right once again prevented Hunt from firing Needham into the lead, before in a rare Town foray upfield Javia Roberts had a shot ricochet behind and from the corner a Chris Wreh cross fizzed inches wide.
On 35 minutes a mistake by Sebbeh-Njie gave the ball away to Mills only for Heath to fire wildly over from his pinpoint cross, but a couple of ,minutes later Needham should have gone ahead when Mills found himself with time and space in the penalty area to shoot past Bennett only for Kyle Rowley to somehow get back and clear the ball off the line.
Town had another escape five minutes before the break when Mills picked out Russell Short whose low drive from 20 yards out was pushed away by Bennett plunging to his left with Kai Woollard-Innocent in the right place to complete the clearance.
Soon after a poor Bennett punch from a Squire cross led to a bit of a scramble on the penalty spot before the ball was booted away as half time was reached with afternoon still goalless.
Diakhate was replaced by Otaki for the restart and he slotted in at left back with Lewis Wilson taking over in the centre of the backline meaning that it was the same back four as against Rushall while Woollard-Innocent switched into midfield.
But Needham continued to have most of the possession and Mills squandered another opportunity from a Joe Marsden cross and a driven-in Heath centre from the left was just out of Hunt’s reach at the far post.
As the pressure intensified Wilson did well to hook away another Marsden cross and Courtney Richards blocked a rasping Hunt effort at point blank range.
At the other end Wreh’s persistence halfway through the half earned a corner which came to nothing back came Needham with a Callum Sturgess free kick which didn’t miss by much.
By now Needham were beginning to run out of ideas and their frustration was increasing both on and off the pitch with Town pulling everyone back except Wreh as they battled to see the game out.
With eight minutes to go Mills had another effort deflected behind and Town had got through to the final minute of normal time when it all went wrong. Vann was adjudged to have handled the bouncing ball as went in to challenge Hunt and Marsden blasted the spot kick past Bennett with the minimum of fuss.
STRATFORD : Jack Bennett, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Abdou Diakhate (Gedeon Otaki 46), Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (Tom Mehew 61), Chris Wreh, Ros Oulton (Shiloh Remy 78), Javis Roberts Unused Subs – Rheiss McLean & Will Davidson
NEEDHAM : Marcus Garnham, Joe Marsden, Callum Sturgess, Russell Short, Keiran Morphew, Dan Morphew, Sam Squire (Jake Dye 83), Gareth Heath (c), Will Hunt (Jamail Godward 90 + 1), Luke Ingram (Craig Parker 67), Adam Mills. Unused Subs – James Baker & Finlay Shorter (GK)
Referee – Tom Harvey
Assistant Referees – Callum Parke & Cameron Saunders
Attendance – 243
1st January 2020 – RUSHALL OLYMPIC – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN’S WOES INTENSIFY AS THE PICS COMPLETE THE DOUBLE
Stratford Town – 1 – McLean 90 + 1
Rushall Olympic – 2 – Letford 50 Rowley 72
Match Report by Bryan Hale
When the season kicked off it could hardly have been envisaged that Town would be involved in a relegation battle, but after taking just one point from their last seven games that is exactly the position they find themselves in heading into 2020 after play off hopefuls Rushall took full advantage of Paul Davis’ side going down to ten men halfway through the second half to complete the seasonal double as they followed up their earlier win in the reverse fixture on August Bank Holiday Monday.
Inevitably after the Boxing Day debacle at Banbury there were a number of changes to Town’s starting line -up beginning in goal where Jack Bennett was preferred to Sam Lomax.
New signing Gedeon Okati who has joined from Banbury came into the backline and took the left back slot with Lewis Wilson taking over from Matt Bower in the centre, while elsewhere Kai Woollard-Innocent replaced Kyle Ambris and there was another new face in Javia Roberts who has previously been at Alvechurch and Walsall Wood plus the welcome return of Ross Oulton after a six game injury absence with Foday Nabay and Will Davidson making way.
And on the subs bench there were two more recruits in Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis and Rheis McLean who have arrived from Farnborough and Wisbech respectively.
Roberts soon announced himself with a fierce drive inside the opening minute which was deflected behind, and as Town made a lively start .the Pics keeper Jonathan Platt pulled off a spectacular save leaping to his right to push away a well struck shot from Chris Wreh.
Soon after Roberts had another on-target effort blocked before the Pics began to settle down with Alex Moore firing over with their first serious goal attempt in the 20th minute.
Moore was closer five minutes later with a header from an Asa Charlton cross followed by Bennet confidently holding a long range effort from Dan Waldron, but Roberts was causing the Pics defence plenty of problems with his pace on the right and on 35 minutes he sprinted clear to, whip in a low centre which fizzed across the six yard box with no Town player close enough to apply the finishing touch.
Town were certainly playing with a bit more verve than recently, and ended the first half strongly with Platt doing well to cut out a Woollard-Innocent cross and Kyle Rowley volleying narrowly wide.
But after a promising first half Town fell behind only five minutes into the second when they couldn’t deal with a simple long pass down the inside right channel with Jonathan Letford outpacing Wilson to slot the ball through the advancing Bennett’s legs into the empty net.
Town needed a quick leveller if they were to get back into the game but Oulton fired wide from distance and Woollard-Innocent fatally hesitated when faced with a clear opening before they squandered the best chance of all on the hour mark when Woollard-Innocent and Roberts combined down the right with Roberts’ cross reaching Tom Mehew at the far post who could only sidefoot it weakly straight at the relieved Platt from no more than two yards out.
And it got even worse for Town on 68 minutes when Oulton was sent off. Having received an early yellow card in the game’s opening minutes for a typically wholehearted challenge he now lunged in again and the second yellow followed by the mandatory red was inevitable.
Four minutes later the result was put beyond doubt when Pics substitute Levi Rowley neatly controlled a Charlton cross from the left to steer it past Bennett, and all they had to do from then on was close the game out which they managed without any really serious alarms.
McLean did pull one back for Town as the game headed into added time after good work from Wreh but it was too little too late, and with Leiston beating Needham Market in the afternoon’s early kick off Town have now slipped into the bottom four as their situation becomes increasingly desperate.
STRATFORD : Jack Bennet, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent (Rheiss McLean 64), Courtney Richards, Gedeon Okito, Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Ross Oulton, Chris Wreh, Tom Mehew (Charles Ten-Grotenhuis 80), Javis Roberts (Shiloh Remy 80) Unused Subs – Matt Bower & Will Davidson
RUSHALL : Jonathan Platt, Mitchell Clarke, Asa Charlton, Dan O’Callaghan (Levi Rowley 62), Sam Whittall, Orrin Pendley, Dan Waldron, Alex Moore, Basa Sawyers (Kieran Cook 64), Jonathan Letford, Richard Batchelor. Unused Subs – Reece Mitchell, Jakob Burroughs & Lee Smith
Referee – Stephen Oakley
Assistant Referees – John Roskelly & James Green
Attendance – 193
26th December 2019 – Banbury United – Away – League
NO JOY FOR TOWN AT XMAS
BANBURY UNITED 5 STRATFORD TOWN 0
Morgan Roberts 26, 67.
Ravin Shamsi 60.
John Mills 62.
Giorgio Rasulo 90+1
Stratford Towns dismal run continued at the Plant Hire Stadium on Boxing Day, as they suffered their 14 League defeat of the season at the hands of high flying Banbury United, who ran out easy winners in the end by 5-0.
The only change to the starting line-up for Stratford, was Kyle Ambris, replacing Wollard-Innocent who was unavailable, Ross Oulton was on the bench along with debutant loanee Shilho Remy, and former Town player, Ravin Shamsi was in the Banbury starting eleven.
The first 25 minutes were fairly uneventful, as the Town defence limited the Puritans to a couple of long range shots, Tom Mehew fired a strike over the bar for Town, and when Chris Wreh appeared to be brought down by keeper Jack Harding, no penalty given. However it all changed in the 26th minute. Town gave the ball away midway in their own half, Pablo Haysham played in Morgan Roberts on the left flank, who cut in and drilled a strike into the net from 22 yds to beat keeper Sam Lomax at his near post, a poor goal to concede. Stratford did have a chance to get back on level terms just before the break, when Kyle Rowley put in a cross which Matt Bower headed goal wards but was denied by a goal line clearance and Mehews follow up shot was saved by Harding.
At the start of the second half the status quo remained, but it was all change again on the hour mark as the Puritans scored three times in 7 minutes and it was game over. Shamsi disposed Bower on the edge of the box and lobbed Lomax to make it 2-0, John Mills, who had only just come off the bench, was allowed to weave his way into the area and his strike was deflected to wrong foot Lomax to make it 3, and Morgan Roberts powered in a header for his second goal on 67 minutes to make it 4-0. It was now a despondent Town who offered little in reply. With only one striker up front all Chris Wreh was doing was chasing long balls. With a minute left Mills should have made it 5 but with the gaol gapping he hit the post from 8yds out, but Banbury did go nap in stoppage time when Giorgio Rasulo converted a free kick from the edge of the box to make it 5. All Town could offer in reply was a Wreh shot that went wide and an effort from Shiloh Remy that Harding saved with his legs.
Stratford are now well entrenched in the bottom 5, and from their last 12 league games have only managed 4 points from a possible 36, that is relegation form, but where will Town get their next points from with tough games coming up, against Rushall Olympic, Needham Market, and Stourbridge. The only good news from the Boxing Day results is that the 4 teams below Stratford in the League could only manage 1 point between them. However Stratford cannot rely on other teams losing, as they have to get points to get to safety.
Stratford Town. Lomax, Vann, Ambris, (Clement), Richards, Bower, Rowley, Wilson, Nabay,(71 Campbell-Mlope), Wreh, Mehew, Davidson,(46 Remy).
Subs Not Used Bennett, Oulton,
Banbury United Harding, Roberts C, Odhiambo, Westbrook, Hawtin, Rasulo, Haysham, Henderson,(75 Awadh), Shamsi, Roberts M,( 86 Ahmed), Fasamade,(59 Mills).
Subs not Used McDonald, Bennett.
REFREEE D Pattison, Ass Ref D Ellis, Ass Ref D Stokes.
GA OT BS HW CW CIB FC OS YC RC
STRATFORD 8 5 0 0 2 4 8 1 1 0
BANBURY 17 11 0 1 8 5 7 1 2 0
Match Report Rod Abrahams
21st DECEMBER 2019 – HEDNESFORD TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
PENALTY HEARTBREAK FOR TOWN AS THE PITMEN DIG DEEP FOR THE POINTS
Hednesford Town – 1 – Glover 70 (pen)
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
There was little in the way of Christmas cheer for Town at Keys Park as Hednesford gained revenge for their defeat in the reverse fixture last month with a no better than workmanlike performance with the decider coming from a penalty which caretaker boss Paul Davis later described as “debatable at best.”
Town’s starting line-up showed two changes from the Bromsgrove game a fortnight ago. Bristol Rovers loanee Tom Mehew replaced Jordan Clement in midfield while Will Davidson, who featured under Tommy Wright in pre-season, came in at right back with the reshuffle resulting in Dan Vann switching to left back and Kai Woollard-Innoncent moving forward into midfield with Kyle Ambris dropping to the subs bench.
The Pitmen were looking to reinforce their challenge for a play-off spot and went close to taking the lead in only the fifth minute when Elliott Hodge had his low drive cleared off the line by Kyle Rowley..
When play switched to the other end Chris Wreh found space in the penalty area to make room for a shot which was deflected behind, but Hednesford were soon back on the attack with Town keeper Sam Lomax pulling off a smart save at the foot of his right hand post from an Osebi Abadaki and then recovering quickly enough to beat away Reece King’s effort from the rebound.
Another King attempt fizzed inches wide and apart from an occasional run from Wreh most of the action was taking place in the Town half.
Town though gradually began to settle and in the 25th minute Mehew showed his quality with a break from halfway to play in Wreh who was promptly crowded out.
Mehew was certainly not lacking in confidence and on the half hour mark he tried his luck with a shot from all of 30 yards out which wasn’t all that far wide.
But the Pitmen continued to have the better of the possession and only some resolute defending by Matt Bower and Rowley made sure that Town reached half time with the afternoon still goalless.
Town then had a great chance to take the lead in the opening minute of the second half when skipper Lewis Wilson’s driven-in cross from the right reached Mehew whose shot ricocheted behind off keeper Andrew Wycherley.
Hednesford soon regained their composure but as they struggled to create a clearcut opening against Town’s well organised defence their frustration increased both on and off the pitch.
Dan Glover had a 67th minute shot on the turn flash inches over followed by James Hurst firing straight at Lomax from 25 yards out but it all went wrong for Town in the 70th minute when Abakadi surged into the penalty area down the inside left channel and was upended by Lomax as he raced out to challenge.
Referee Marks immediately pointed to the spot and Glover lashed it past Lomax with the minimum of fuss.
It was always boing to be uphill for Town from then on and Glover should have added a second with ten minutes to go when he escaped down the right before blazing wide with only Lomax to beat.
But Town had the sniff of an equaliser a couple of minutes later when Wreh’s free kick was deflected behind and from the resulting corner Bower’s header glanced off a defender to clip the bar for another corner from which Rowley powered as header narrowly wide.
Hednesford though hung on to secure the three precious points which move them up to fourth in the table while Town’s sufferings which have seen them take only four points from their past eleven games continue on to Boxing Day at least.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent (Kyle Ambris 87), Courtney Richards, Matt Bower, Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Foday Nabay (Matt Campbell-Mhliope 78), Chris Wreh, Tom Mehew (Jordan Clement 87), Will Davidson. Unused Subs – Dan Atkins & Jack Bennett (GK)
HEDNESFORD : Andrew Wycherley, Matt Curley, Sam Griffiths, Ben Bailey (c), Kieran Morris (Charlie Gatter 63), James Hurst, Elliott Hodge, Reece King, Danny Glover, Izak Reid (Ethan Jones 78), Osebi Abadaki, Unused Subs – Tom Fry, Jack Halleran & Jose Veiga (GK)
Referee – G Davis
Assistant Referees – J Weeks & G Markou Nikandrou
Attendance – 269
7th DECEMBER 2019 – BROMSGROVE SPORTING – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN SHOW PLENTY OF SPIRIT BUT SPORTING TAKE THE POINTS
Stratford Town – 1 – Wreh 18
Bromsgrove Sporting – 2 – M Taylor 13 Broadhurst 67
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town went down to their second home defeat of the week but their performance was so much better than against Barwell in midweek and they made play-off chasing Sporting fight all the way before securing the points.
Town’s starting line-up showed two changes from the Barwell debacle with Jordan clement and Kyle Ambris coming in for the departed Ravi Shamsi and Kyle McFarlane who has returned to parent club York City.
The Sporting team included the formidable duo of ex-Town strikers in Richard Gregory (78 goals in 120 games) and Mike Taylor (44 goals in 119 games) plus another former Town favourite Kieren Westwood on the subs bench.
Sporting were quickly on the attack with Matt Bower just beating Taylor to a Greg Mills left wing cross while Town responded with Sporting keeper Dan Platt having to sprint from his area to kick clear as Chris Wren chased down a long ball from Ambris.
Sporting soon began to have more of the ball and inevitably it was Gregory and Taylor who were involved when they went ahead on 13 minutes with Gregory chipping the ball over from the right and Taylor heading past Town keeper Sam Lomax.
But they were stunned when Town levelled six minutes later as Wreh latched onto a Lewis Wilson pass down the left and swept the ball beyond Platt into the far corner.
And Sporting had a scare soon after when Tom Taylor’s headed backpass looped over Platt who had to turn and race back towards his goal before being fouled by Wreh to end the danger.
Back came Sporting with Gregory having a 25th minute shot cleared off the line by Foday Nabay and Gift Mussa drilling the rebound inches wide.
Lomax then safely held a curling free kick from Jak Hickman followed by Dan Vann halting a dangerous run from Mills at the expense of a corner which was punched clear by Lomax, but with Wreh all on his own up front most of the action was taking place in the Town half.
Crucial headers from Bower and Kyle Rowley then snuffed out further Sporting chances as half time was reached with the game still all square.
There was no change to the pattern of play after the restart with another Bower header dealing with a Gregory cross from the left before Town had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 51st minute when Wilson threaded the ball through to Wreh who strode clear only to shoot against the advancing Platt with Rowley then having a shot blocked as Sporting struggled to clear the resulting corner.
Will Shorrock was beginning to make his presence felt down the Sporting left having a fiercely struck effort blocked by Bower and then going on a threatening run which was ended by a Courtney Richards foul with Hickman blasting the free kick wastefully wide.
The Sporting pressure was unrelenting, and on 67 minutes they regained the lead when Hickman’s left wing corner reached Leon Broadhurst at the far post who powered in a header from a couple of yards out.
Sporting went after a third which would surely put the result beyond doubt but Lomax pulled off two smart saves in quick succession to keep out decent efforts from Gregory and Josh Quaynor before they made a double substitution which included Westwood coming on and Mike Taylor going off.
But they went close to adding the much needed third goal with five minutes to go when Tom Taylor’s header from a Hickman free kick came back off the post although it wouldn’t have counted as the offside flag was already up.
Dan Atkins was then introduced for his debut at this level after impressing with F C Stratford this season and before that with the championship winning Town Youth team last season.
Sporting were now concentrating on seeing the game out but Wreh was still working tirelessly whenever Town launched the ball forward and deep into added time he surged down the inside right channel only to be upended by Tom Taylor a matter of inches outside the penalty area.
Getting up to take the free kick himself he drilled it past the wall but agonisingly past the far post as well and Sporting had hung on for the win to consolidate their play-off spot while Town remain languishing at the wrong end of the table.
The reverse fixture isn’t scheduled until the final weekend of the season, and given the current form of the two sides it will be fascinating to see what might be at stake for either of them when that game eventually takes place.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson (c), Foday Nabay (Dan Atkkins 87), Chris Wreh, Jordan Clement (Jarrell Hylton 75) , Kyle Ambris (Matt Campbell-Mhliope 79).. Unused Sub – Jack Bennett (GK)
BROMSGROVE : Dan Platt, Jak Hickman, Jack Wilson, Gift Mussa, Tom Taylor, Leon Broadhurst, Greg Mills (Shaquille Mcdonald 46), Josh Quaynor, Mike Taylor (Charlie Dowd 75), Richard Gregory (c), Will Shorrock (Kieren Westwood 75). Unused Subs – Harry Higginson & Max Beardmore
Referee – Reubyn Ricardo
Assistant Referees – Najim Nagy & Minesh Gupta
Attendance – 422
3rd DECEMBER 2019 – BARWELL – HOME – LEAGUE
LIMP TOWN CAVE IN AS BARWELL HIT FIVE
Stratford Town – 1 – Shamsi 45
Barwell – 5 – Omotola (3) 26 66 & 76 Dunkley 59 Williams 71
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town have turned in some abject displays recently but few have been as dispiriting as this one as mid-table Barwell ran in five goals and but for some defiant saves from Sam Lomax the margin of defeat would have been even greater.
Fortunate to be level at half time Town were brushed aside in the second half and in the nine League games since the dismissal of Tommy Wright they have only managed to secure four points.
A relegation struggle was unthinkable back in August after reaching the play offs last season, but that is seeming more likely with every passing game as the losses keep coming.
The Town starting line-up showed two changes from Saturday. After his point saving heroics at St Ives Kyle McFarlane came in for Matt Campbell-Mhliope while Lomax replaced the unavailable Harvey White in goal.
The Barwell team included Jamie McAteer who was am mainstay of Town’s defence last term and Kai Williams who made a handful of appearances during the closing weeks of that campaign.
In front of the lowest Arden Garages Stadium crowd of the season Town could have been behind inside a minute when Zayn Hakeem latched onto a through ball down the inside left channel only to shoot against the advancing Lomax, and they had another let-off soon after when McAteer flicked an Eliot Putnam free kick inches wide,
And as Barwell continued to boss the possession Matt Bower blocked a thunderous effort from Brady Hickey followed by Tristan Dunkley having an on-target attempt deflected behind.
Another long ball then caught out the entire Town backline but again Hakeem couldn’t make it count as Lomax got down well low to his left to push the shot away.
Chris Wreh looked lively when Town were able to push forward and went close in the 20th minute when he cut in from the right to fire narrowly wide while a couple of minutes later Town at last put a decent move together which saw Lewis Wilson whip in a low cross from the right which fizzed across the six yard box with no Town player close enough to apply the finishing touch.
But Barwell were soon retuned to the attack and deservedly went ahead in the 26th minute when Hakeem released Williams down the left and his low centre set up a simple tap in for Omotolani Omotola.
And Town could easily have been two down shortly after with Dunkley and Hakeem both going close and Lomax pulling off another fine save to keep out a fiercely struck drive from Hickey.
With Town struggling to make any sort of impact Hickey’s cross from the left flew just beyond Hakeem and then some close control from Omotola on the right set up a shooting chance for Hakeem with Kyle Rowley in the right place to make the crucial block.
But having been second best so far Town levelled in the 45th minute when Ravi Shamsi swept the ball out to the overlapping Kai Woollard-Innocent on the left and then seized on Wollard-Innocent’s return cross to fire past the Barwell keeper Max Bramley from the edge of the penalty area.
There was still time before the interval for Lomax to again come out on top in a one-on-one with Dunkley to ensure that Town reached half time somehow still in the game when really Barwell should already have been out of sight.
To the dismay of the Town faithful it was more of the same after the restart as Barwell resumed where they had left off and regained the lead in the 59th minute.
Once more it was only a hopeful long ball which proved Town’s undoing as Dunkley outmuscled both Bower and Rowley to skip round Lomax and slot into the empty net.
And on 66 minutes they added a third when Hickey’s deep cross from the right reached Omotula at the far post who was unchallenged as he volleyed past the helpless Lomax.
Bramley kept Barwell’s lead intact almost immediately after with a sharp save from Shamsi, but five minutes later they went further ahead when Williams took advantage of yet more hesitancy in the Town defence to fire past Lomax.
And it got even worse for Town in the 76th minute when a mistake by Rowley let in Omotula who completed his hat-trick with ease.
Only more Lomax heroics prevented more embarrassment and when Town did manage to break forward McFarlane could only spoon over from a few yards out from a Wreh cross.
Substitute Joe Evans then saw his late header come back off the bar before the mercy of the final whistle ended a truly desperate Town performance.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley (Kyle Ambris 79), Matthew Bower (Matt Campbelll-Mhliope 79), Lewis Wilson (c), Foday Nabay (Jordan Clement 71), Chris Wreh, Ravi Shamsi, Kyle McFarlane. Unused Subs – Jarrell Hylton & Jack Bennett (GK)
BARWELL : Max Bramley, Elliot Percival (Jacob Whitmore 76). Eloit Putnam, Jamie McAteer, Jayden Cotterill, Micah Edwards (Dominic Brown-Hill 79), Tristan Dunkley, Zayn Hakeem (Joe Evans 54), Omotoliani Omotola, Brady Hickey, Kai Williams. Unused Sub – Sam Hollis
Referee – Richard Blake
Assistant Referees – Jonathan Price & Liam Teraud
Attendance – 121
30th NOVEMBER 2019 – ST IVES TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
SUPER SUB McFARLANE’S DOUBLE SWOOP EARNS TOWN A POINT
St Ives Town – 2 – Wilson 9 Foy 52
Stratford Town – 2 – McFarlane (2) 67 & 88
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Two opportunist finishes from substitute Kyle McFarlane earned Town a valuable point at the Pro Edge Stadium on Saturday but their wait for that elusive first away win of the season still goes on.
Even a draw looked beyond them as St Ives went two up shortly after half time, but McFarlane’s introduction provided Town with the cutting edge that had previously been lacking and it was Paul Davis’ side that finished the stronger before time ran out.
As it was both teams came into the match finding League points hard to come by in recent outings.
Town had lost five games in a row until securing a much needed win against Hednesford ten days ago which was then followed by defeat at Royston in midweek, while the Saints had fared even worse with their past seven games yielding just a solitary point from a draw against bottom club Leiston since when they too had endured a five game losing run.
So both sides would ;probably have settled for a point apiece before kick off but at the final whistle they undoubtedly also both felt that they had missed the opportunity to take all three.
Chris Wreh and Matt Campbell-Mhlope returned to Town’s starting line-;up here replacing McFarlane and Jordan Clement, while the Saints team included new recruits Ben Toseland and Alfie Powell plus Joe Curtis who was briefly with Town earlier in the season.
On an inevitably heavy pitch both sides started cautiously, but the Saints were having more of the ball and went ahead in only the ninth minute with a low drive from the unmarked Dylan Wilson on the right of the penalty area which flew beyond Town keeper Harvey White into the far corner of the net.
Soon after skipper George Bailey had an on-target effort blocked and Town then had a real let-off on the quarter hour mark when a fiercely hit shot from Jarvis Wilson ricocheted off a Town defender .and went behind off the top of the bar.
But having survived that testing spell Town tried to hit back forcing a couple of corners followed by Lewis Wilson and Ravi Shamsi both having decent efforts blocked.
And Town thought they had levelled in the 25th minute when the Saints keeper Finlay Iron lost the ball with Wreh’s close range shot being hacked clear despite frantic Town appeals that it had crossed the line.
Disappointingly the game had now developed into a scrappy affair with neither side able to create a clearcut opening although Shamsi wasn’t far away with a shot on the turn from 20 yards out five minutes before the break while at the other end Bailey had a shot with the last kick of the half which was held by White low to his right.
The Saints were soon into their stride after the restart and should have been two up in the 50th minute when Matt Foy surged through a yawning gap between Matt Bower and Kyle Rowley but within only White to beat he inexplicably pulled his shot wide.
Two minutes later though Foy made amends with a pinpoint finish from the edge of the penalty area and that prompted a double Town substitution with Nabay and Campbell-Mhlope making way for McFarlane and Clement.
That gave Town some extra momentum and they pulled a goal back in the 67th minute when Shamsi floated over a cross from the right which was again spilled by Iron and McFarlane bundled in the loose ball from a couple of yards out.
Almost immediately after White prevented the Saints from restoring their two goal advantage with a brilliant save from substitute Ollie Snaith but it was Town who were now playing with considerably more verve than earlier with Shamsi increasingly influential and both Wreh and McFarlane giving the Saints backline plenty of problems.
The Saints were desperately hanging on to their lead but Town’s pressure told with two minutes of normal time to go when Wreh’s cross from the right was deflected against the bar and McFarlane in typical goalpoacher’s style reacted the quickest to stab in the rebound.
With referee George Laflin playing nearly seven minutes of added time Town could then have gone on to win but Iron safely held a thunderbolt from Shamsi who then surged down the inside right channel into the penalty area before being crowded out followed by Wreh shooting straight at Iron but over a hard fought 90 minutes a draw was probably the right result.
STRATFORD : Harvey White, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson (c), Foday Nabay (Kyle McFarlane 55), Ravi Shamsi, Chris Wreh, Matthew Campbell-Mhlope (Jordan Clement 55). Unused Subs – Kyle Ambris, Jarrell Hylton & Jack Bennett (GK)
ST IVES : Finlay Iron, Ben Jackson, Ben Toseland (Ty Ward 62), Dan Clifton (Ben Seymour-Shove 90), Alfie Powell, Jarvis Wilson, George Bailey, Robbie Parker (c), Matt Foy, Joe Curtis, Dylan Wilson (Ollie Snaith 61). Unused Sub – Charlie Johnson
Referee – George Laflin
Assistant Referees – Simon Bell & Laurentiu Hantea
Attendance – 118
26th NOVEMBER 2019 – ROYSTON TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
LATE FLOURISH FROM TOWN NOT ENOUGH
Royston Town – 3 – Ofuso 36 Watkins 49 Adams 84 Stratford Town – 2 – Rowley (2) 77 & 87
Report by Rod Abramams
After the fine win against Hednesford Town, Stratford Town slipped to another defeat on the road. Losing 3-2 to Royston Town at the Garden Walk, but a late flourish by Town was not enough to secure a point. The first time Town have lost at Royston , having won 2 and drawn 2 of the last four encounters at the Walk.
There were three changes to the line up from the last game, Chris Wreh, Kiro Edwards-John and Sam Lomax were unavailable and were replaced by Kyle McFarlane, Jordan Clement and Harvey White, and Oulton was on the bench.
It was the Crows who started on the front foot, as they had the lion’s share of the possession, as Stratford were not in the game for long periods. The home side were were pressing from the off. A Bateman header went wide and a similar effort from Braithwaite was well saved by White. Town’s response was a shot from Ravin Shamsi which was saved low down by keeper Welch at his near post for a corner. Dan Vann whipped in a cross cum shot from the right which looked like going in, but somehow defender Adam Crowther managed to scoop it off the line and over the bar.
The Crows finally broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, when a cross from Scott-Morris was touched on by Bateman to Ofous who drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from 15yds. Stratford had a couple of half chances, Clement shot over from a corner and Lewis Wilson was inches wide with a good strike from 20yds with the keeper beaten. With White making good saves from Bateman and Adams, and Rowley and Bower doing some good defending, Stratford kept the deficit to a single goal at the break.
Royston were soon on the attack, a 30yd free kick from Brighton was tipped over by White. Stratford failed to clear the flag kick and the loose ball was fired home by Adam Watkins through a ruck of players to double their advantage 4 minutes into the second half, and it looked like game over.
Royston were still dominating the possession, but Town went close to reducing the deficit on the hour when Town had three corners in quick succession and Bowers goal bound header from Shamsis third corner was headed off the line by Crowther. Braithwaite hit the post in the 76 minute for Royston, but a minute later the game changed when Stratford scored. A free kick by Shamsi was not dealt with by Royston and from the resulting melee skipper Kyle Rowley prodded the ball in to give Town a lifeline with 13 minutes left.
Stratford up the tempo going for an equaliser, but it was the Crows who restored their two gaol advantage, when a Scott-Morris corner was turned in at the near post by Brandon Adams with a deflection off Woollard-Innocent on 84 mins. Town were given another lifeline, when Rowley got his second goal powering in a header from a Shamsi corner with 3 minutes left. Despite their efforts town were unable to get an equaliser as Royston saw the game out.
A better second half for Stratford, with Bower, Rowley, Richards White,and Shamsi playing well. Town now go to St Ives on Saturday and hoping for three valuable points against the side 3 from bottom.
STRATFORD White, Vann, Woollard-Innocent, Richards, Bower, Rowley, Wilson, Nabay, McFarlane, Shamsi, Clement
Subs Not Used Bennett, Hylton,Oulton, Ambris, Campbell-Mhlope
ROYSTON Welch , Scott-Morris, Brighton,(70 Taylor), Joseph, Crowther, Brathwaite, Watkins,(57 Castigone), Mentles, Adams(85 Warner-Eley), Bateman, Ofosu,
Subs not Used Green, Smart.
Referee S Cheek
Assistant Referees D Landor & C Severino
TOWN STUN HIGH FLYING PITMEN
19th November 2019, STRATFORD TOWN 4 HEDNESFORD TOWN 1
Ravin Shamsi 6, 63. Ben Bailey 45+6
Chris Wreh 12.
Kyle McFarlane 84.
After losing their last seven games Stratford Town beat 3rd place Hednesford Town, in an entertaining encounter at The Arden Garages Stadium on Tuesday night, with a sterling and determined performance for the win, to please the Town faithful fans.
There was only one change from the side that played Nuneaton, Ross Oulton coming in to replace Kiaro Edwards-John.
It was a quick fire start by Stratford as they went forward, and were two goals up inside the first 15 mins. First Chris Wreh, who caused the Pitmen’sdefenders some problems for most of the game, got down the right flank to the by-line and his low cross was duly converted by Ravin Shamsi at the far post to put Town in front in the 6thminute. It was Wreh again in the 12th minute, as he beat two defenders down the right, and from a tight angel his goal bound strike was deflected into the net by defender Kieran Morris as he tried to clear to give Town a two goal lead.
Being two down Hednesford started to put the pressure on Town, but were unable to get a break thorough, as they were foiled by Towns stout defending, well marshalled by Matt Bower and Dan Vann. Kieran Morris, Tom Elliott and the tricky Osebi Abadaki all had efforts on goal for the visitors, which were off target or easily dealt with by Town keeper Sam Lomax.
It looked as if Town would go in at the break with a 2 goal advantage, but it all changed in the 6th minute of added time. Tom Elliott’s free kick was deflected for a corner, and his flag kick was not dealt with by Stratford, and in the following melee Ben Bailey fired home the loose ball to get the visitors back in the game with the last kick of the half.
At the start of the second half, Ross Oulton, who had picked up a first half injury, was replaced by Kyle McFarlane.
The next goal would be important for both sides. It was the Pitmen who had the early pressure, Elliott headed wide from a good position 10 minutes into the half, but however it was Town who got the next vital goal. Dan Vanns clearance found Lewis Wilson in the inside right channel he outpaced the visitors defence and found Shansi who clinically beat the keeper as he came off his line to restore Towns 2 goal lead, and his second goal.
The Pitmen looked for a way back into the game. Town stopper Sam Lomax made a couple of good saves, turning a header from Dan Glover round the post, and then blocking his shot, the loose ball fell to Elliott, but luckily his shot went wide. Stratford wrapped the game up with 5 minutes left, with a carbon copy of the third goal, this time it was Shamsi who picked up the defensive clearance, and he set up substitute Kyle McFarlane who coolly beat keeper Wycherley with a quality finish.
The Pitmen had a couple of chances in time added on. Elliott and Abadaki both had efforts that were smartly saved by Town custodian Sam Lomax as the final whistle went.
Overall an entertaining game and a much needed win for Town. A great performance, with some resolute defending, and quality finishing, against a strong Hednesford outfit. The Stratford Management team will be happy with this performance.
Stratford Town. Lomax, Vann, Woollard-Innocent, Richards, Bower, Rowley, Wilson, Oulton,(46 McFarlane), Wreh, (82 Ambris), Shamsi, (89 Hylton) Nabay.
Subs Not Used Bennett, Edwards-John.
Hednesford Town, Wycherley, Curley, O’Hanlon, Bailey, Morris, Hurst, Hodge, King,(51 Brown), Glover, Elliott, Abadaki,
Subs not Used Gatter, Reid, Fry, Hallahan,
REFREEE R Williams, Ass Ref M Cartwright, J Clarke
Match Report Rod Abrahams
16th NOVEMBER 2019 – NUNEATON BOROUGH – AWAY – LEAGUE
MORE SECOND HALF WOE FOR TOWN
Nuneaton Borough – 2 – Kettle 68 Powell 88 (pen)
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town are still looking for their first point since the departure of Tommy Wright but at least they put in a far more spirited performance than recently in going down to play off chasing Nuneaton Borough at Liberty Way on Saturday.
Still very much in the game at half time it was the second half that was again their undoing as the Borough went on to clinch the points with a free kick and a late penalty.
With Tom Fishwick and Luke Rowe having this week followed Nabil Shariff out of the Arden Garages Stadium exit door heading for Romulus and Worcester City respectively and Ross Oulton suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend caretaker boss Paul Davis was faced with a number of tricky selection decisions.
He began by recalling Sam Lomax in goal and Dan Vann to right back with Foday Nabay and Kairo Edwards-John coming into midfield and Chris Wreh making a rare start up front.
The Borough side included ex-Town players Jack Byrne from the Micky Moore era and Callum Powell plus the redoubtable ex-Leamington keeper Tony Breeden.
Town had an early chance when Ravi Shamsi escaped down the inside right channel only to shoot against the advancing Breeden and soon after he linked up well with Wreh before being crowded out.
Borough responded with a couple of sharp runs down the right from Powell and a shot over from the edge of the penalty area by Devon Kelly-Evans’
A foul on Powell in the 20th minute gave Town their first really difficult moment as Alex Henshall floated over a testing free kick but two top quality defensive headers from Matt Bower and Vann dealt with the danger, and when play switched to the other end Town had a free kick opportunity of their own but Shamsi’s effort was easily held by Breeden.
Powell was continuing to be Borough’s danger man but was being well policed by Kai Woolard-Innocent and their next attack came from the opposite flank with Henshall’s whipped-in cross in the 35th minute being cleared behind by Kyle Rowley followed by Lomax saving comfortably from Mitchel Candin.
The Town keeper then used his height to confidently collect another Henshall free kick as half time was reached with the afternoon still goal-less.
Borough came the closest yet to opening the scoring three minutes into second half when a looping header from Jamie Towers drifted narrowly wide and soon after a shot on the turn from Henshall wasn’t far away.
James Clifton then tried his luck from distance with the ball fizzing just over as Borough tried to make their pressure count, and on 62 minutes they had the perfect opportunity to do just that when Town conceded a penalty for apparent handball.
Up stepped Breeden who had a decent record from the spot in his Leamington days but this time he blasted the kick wildly over with the ball hit with such ferocity that it damaged a neon light in the back of the stand behind the goal much to the ironic cheers of the crowd.
But Town’s reprieve was to be shortlived as six minutes later they gave away a free kick a yard or so outside the penalty area and when Henshall drove it into the six yard box it was spilled by Lomax and Joel Kettle reacted quickest to turn the loose ball into the net.
From then on Borough did their best to close the game down with Town now offering little threat up front and they wrapped up the points when Town conceded another handball penalty with two minutes left.
In spite of impassioned requests from the travelling Town faithful for Breeden to have another go this time it was Powell and he thumped it past Lomax with the minimum of fuss to extend Town’s overall winless run to seven.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson, Foday Nabay, Chris Wreh (Kyle McFarlane 86), Ravi Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John (Matthew Campbell-Mhlope 58). Unused Subs – Kyle Ambris, Boubakar Traore & Jack Bennett (GK)
NUNEATON : Tony Breeden, Jack Byrne, James Clifton, Joel Kettle (c), Jamie Hood, Isaiah Osbourne (Nigel Julian 82), Callum Powell, Alex Henshall, Jamie Towers (Miles Addison 90+3), Devon Kelly-Evans, Mitchel Candin (Ryan Edmunds 76) Unused Subs – Luke Benbow & Tyrel Belford (GK)
Referee – Bradley Hall
Assistant Referees – Guy Thrower & Ian Croston
Attendance – 425
9th NOVEMBER 2019 – COALVILLE TOWN – Home – LEAGUE
TOWN ARE EASY PREY FOR THE HIGHFLYING RAVENS
Stratford Town – 1 – McFarlane 90+1
Coalville Town – 4 – McGurk (3) 53 58 (pen) & 67 McGlinchey 71
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Adam McGurk’s hat trick within the space of 14 second half minutes consolidated Coalville’s grip on a play off place, but for the Town faithful it is even more misery as their side have now conceded ten goals in their last two games and are looking anxiously over their shoulder at the wrong end of the table.
As expected Paul Davis rang the changes after last week’s debacle at Peterborough.
Out went keeper Elliott Taylor, right back Kyle Ambris, centre back Dann Vann, midfielder Foday Nabay and striker Nabil Shariff who has switched to AFC Rushden and Diamonds, and into the starting line-up came Jack Bennett, Kyle Rowley, Luke Rowe, Matthew Campbell-Mhlope and debutant Kyle McFarlane who has joined on a month’s loan from York City.
In desperate conditions Coalville were first to threaten when Luke Shaw nicked the ball off Town skipper Ross Oulton in the fifth minute to stride forward and fire narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Soon after Tom McGlinchey wriggled his way into the left of the penalty area only for his shot to be blocked by the advancing Bennett followed by Adam McGurk whipping over a cross-cum-shot from the right touchline which Bennett could only fumble round the post.
It was pretty much all Coalville and on 13 minutes Bennett did well to beat away a fiercely struck McGurk free kick.
A perfectly timed tackle by Matt Bower then halted a surging run from Shaw while a crucial interception by Courtney Richards prevented a McGurk cross reaching the unmarked Kian Taylor.
But it was from a Town mistake on the half hour mark that the Ravens came closest to taking the lead when Bower’s misplaced pass went straight to McGurk whose shot was heading for the top corner until Bennett took off to his right to push the ball behind.
Bower made up for his error almost immediately after when he cleared a Taylor header off the line after Bennett had failed to deal properly with another McGurk cross.
Amazingly though it was Town who could have gone in front in the 36th minute when a slip by Scott McManus let in Shamsi who shot against keeper Saul Deeney.
But Coalville were soon back on the attack and Town had an unbelievable let-off five minutes before the break when Kai Woollard-Innocent headed a cross from the left against his own bar and Shaw somehow spooned the rebound over from barely a yard out and half time was reached with the game still goal-less.
Chris Wreh replaced Campbell-Mhlope for the restart but it was Coalville who eventually made their relentless pressure tell eight minutes into the second half when Alex Dean’s cross from the right was headed back by Taylor for McGurk to thump the ball past Bennett from fifteen yards out.
Bennet saved well from Coalville skipper Steve Towers, but on 58 minutes their lead was doubled when McGurk was brought down in the penalty area by Oulton and got up to smash the spot kick past Bennett with the minimum of fuss.
And on 67 minutes McGurk was celebrating his hat-trick when he seized on a poor clearance from Bennett to roll the ball into the empty net.
In echoes of last week at Peterborough Town conceded a fourth in the 71st minute when McGlinchey ran through to fire past Bennett.
Only another astonishing miss by Shaw prevented the Ravens making it five on 76 minutes when he dribbled round Bennett only to then slide the ball the wrong side of the post.
Town though did at least keep going to the end with both Shamsi and Wreh going close before McFarlane netted what was no more than a footnote to another worrying Town performance as the game headed into added time.
STRATFORD : Jack Bennett, Lewis Wilson, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley, Matthew Bower, Ravi Shamsi, Ross Oulton (c) (Kairo Edwards-John 63), Kyle McFarlane, Luke Rowe, Matthjew Campbell-Mhllope (Chris Wreh 46). Unused Subs – Dan Vann, Foday Nabay & Tom Fishwick
COALVILLE : Saul Deeney, Stuart Pierpoint, Scott McManus, Stephen Towers (c), Michael Townsend Joe Doyle-Charles, Alex Dean (Kalern Thomas 79), Luke Shaw (Kairo Mitchell 79), Kian Taylor, Adam McGurk (Tim Berridge 72), Thomas McGlinchey Unused Subs – Leandro Browne & Ellis Storey
Referee – Daniel Pattinson
Assistant Referees – Darren Laska & Jason Porter
Attendance – 210
2nd NOVEMBER 2019 – PETEROUGH SPORTS – AWAY – LEAGUE
SHAMBOLIC TOWN CAPITULATE IN SECOND HALF HORROR SHOW
Peterborough Sports – 6 – Moreman (2) 13 & 70 M. Jones (2) 51 & 68 Sembie-Ferris 54 McCammon 90+1 Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town’s first ever meeting with Peterborough Sports could hardly have gone any worse as they slumped to, the seventh defeat in their last eight games.
Only one down at half time at the Bee Arena they were torn apart in the second half as the Turbines ran in another five goals past a hapless and helpless Town defence.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from the midweek F A Trophy game against Hednesford. Elliott Taylor returned in goal instead Jack Bennett, Kyle Ambris having served his one match ban took over at right back with Lewis Wilson switching to midfield in place of Matthew Campbell-Mhlope while in a change of formation Foday Nabay was preferred to Kairo Edwards-John.
Sports rejoice in the nickname of the Turbines in deference to their previous identity of Bearings Direct and before that Brotherhoods Engineering Works and they were first to threaten with a low drive from Dion Sembie-Ferris being held by Taylor at the second attempt at the foot of his left hand post.
And soon after Abduramane Sano Sali wasn’t far away with an attempted chip over Taylor after going clear down the inside right channel.
The Turbines were certainly looking the more dangerous of the two sides and it was no real surprise when they went ahead in the 13th minute when a Sembie-Ferris cross from the right brushed the head of a Town defender and reached the unmarked Josh Moreman at the far post who was left with the simple task of volleying past Taylor.
Town tried to respond with Turbines keeper Lewis Moat only just reaching a back header from Paul Malone and Wilson having a shot blocked by Richard Jones.
The offside flag halted Ravi Shamsi as he latched on to through ball from Nabay but with the imposing central defenders Malone and Richard Jones inevitably winning everything in the air Town were struggling to make an impact.
Instead Mark Jones had an on-target deflected behind at the other end and a Moreman left wing cross drifted tantalisingly beyond the stretching Sembie-Ferris.
After Nabil Shariff had twice been caught offside in quick succession a speculative 35th minute long range effort from Shamsi fizzed wide but the Turbines soon returned to the attack with Sali heading over from another Sembie-Ferris cross.
But at half time it was still only Moreman’s early goal which separated the teams, and there was no real indication of the carnage to follow.
The Turbines missed a great chance to double their lead two minutes into the second half when Sembie-Ferris volleyed miles over from a Moreman cross, but a second Turbines was merely delayed as they went two up in the 51st minute when Sali let fly with a fiercely struck shot which was only parried by Taylor and Mark Jones stooped to head the rebound over the line.
Three minutes later it was effectively “game over” as Sali threaded a perfectly weighted pass through the static Town defence allowing Sembie-Ferris to run on and coolly slot past the advancing Taylor.
Town quickly sent on the more attack minded trio of Edwards-John, Chris Wreh and Campbell-Mhlope but it made little difference as the Turbines were now firing at full throttle.
Sembie-Ferris twice went close and brave saves from Taylor kept out crisp efforts from Sali and Moreman but it was one way traffic now and on 68 minutes Mark Jones added his second and the Turbines’ fourth with a simple tap in from another Moreman whipped-in cross.
Town were now in total disarray and two minutes later it was five as Moreman shot past Taylor while soon after only the post prevented him celebrating a hat trick as he again scorched in from the left.
The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough but mercifully the Turbines took off Sali, Mark Jones and Sembie-Ferris and Town almost made it through to the end without further embarrassment until Josh McCammon burst through more or less unchallenged in added time to thump number six into the top corner and make Town’s humiliation complete.
So where now for Town after this debacle ? Only the typically tireless Ross Oulton and the occasionally lively Ravi Shamsi can emerge with any credit and with 41 players already used this season surely it is time for the player recruitment process to come under scrutiny.
Next weekend highflying Coalville are scheduled to visit the Arden Garages Stadium and unless there is an improvement of seismic proportions in Town’s performance the current misery being experienced by the Town faithful seems set to continue for some time yet.l
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Kyle Ambris (Kairo Edwards-John 56), Kai Woolard-Innocent (Chris Wreh 52), Courtney Richards, Dan Vann, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson, Ross Oulton (c), Nabil Shariff, Ravin Shamsi, Foday Nabay.(Matthew Campbell-Mhlope 56). Unused Subs – Luke Rowe & Tom Fishwick
PETERBOROUGH : Lewis Moat, Mitch Griffiths, Dan Bucciero, Paul Malone, Richard Jones (c), Dasn Lawlor, Dion Sembie-Ferris (BenToseland 78), Josh McCammon, Mark Jones (Avelino Viera 78), Abduramane Sano Sali (Lewis Webb 73), Josh Moreman. Unused Subs – Marshall Willock & Cameron Johnson
Referee – Martin Fryer
Assisttant Referees – Michael McGill & Kieron Shaw
Attendance – 152
29th OCTOBER 2019 – HEDNESFORD TOWN – HOME – F A TROPHY
TOWN LEFT TO CONCENTRATE ON THE LEAGUE AFTER ANOTHER EARLY CUP EXIT
Stratford Town – 1 – Shamsi 16
Hednesford Town – 2 – King 24 Elliott 57
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town bowed out of their last Cup competition at the Arden Garages Stadium on Tuesday evening as a well drilled and efficient Hednesford side recovered from going behind to a wonder strike from Ravi Shamsi to progress into the Second Qualifying Round of the Buildbase F A Trophy.
So the reality is that the remaining six months of the season will now only consist of League matches, and with Town currently in the lower reaches of the table the heady heights of last season’s Cup success and surge to the play offs seem a long time ago.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from the Tamworth game last week with Harvey White and Kyle Ambris both suspended after their red cards against Tamworth and Foday Nabay dropped to the subs bench.
Instead they were replaced by three debutants, taking the number of players used by Town already this season to 41, with Jack Bennett arriving from Bradford PA to become Town’s fifth keeper this term while QPR loanee Kai Woollard-Innocent slotted in at left back and Matthew Campbell-Mhlope from Kings Langley was drafted into midfield.
As against Tamworth the ambitious Shamsi tried to chip the keeper straight from the kick off which only conceded possession to Hednesford. Andrew Wycherley promptly cleared the ball upfield for the Pitmen to force a corner and as Town struggled to deal with it James Hurst had a fiercely struck drive deflected over the bar for another corner before the danger was eventually cleared.
Soon after Bennett had to be smartly off his line to beat Danny Glover to a long ball down the inside right channel before Town put their first serious attack in the seventh minute with some neat control from Campbell-Mhlope ending with decent shot comfortably held by Wycherley.
Hednesford continued to look the more dangerous of the two sides but a moment of magic from Shamsi gave Town the lead in the 16th minute. Picking up a loose ball some 40 yards out on the left he again spotted Wycherley off his line and this time his audacious lob was spot on as it floated over the stranded keeper and dipped under the bar into the far corner.
The Pitmen weren’t to be behind for long as on 24 minutes a Glover shot was deflected behind off Woolard-Innocent and when Tom Elliott delivered the resulting corner into the middle of the penalty area Reece King climbed highest to head beyond Bennett and level it all up.
As expected Hednesford were favouring the long ball but Matt Bower was in commanding form in the centre of Town’s backline and they didn’t really create a clearcut chance with the offside flag halting them more than once much to their obvious frustration as half time was reached with the game still all square.
Town had an escape four minutes into the second half when Dan Vann’s headed backpass almost fell to Andre Brown before Bennett was able to collect.
Hednesford carried on with their direct approach and it finally paid dividends in the 57th minute when an ordinary lofted pass into the Town penalty area was allowed to bounce followed by Bennett missing his attempted punch and Elliott nipping in to steer it into the net from close range.
A couple more scrambles in the Town penalty area soon followed with the game being punctuated by a series of niggly fouls and the Hednesford offside count heading into double figure, but Town had a great chance to equalise in the 70th minute when Kairo Edwards-John headed a Woollard-Innocent cross into the path of Shamsi who fired disappointingly wide.
Hednesford were managing the game pretty well as the minutes ticked away and in a last throw of the dice Town called on super-sub Chris Wreh with nine minutes to go,
He immediately surged down the right to whip in a cross which reached Edwards-John at the far post whose shot was blocked with a defender beating Shariff to the loose ball and the referee adding to Town’s woes by then booking the striker for simulation as he tumbled to the ground.
But Hednesford then had two opportunities to kill the game off with Kieran Wells not making the most of a Glover cross and Elliott blazing over from the edge of the penalty area.
And as Town pushed forward Hednesford at last managed put together a move when the offside flag stayed down with Wells scooting clear down the right only to pull his shot wide of the far post.
Deep into added time Wreh nearly wriggled through only for Wycherley to smother the ball at his feet, but Hednesford had done enough and Town’s Cup adventures were over for another season.
STRATFORD : Jack Bennett, Lewis Wilson, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Dan Vann, Matthew Bower, Matthew Campbell-Mhlope (Foday Nabay 46), Ross Oulton (c) (Chris Wreh 81), Nabil Shariff, Ravin Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John. Unused Subs – Luke Rowe, Tom Fishwick, Boubakar Traore & Elliott Taylor (GK)
HEDNESFORD : Andrew Wycherley, Izaac Reid, Matthias Curley, Ben Bailey (c), Kieran Morris, James Hurst, Jack Hallaghan, Reece King, Danny Glover, Tom Elliott, Andre Brown (Kirean Wells 65), Unused Subs – Elliott Hodge, Tom Fry, Billy Daniels, Jose Veiga, Kristian Scott & Osebi Abadaki
Referee – Richard Walker
Assistant Referees – Simon Kavanagh & Harley McKittrick
Attendance – 210
22nd OCTOBER 2019 – TAMWORTH – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN IN RED CARD RAGE AS TAMWORTH TAKE OVER AS TABLE TOPPERS
Stratford Town – 1 – Wilson 6 (pen)
Tamworth – 3 – Beswick (2) 43 (pen) & 67 (pen) Waite 72
Match Report by Bryan Hale
A penalty incident in the 43rd minute totally changed what up to then had been an absorbing encounter at the Arden Garages Stadium as it resulted in a Tamworth equaliser and far more crucially saw the sending off of firstly Town right back Kyle Ambris and then keeper Harvey White.
Town had gone in front after just six minutes also from the penalty spot and looked as if they would reach half time with their lead still intact until those match changing decisions from referee Liam Corbett soured the atmosphere for the rest of the evening.
For once there were no new faces in Town’s starting line-up but there was on the subs bench in Matthew Campbell-Mhlope who has joined from Kings Langley and who scored for them against Town earlier in the season.
The Tamworth side included last season’s skipper Jimmy Fry plus Dan Creaney on the subs bench and also Aaron Forde from the Carl Adams era.
Almost incredibly Town manged two goal attempts inside the opening minute with Ravin Shamsi trying to catch Tamworth keeper Jas Singh off his line straight from the kick off followed by Courtney Richards firing wide from distance.
Tamworth responded with a sharp attack resulting in a corner and from the clearance Town went down the other end to force a corner of their own.
And when Shamsi’s corner came across referee Corbett spotted a foul on Matt Bower and immediately blew for a penalty. After Nabil Shariff’s two misses against Wolves it was Lewis Wilson’s turn this time and he blasted it past Singh with the minimum of fuss.
Tamworth took some time to recover and didn’t register a shot on target until the 18th minute when Gregory Kaziboni’s weak attempt was a routine save for White.
Soon after Shamsi had a well struck effort deflected behind off Henri Wilder but Tamworth were now beginning to show their quality.
Dan Vann got in a crucial block to deny Rhys Hoeness followed by Henri Wilder scooting down the left to whip in a low cross which Bilal Yafal could only balloon well over from six yards out.
Another attack on the half hour mark resulted in both Hoeness and Tyrell Waite having shots blocked by Vann and Bower and soon after Yafal had his effort deflected into the side netting off Ambris.
In a by now rare Town attack Shariff fired wide as did Yafal a couple of minutes later for Tamworth before it all took off two minutes before half time.
Hoeness took advantage of a kindly bounce on the half way line to surge clear only to be bundled over by Ambris in the penalty area with Town’s ex-Tamworth defender receiving a red card under the “last man” rule.
Ryan Beswick slammed the spot kick past White and then chased after the ball to retrieve it from the net when he went down after clashing with the Town keeper who was also red carded leaving Town ;to face the rest of the evening two players short.
It was difficult to see what exactly happened between Beswick and White but several alternative versions surfaced afterwards to suggest that all was not as it originally seemed.
But when order was eventually restored Bower took over the keeper’s jersey and promptly impressed by safely holding a Wilder cross and then pushing a Waite shot round the post before the welcome sound of the half time whistle.
The second half began with a crude challenge by Fry on his successor as Town skipper Ross Oulton which resulted in a yellow card for the ex-Town fans favourite much to the Town faithful’s approval.
With Tom Fishwick brought on as an extra defender in place of midfielder Foday Nabay and Shariff now at right back it was inevitably a question of how long Town could hold out, but nothing motivates a team more than a sense of perceived injustice, and as every Town player put in 110% plus Tamworth knew that they had a real fight on their hands.
Bower pulled off two more decent saves in quick succession to keep out shots from Waite and Hoeness while Yafal had a bullet header fly wide before Shamsi caused a few Tamworth hearts to flutter with an audacious lob from the left touchline which the backpedalling Singh was relieved to see land on the roof of the net.
But in spite of all their possession Tamworth couldn’t find a way through a determined Town defence until the 67th ,minute when Waite was brought down following a mazy run across the penalty area and Beswick converted his second spot kick of the game to give Tamworth the lead.
And five minutes later Tamworth added a third when Creaney with virtually his first touch after coming on squared the ball across from the left to set up a simple finish for Waite.
That effectively put the result beyond doubt and the game gradually petered out as Town battled through right to the end.
There were more heroics from Bower in goal and Tamworth continued to make hard work of what should have been a straightforward task, but they had secured the three points which was enough to see them take over as table toppers although only on the basis of having scored more goals than Hednesford with the respective goal differences being identical.
STRATFORD : Harvey White, Kyle Ambris, Dan Vann, Courtney Richards, Matthew Bower, Ross Oulton (c) (Chris Wreh 76), Lewis Wilson, Foday Nabay (Tom Fishwick 46), Ravin Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John (Joe Curtis 62). Unused Subs – Matthew Campbell-Mhlope & Charley O’Keefe
TAMWORTH : Jas Singh, Aaron Forde, Henri Wilder, Ryan Beswick(c) (Rashaan Frances 76), Joe Magunda, Lathaniel Rowe-Turner, Gregory Kaziboni, Jimmy Fry (Dan Creaney 70), Tyrell Waite, Bilal Yafal, Rhys Hoeness. Unused Subs – Dilano Reid, Ahmed Obeng & Jordan Clement
Referee – Liam Corbett
Assistant Referees – Jamie Evans & Jonathan Price
Attendance – 272
15th OCTOBER 2019 – WOLVES – HOME – B’HAM SENIOR CUP
PENALTY SHOOT-OUT WOE IS TOUGH ON MUCH IMPROVED TOWN
Stratford Town – 2 – Wilson 69 Wreh 90+2
Wolverhampton Wanderers – 2 – Hanne (2) 33 & 83
Wolverhampton Wanderers won 4-2 on penalties
Match Report by Bryan Hale
For the second season running Town exited the Birmingham Senior Cup via the dreaded penalty shoot-out route as the youthful Wolves repeated what Aston Villa had achieved in the same competition 12 months ago.
Wolves had led twice and looked to have the game already won heading into added time but super-sub Chris Wreh hit a dramatic late equaliser only for the Wolves to be clinically efficient when the decisive spot kicks were taken.
Again it was a much changed Town side. Nabil Shariff was back after completing his three match ban while there were debuts for Courtney Richards who was one of last week’s six arrivals plus Kyle Ambris who has switched from Tamworth and Matthew Bower on one month’s loan from Bath City.
The Wolves line-up was drawn from their Under 18 and Under 23 squads.
Wolves were first to threaten in the fifth minute when a deep right cross from Callum Thompson rebounded off Ambris straight to keeper Harvey White and they were soon showing their quality with some slick passing moves but by the quarter hour mark neither side had managed a serious goal attempt.
That changed a minute though later as Hugo Bueno nicked the ball off Ambris and when his cross was cleared the ball fell to T-Sun Dai who fired well over.
And as the first half reached its midway point Wolves began to up the pace forcing a couple of corners before Town put a decent move together with Ravi Shamsi slipping the ball through to Shariff whose shot was confidently held by Jamie Partington.
But Wolves continued to press and went ahead in the 33rd minute when some close control in the penalty area led to the ball being threaded through to Bouba Hanne who drilled it past White from six yards out.
Hanne had another opportunity soon after but couldn’t get enough power into his shot followed by Rafa Nya having a thunderous effort blocked by Kyle Rowley and Austin Samuels blasting the loose ball wide.
They then had an even better chance five minutes before the break when more quality on the ball set up an opening for Dai but from virtually on the penalty spot he could only fire inches wide of White’s left hand post.
Town went close to levelling in the opening minute of the second half when Rowley’s header from a Shamsi right wing corner drifted narrowly wide, but they should have done so three minutes later when Kairo Edwards-John was brought down by Hong Wan as he tried to dribble into the penalty area and referee Mark Pearson immediately pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Shariff who had been successful with both his penalties this season but not his time as Partington plunged to his left to push the ball round the post.
The Wolves responded and put the ball into the Town net after a scramble in the six yard box only for it to be ruled out for a foul on White.
But Town were giving it a proper go and Partington had to make a sprawling save from Shamsi while a couple of left crosses from Edwards-John required uncharacteristic first time clearances from the Wolves defence.
And their pressure told in the 69th minute when Shariff played Lewis Wilson through down the inside right channel and the skipper for the evening ran on to sweep the ball past the advancing Partington.
Town now had the momentum and three minutes later Partington pulled off a brilliant flying save taking off to his right to turn behind a fiercely struck effort from Shamsi.
But the Wolves weren’t done with yet and with ten minutes to go Samuels got through for Wolves only for White to close him down and make a crucial block.
Shamsi then prodded another chance wide under pressure from Dan Csoka before Wolves broke away to score what seemed to be the winner as Town struggled to get the ball clear and it fell kindly to Hanne who smashed it past White.
But Town still had Wreh who had already scored late goals from the bench in the opening two home games of the season and on he came to do what he does best yet again as in the second minute of added he pounced to thump the ball beyond Partington from eight yards out after his initial shot had been blocked to make it shoot-out time once more.
Wolves took their penalties first and Hugo Bueno, Samuels, Hanne and Michael Agboola all blasted their kicks past White with the minimum of fuss. Wilson did like wise with Town’s first but Shariff was second up and having had his earlier attempt saved went for raw power now and his effort cannoned against the bar to put Town behind.
Edwards-John kept the tie alive by firing in Town’s third but when Partington dived to his right to push out Town’s next taken by Shamsi it was all over.
Nevertheless Town had shaped much better than in recent games and if this level of performance can be maintained then an upturn in results will surely follow.
STRATFORD : Harvey White, Kyle Ambris, Kyle Rowley (Charley O’Keefe 63), Courtney Richards (Chris Wreh 86), Dan Vann, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson (c), Foday Nabay (Luke Rowe 63), Nabil Shariff, Ravi Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John. Unused Subs – Tom Fishwick & Boubakar Traore
WOLVES : Jamie Partington, Callum Thompson (Jed Abbey 63), Flavio Cristovao (c), Rafa Nya (Michael Agboula 65), Dan Csoka, Hugo Bueno, T-Sun Dai, Hong Wan, Austin Samuels, Luke Cundle (Owen Otasowie 74), Bouba Hanne Unused Subs – Joe Young & Connor Carty
Referee – Mark Pesrson
Assistant Referees – Jason Porter & Callum Fisck
Attendance – 149
12th OCTOBER 2019 – LOWESTOFT TOWN – HOME – LEAGUE
A DIIFICULT WEEK FOR TOWN ENDS IN DISAPPOINTNIG FASHION AS THE POINTS HEAD EAST
Stratford Town – 0
Lowestoft Town – 3 – Reed 7 Linton (2) 67 & 90
Match Report by Bryan Hale
A bewildering week for Town supporters which began with the departure of manager Tommy Wright after just thirteen games in charge followed by the arrival of a mind boggling six new signings ended in disappointing fashion as visiting Lowestoft deservedly won their third game of the season.
Going one up early on Lowestoft seldom looked like losing, and a second goal midway through the second half effectively took the game beyond Town with Lowestoft’s third right at the end merely emphasising their superiority.
Only two of the new faces made the starting line-up with Harvey White being Town’s third keeper in three games and Ravi Shamsi taking a midfield slot. Foday Nabay, Boubakar Traore and Courtney Richards were all on the subs bench while there was no place for the returning Kian Williams.
Recalled to the starting line-up by caretaker boss Paul Davis were Joe Curtis, Tom Fishwick and Charlie O’Keefe, while dropping out were Mitchell Allen (playing for FC Stratford this afternoon), James Hancocks, George Heaven (injured), Liam Hughes (gone to Bradford PA) and Dan Vann (on the subs bench).
Town had an early chance when Kairo Edwards-John squared the ball across from the left but Chris Wreh was crowded out before ho could shoot and instead it was Lowestoft who went ahead in only the seventh minute when the prolific Jake Reed wriggled his way past a couple of defenders on the right to turn and smash the ball past the helpless White from a tight angle.
It was the third successive game that Town had conceded inside the opening ten minutes.
And on 17 minutes Reed could have doubled Lowestoft’s lead when he left Fishwick for dead on the left and charged into the penalty area where his shot was deflected inches past the post by a combination of White, O’Keefe and Kyle Rowley.
Town’s first on-target effort didn’t arrive until the 22nd minute when skipper Ross Oulton’s free kick was headed behind by his opposite number Travis Cole with Wreh heading wide from the resulting corner.
Lowestoft were quick to respond and as Town struggled to clear a Louis McIntosh free kick the ball fell kindly to Andrew Fisk who fired narrowly over.
But Town’s went the closest yet to an equaliser on the half hour mark when a Lowestoft corner was cleared to Luke Rowe whose pinpoint crossfield pass found Edwards-John wide on the left and he cut in to shoot against keeper Luis Tibbles.
Lowestoft though were looking the more dangerous of the two sides and Connor Deeks had a decent effort ricochet behind off Fishwick, but Town ended the first half with a bit of a flourish as Rowe saw his shot easily held by Tibbles who then reacted quickly enough to make a smart save from Lewis Wilson at the foot of his left hand post.
And it was Town who almost levelled within seconds of the restart with an audacious long range attempt from Oulton was turned behind by the backpedalling Tibbles with Fishwick volleying over from the subsequent corner.
Soon after a swerving O’Keefe effort didn’t miss by much and a couple of minutes later a flowing move ended with Tibbles saving with his legs from a low drive from Joe Curtis.
But Lowestoft survived and the dangerous Reed hit a rasping 20 yard drive inches over before Town introduced the speedy Traore into proceedings on the hour mark.
Lowestoft though went close to doubling their lead on 65 minutes when Reed’s header from a Deeks free kick flashed over, and two minutes later they did exactly that as Malachi Linton escaped down the inside left channel to slot the ball past the advancing White.
It was an uphill struggle for Town from then on as Lowestoft’s well organised defence looked increasingly comfortable although Ravi Shamsi was agonisingly close to pulling one back with a quarter of an hour to go with a thunderous drive which cannoned against the bar with Tibbles for once well beaten.
But Lowestoft weren’t finished yet and Linton pounced for his second and Lowestoft’s third with an assured finish a minute from time.
STRATFORD : Harvey White, Lewis Wilson, Charlie O’Keefe (Foday Nabay 79), Joe Curtis (Boubakar Traore 60), Tom Fishwick, Kyle Rowley, Luke Rowe, Ross Oulton (c), Chris Wreh, Ravi Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John (Dan Vann 69). Unused Subs – Courtney Richards & Elliott Taylor (GK)
LOWESTOFT : Luis Tibbles, Josh Curry, Kyle Richardson, Connor Deeks, Travis Cole (c), Adam Tann (Miguel Lopez 71), Dylan Williams (Marcos Wilkinson 79), Andrew Fisk, Jake Reed, Malachi Linton, Louis McIntosh.. Unused Subs – Jacek Zielonka & Andrew Reynolds (GK)
Referee – Oliver Mackey
Assistant Referees – Mitchell Cartwright & Harry Moir
Attendance – 254
5th OCTOBER 2019 – LEISTON – HOME – LEAGUE
EDWARDS-JOHN IS THE DIFFERENCE AS TOWN ADD TO LEISTON’S WOES
Stratford Town – 3 – Edwards-John 33 Wreh 52 Eze 84
Leiston – 1 – Hughes 5
Match Report by Bryan Hale
After a turbulent couple of weeks which started with their F A Cup exit at Halesowen followed by a budget cut and the subsequent departure of a number of players Town seemed to have the perfect chance to get their season back on track with a home game against basement boys Leiston who had manged only a solitary point from nine outings conceding 36 goals in the process including eight against Peterborough Sports last Saturday.
But although Tommy Wright’s side achieved the right result in the end it was far from straightforward as Leiston battled hard throughout the ninety minutes and it needed a classy performance from Kairo Edwards-John in his second Town game to make sure the crucial three points were eventually secured.
And with the squad still seemingly evolving Town introduced two new signings in 19 year old keeper Mitchell Allen who had just been released by Stoke City and defender Kyle Rowley who has had spells at Cheltenham Town and Alvechurch and they became the 30th and 31st players respectively used by Tommy Wright this season.
Liam Hughes was also back after suspension with the three players making way from last weekend at Hitchin being Elliott Taylor, Kurtis Revan and Joe Curtis.
But as at Hitchin last week Town went a goal down almost immediately as in only the fifth minute Jerry Kamanzi’s cross from the right reached Tom Hughes whose original shot came back off Dan Vann and then rebounded back off Hughes into the net.
Town looked for an instant response with Lewis Wilson having a shot blocked followed by Kyle Hammond being in the right place to clear a curling James Hancocks corner off the line after it had been misjudged by keeper Charlie Beckwith.
But Leiston were in the unaccustomed position of having a lead to defend and Town struggled to find a way through.
And their cause wasn’t helped halfway through the half when George Heaven limped off after an earlier collision with team mate Luke Rowe with Mitchell Glover coming on instead and Hughes replacing Heaven in the backline.
But they levelled on 33 minutes when Hancocks took a quick throw-in on the left which was picked up by Edwards-John some 20 yards out and he swivelled to drill the ball beyond Beckwith into the bottom corner.
Leiston though nearly regained the lead straightaway with a decent effort from Hughes drifting narrowly wide but Town were playing with a bit more confidence now and five minutes before the break Edwards-John lurking on the left touchline received a pinpoint crossfield pass from Rowe to cut in past two defenders and smash a thunderous right footer against the bar with Beckwith well beaten.
Soon after Chris Wreh seized on a long clearance from a Leiston corner only to hit his shot against Harry Knights who had managed to get back to cover, but another chance came Leiston’s way right on half time when the ball fell kindly to Rhys Henry eight yards out but he scuffed his shot and Allen gratefully smothered it getting down well to his right.
Town started the second half with far more purpose and it took them only seven minutes to take the lead as Wreh latched onto Lewis Wilson’s through ball and with the offside flag staying down he sprinted away to unerringly steer it past the advancing Beckwith.
Soon after the again impressive Edwards-John worked his way into the penalty area down the left to hit a shot which Beckwith did well to hold at the foot of his right hand post.
With Town now gradually taking over Wreh had a well struck 70th minute right footer smartly saved by Beckwith plunging to his right but Leiston were not completely done with and as play switched to the other end George Keys had a header from a left wing corner safely held by Allen.
There was then the unusual occurrence of a substitute being substituted when Abraham Eze replaced Glover and that was followed by another curio when Beckwith picked up a backpass to concede an indirect free kick inside the penalty area which Ross Oulton touched to Liam Hughes who fired over.
But Town at last put the result beyond doubt in the 84th minute when Edwards-John popped up on the right this time and his persistence was too much for the Leiston defence as he squared the ball across the six yard box to set up a simple tap in for Eze.
STRATFORD : Mitchell Allen, Dan Vann, James Hancocks, Kyle Rowley, George Heaven (Mitchell Glover 28), (Abraham Eze 74) Ross Oulton (c), Liam Hughes, Luke Rowe, Lewis Wilson, Chris Wreh (Charley O’Keefe 90), Kairo Edwards-John. Unused Subs – Tom Fishwick & Elliott Taylor (GK)
LEISTON : Charlie Beckwith, Kyle Hammond, Tom Woerndl, Sjiu Odelusi, Harry Knights (Mason Sinclair 83), George Keys, Jerry Kamanzi (Josh Cheetham 58), Rob Eagle (c), Will Davies, Rhys Henry (Jourdan Kiwonya 58), Tom Hughes. Unused Subs – Iuri Fernandes & Jake Jessup (GK)
Referee – Simon Cooke
Assistant Referees – Simon Kavanagh & Dan Ellis
Attendance – 170
28th SEPTEMBER 2019 – HITCHIN TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
THE CANARIES SING TOO LOUD FOR SAD TOWN
Hitchin Town – 2 – Cawley 3 Webb 75
Stratford Town – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
With Town still in search of their first away win of the season and Hitchin on the lookout for their first League win of any kind something had to give at Top Field on Saturday, and it was the Canaries who improved on previous dismal record as Town disappointingly faded away in the second half.
Behind almost before they had had time to draw breath Town had ended the first half in reasonably promising style, but they couldn’t get into it after half time and a second Hitchin goal with 15 minutes left took the game beyond them.
Unsurprisingly Town’s line-up showed a number of changes after the F A cup disaster at Halesowen starting with the news that Callum Ball, Lynden Dovey, Joel Gyasi, Ivor Lawton and Luis Morrison had all been released.
In came James Hancocks, recalled along with Dylan Parker from his loan spell at Rugby, George Heaven making his debut, Luke Rowe and another debutant in Kaire Edwards-John who like Heaven had been let go by Leicester City in the summer.
And with Liam Hughes serving the last of his three game ban and Nabil Shariff the first of his there was a starting line-up opportunity for Chris Wreh.
The Canaries side included Bradley Bell, Jhai Dillon and Ben Walster who had been recruited during the week.
Sadly though for birthday boy Tommy Wright his reshaped team got off to the worst possible start by going one down in only the third minute when Hitchin won a corner on the right.
Walster delivered the ball into the penalty area and as it was on the way across the referee spotted a push by Ross Oulton and promptly pointed to the spot.
Town keeper Elliott Taylor plunged to his right to parry Steve Cawley’s kick but could do nothing as Cawley reacted the quickest to blast the rebound into the net.
Town looked for an immediate response with Edwards-John showing plenty of pace up front and going close with a couple of decent efforts.
Wreh was also looking lively and on 15 minutes he worked his way into the left of the penalty area to hit a shot which ricocheted away off the legs of keeper Charlie Horlock.
Town were beginning to string some passes together and on 25 minutes more eyecatching close control from Edwards-John almost got him clean through down the left but Horlock was smartly off his line to smother the ball at his feet.
Soon after Kurtis Revan got into the action to float over a deep cross from the right which drifted beyond Edwards-John at the far post.
Town were also looking more assured at the back with Heaven being perfectly positioned to head away a testing right cross from Bell.
And they twice came close to an equaliser shortly before the break with a well struck shot by Edwards-John from a Revan centre in the 39th minute being spectacularly tipped over by Horlock followed on 44 minutes by Horlock pushing behind a low drive from Wreh.
The Canaries were first to threaten after the restart with Bell not far away with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Another Bell run ended with a corner off Hancocks which was only held by Taylor at the second attempt and realising something different was needed Tommy Wright replaced Revan with Parker while at the same time Oulton limped off to make way for Mitchell Glover.
A whipped-in left cross from Wreh was nearly turned in by Edwards-John followed by Parker going close from a Rowe through ball and then Horlock rushing out of his area to clear as the impressive Edwards-King tried to chase down another long ball down the middle.
But ominously for Town the Canaries were looking increasingly comfortable and went two up with a quarter of an hour to go when Town were again found out by another right wing corner.
This time Walster’s flag kick was met by a bullet header from Hitchin skipper Dan Webb and from then the result was never in doubt as the Canaries were relatively untroubled to see the rest of the game out and secure their first three pointer of the campaign.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Lewis Wilson, James Hancocks, Dan Vann, George Heaven, Ross Oulton (c) (Mitchell Glover 56), Kurtis Revan (Dylan Parker 56), Luke Rowe, Chris Wreh, Joe Curtis (Abraham Eze 81), Kaire Edwards-John. Unused Subs – Charley O’Keefe & Tom FWiishwick
HITCHIN : Charlie Horlock, Jack Green, Ben Walster, Jay Dowie, Dan Webb (c), Josh Bickerstaff, Bradley Bell, Lewis Barker, Charlie Thake, Steve Cawley (Ross Hannah 71), Jhai Dillon Unused Subs – Lewis Ferrell, Max Ryan, Leon Okuboyejo & Joe Gauge
REFEREE – J Bloxham
ASSISTANT REFEREES – M Ball & A Tregoning
ATTENDANCE – 328
21st SEPTEMBER 2019 – HALESOWEN TOWN – AWAY – F A CUP
THE YELTZ INFLICT MORE CUP MISERY ON WOEFUL TOWN
Halesowen Town – 4 – Gibson (3) 25 67 & 88 Parsons 44
Stratford Town – 1 – Morrison 30
Match Report by Bryan Hale
It may have been a different game in a different competition on a different day at a different ground with different players involved but the outcome was the same as Halesowen knocked Town out of a second Cup in less than a fortnight.
And Town could have few complaints as on a gloriously sunny afternoon at The Grove they were blown away by a slick Yeltz side with Montel Gibson bagging a match winning hat trick while Town again ended with only ten men as Nabil Shariff emulated Liam Hughes in the League Cup encounter by being sent off towards the end..
Tommy Wright had said beforehand that he didn’t believe the League Cup clash which saw the Yeltz end Town’s defence of that particular trophy thanks to a Luke Yates strike would have any bearing on the outcome of this afternoon’s proceedings.
And as if to reinforce that view both team line-ups were pretty well unrecognisable from that earlier meeting . But Yates was one of the few players to feature in both games and he again proved too hot to handle for Town’s defence as the Yeltz were once more far superior.
Town though went into the game with only one change from the Alvechurch midweek game as Ivor Lawton came in for the cup-tied Luke Rowe.
Both sides made a tentative start with Halesowen the first to threaten when Yates’ persistence earned a sixth minute corner and when play switched to the other end Joe Curtis fired well over from some way out.
Robbie Bunn then tested Elliott Taylor with a firmly struck right footer which the Town keeper held at the second attempt but Yates was already causing problems with his pace and his deep right cross in the 15th minute reached Gibson at the far post whose shot rebounded away off Tom Fishwick.
The Yeltz went even closer five minutes later when Taylor had to plunge to his left to push a way a James Bowen free kick and their pressure told when they took the lead in the 25th minute.
A long ball down the right saw Yates shrug off a desperate challenge from Charley O’Keefe to whip in a low cross which again reached Gibson and he swivelled to drill the ball past Taylor into the bottom corner.
But their lead was to be shortlived as on the half hour mark Kurtis Revan worked his way to the byline down the right and his low cross beat the Yeltz keeper Bradley Catlow to be turned in by Luis Morrison from a couple of yards out for his first Town goal.
Town were almost gifted another goal soon after when Catlow’s weak clearance from a back pass was seized on by Lawton who drove into the penalty area only to shoot narrowly wide and as Town began to push forward Lewis Wilson had a on-target blocked at point blank range.
But the Yeltz hit back to regain the lead a minute before the break when Andrew Parsons crept into the penalty area unnoticed for a right wing corner and he had all the time and space he needed to steer his header beyond the helpless Taylor.
Dan Vann replaced O’Keefe who had a bit of a chastening time in the first half but the Yeltz could soon have added a third when Bunn escaped down the inside right channel only to be eventually crowded out by a combination of Taylor and Linden Dovey followed by a Yates cross fizzing just beyond the reach of the stretching Gibson.
Town were trying to push up in search of the equaliser but in so doing they were vulnerable to quick breaks when possession was lost and both Ashley Sammons and George Forsyth went close with decent efforts as the Town defence frantically backpedalled.
And on 67 minutes they were fatally caught out when Parsons lofted the ball forward and Gibson ran on to slide it past the advancing Taylor.
If that wasn’t “game over” it certainly was three minutes later when Shariff tangled with Jordan Piggott and was shown a straight red card by referee Gareth Davis.
In a rare Town attack Joel Gyasi fired after breaking down the left but Halesowen knew they had it won and only a tremendous Taylor double save from Bunn with four minutes to go prevented them adding a fourth.
But the Yeltz weren’t done with and a minute later they did just that as Gibson ran through a bedraggled Town defence to complete his hat trick. Taylor parried his first shot but could do nothing ad Gibson smashed home the rebound.
The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough but there was still time for Town to avoid further embarrassment as Taylor made last ditch saves from Yates and Bunn before mercifully for the travelling Town faithful it was all over.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Linden Dovey, Charley O’Keefe (Dan Vann 46), Luis Morrison, Tom Fishwick, Ross Oulton (c), Lewis Wilson, Ivor Lawton (Joel Gyasi 59), Nabil Shariff, Joe Curtis, Kurtis Revan (Callum Ball 68). Unused Subs – George Heaven, Mitchell Glover, Chris Wreh Sam Lomax (GK)
HALESOWEN : Bradley Catlow, Jordan Piggott, James Bowen, Ashley Sammons (Reece Hewitt 62), Paul McCone (c), Andrew Parsons, George Forsyth (Lewis Wright 68), Robbie Bunn (Jamie Ashmore 90), Montel Gibson, Luke Yates, Jamie Molyneux Unused Subs – Josh Hawker, Jamie Lewis, Ethan Jones & Brendon Bunn (GK)
Referee – Gareth Davis
Assistant Referees – Mahul Karia & Jack Weeks
Attendance – 611
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Revan Red Card – Shariff Halesowen Yellow Cards – None
17th SEPTEMBER 2019 – ALVECHURCH – HOME – LEAGUE
TOWN STUN THE CHURCH AS BYFIELD’S RETURN IS NOT A HAPPY ONE
Stratford Town – 2 – Curtis 2 Shariff 68
Alvechurch – 0
Match Report by Bryan Hale
In a pulsating local derby played at a relentless pace throughout it was Town who came out on top to take the points and put a dampener on Darren Byfield’s return to the Arden Garages Stadium.
Byfield had been Town boss at the start of last season but his spell in charge lasted only six games and he hadn’t been back since. But having now taken over at Alvechurch he saw his old side get the better of his new one thanks to an early opportunist strike from Joe Curtis followed by a second from the in-form Nabil Shariff halfway through the second half plus the crucial assistance of Town’s first clean sheet of the current campaign.
Town and the Church had memorably met six times in various competitions last season when both sides eventually made the promotion play-offs, but since those heady days the respective managers Tom Baillie and Ian Long have moved on and many of the players have also gone elsewhere making any comparison between then and now is pretty well meaningless.
So when they kicked off they were occupying 15th and 16th spots in the fledging Premier Central Division table with the Church ahead by virtue of their goal difference being one better than Town’s.
Town’s starting line-up showed one change from Saturday with Tom Fishwick coming in for the suspended Liam Hughes and Tommy Wright’s side made a dream start as they took the lead inside 90 seconds.
Lewis Wilson’s persistence straight from the kick off earned Town a corner on the right which was only cleared as far as Kurtis Revan on the edge of the penalty area who hit it first time.
His fiercely struck shot was tipped onto the bar by Church keeper Lloyd Ransome and Curtis reacted the quickest to slot the loose ball home from a couple of yards out.
The Church looked for an immediate response but Josh Ezewele hit a 30 yard free kick straight at Elliott Taylor followed by Javia Roberts volleying over from barely a yard out after getting on the end of a deep cross from the right.
The lively Shariff was next into the action latching onto a Revan cross only for his shot from a narrow angle being turned behind by Ransome and soon after he whipped in a low cross which flew across the face of the goal with no Town player close enough to apply the finishing touch.
It was certainly end to end stuff and as a breathless half reached its midway point Jordan Goddard wasn’t far away with a low drive from 20 yards out which fizzed inches wide.
The Church were now looking the more threatening of the two sides and on 35 minutes Roberts surged down the left and cut in to hit a shot which was neatly tipped over by Taylor with Wilson getting in a vital clearing header from the resulting corner.
Curtis went close to his and Town’s second a minute before the break with a well struck effort from distance which didn’t miss by much and Town reached half time still with their one goal advantage.
The Church were soon on the attack after the restart and Taylor needed treatment after collecting a header from Danico Johnson under pressure from Roberts followed on the hour mark by Jamie Willetts directing a free header from a Goddard free kick straight at the well positioned Town keeper.
And Town had a real let off shortly after when a thunderous effort from Roberts crashed against Taylor’s left hand post with the keeper well beaten.
But having survived that testing spell of Church pressure Town doubled their lead in the 68th minute when Shariff rose highest to head in Curtis’ inswinging corner from the right for his seventh goal of the season and fifth in the last four games.
The result was effectively decided in that moment and although they kept trying the Church never really looked like getting back into the game from then on as Town tightened their grip in midfield where skipper and Man of the Match Ross Oulton was putting in a shift that was immense even by his tireless standards.
And Town should have added a third five minutes from time when Shariff worked his way across the penalty area to thread the ball through to Curtis who shot against the advancing Ransome from point blank range.
“Following on from the Coalville game it was another tremendous performance” was Tommy Wright’s ecstatic reaction afterwards. “We had to dig deep and defend well but we were deserving winners at the end.”
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Linden Dovey, Charlie O’Keefe, Luis Morrison, Luke Rowe, Tom Fishwick, Ross Oulton (c), Lewis Wilson, Nabil Shariff (Chris Wreh 90+3), Joe Curtis (Abraham Eze 90), Kurtis Revan (Ivor Lawton 71). Unused Subs – Dan Vann & Sam Lomax (GK)
ALVECHURCH : Lloyd Ransome, Josh Ezewele, Zac Foster, Stuart McNaught (Peter Till 54), Kyle Morrison, Jamie Willetts, Ben Usher-Shipway, Jordan Goddard, Danico Johnson, Kevin Monteiro, Javia Roberts (John Atherton 71). Unused Subs – Miracle Okafor, Kyle Rowley & Neil Reeves (GK)
REFEREE – Thomas Wainman
ASSISTANT REFEREES – Adam Clenaghan & Tom Palmer
ATTENDANCE – 170
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Curtis, Oulton & Rowe Alvechurch Yellow Cards – None
14th SEPTEMBER 2019 – COALVILLE TOWN – AWAY – LEAGUE
BATTLING TOWN TAKE THE STING OUT OF THE RAVENS
Coalville Town – 1 – Dean 84
Stratford Town – 1 – Shariff 17
Match Report by Bryan Hale
In total contrast to their limp effort against Halesowen in midweek Town turned in a performance packed determination and commitment to come away from the Mander Cruikshank Solicitors Stadium with a thoroughly deserved point.
Coalville went into the game as the only unbeaten side in the Premier Division Central but until Alex Dean’s fortuitous equaliser six minutes from time it looked as if that record would be ended by Nabil Shariff’s sixth goal of the season which had given Town an early lead and which they so nearly hung onto right to the end.
Unsurprisingly Town’s starting line-up a number of changes from the Halesowen game. Ivor Lawton and Callum Ball were both sidelined by injury but Linden Dovey, Luis Morrison, Ross Oulton, Lewis Wilson and Kurtis Revan all returned and there were debuts for new signings Luke Rowe and Joe Curtis.
Rowe was with Bedworth United last season but had latterly been with Coleshill Town while Curtis arrived from AFC Rushden and Diamonds.
And as at Rushall Tommy Wright opted to use Hughes in the middle of the back four alongside Morrison with Dovey and Charley O’Keefe on the flanks.
Both sides had an early chance to open the scoring but Shariff was crowded out when trying to find room for a shot in the Coalville penalty area while at the other end Kairo Mitchell latched on to a long ball over the top but could only shoot straight at Town keeper Elliott Taylor.
A couple of minutes later the Ravens keeper Saul Deeney just reached a loose ball in the six yard box ahead of Shariff, but almost immediately after Town were caught out by another long ball with Tim Berridge’s shot being pushed away by Taylor stretching to his right and Mitchell being unable to seize on the rebound.
Dean was next to threaten with a header which was inches too high before Taylor again kept the scores level with another smart save as Luke Shaw cut in from the left.
But having survived that spell of Coalville pressure Town broke away to take the lead in the 17th minute as Shariff powered in a header from a pinpoint right wing cross from Revan..
Back came the Ravens with Taylor keeping out another Shaw effort at the foot of his right hand post followed by Hughes hooking away a goalbound lob from Berridge.
As Coalville continued to pile forward Town were forced to defend in depth and in numbers but with Taylor handling confidently and Morrison and Hughes making vital interceptions and blocks well supported by Dovey and O’Keefe the home crowd became more and more frustrated as the equaliser proved increasingly elusive.
And Coalville’s first half efforts were summed up a minute before the break when Mitchell fired wastefully wide after having worked the time and space on the edge of the penalty area to do so much better.
Town made a bright start to the second half with Revan streaking down the right to whip in a low cross which Scott McManus was happy to turn behind for a corner which was eventually cleared.
But the Ravens were soon back on the attack with McGlinchey shooting narrowly wide and Dean’s run down the right being halted by a perfectly tackle from O’Keefe.
In a Town breakaway Shariff had a shot deflected into the side netting, but most of the action was at the other end with Town defending resolutely and the Ravens lacking the invention to create a really worthwhile opening.
There were frantic Coalville appeals for a penalty in the 70th minute when Joe Doyle-Charles went down under a challenge from Curtis but nothing was given and instead Mitchell wasted another chance soon after when firing wide with only Taylor to beat.
Coalville needed something different and when they at last drew level in the 84th minute it was certainly that as Dean floated over what was surely meant to be a cross from the right touchline only for it to deceive Taylor and drop behind him into the net.
Town though came close to regaining the lead a minute later when Hughes’ header from an Oulton free kick fizzed inches the wrong side of the post, but they then had more defending to do and concentrated on seeing the game out to clinch the draw they would certainly have settled for at the start.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Linden Dovey, Charlie O’Keefe, Luis Morrison, Luke Rowe, Ross Oulton (c) (Tom Fishwick 90), Lewis Wilson, Liam Hughes, Nabil Shariff, Joe Curtis, Kurtis Revan (Chris Wreh 68). Unused Subs – Mitchell Glover, Abraham Eze & Sam Lomax (GK)
COALVILLE : Saul Deeney, Stuart Pierpoint, Ellis Storey (Charlie Jemson 51), Steve Towers (c), Scott McManus, Joe Doyle-Charles, Alex Dean, Luke Shaw, Kairo Mitchell, Tim Berridge, Tom McGlinchey Unused Subs – Kalern Thomas, Leandro Browne & Theo Sjoberg
Referee – Stuart Richardson
Assistant Referees – Liam Teraud & Jason Porter
Attendance – 175
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Dovey & Oulton Coalville Yellow Cards – None
10th SEPTEMBER 2019 – HALESOWEN TOWN – HOME – LEAGUE CUP
TOWN BOW OUT WITH BARELY A WHIMPER
Stratford Town – 0
Halesowen Town – 1 – Yates 43
Match Report by Bryan Hale
Town’s defence of the Southern League Challenge Cup is already over as they made the earliest possible exit from this year’s competition after Halesowen deservedly progressed through this Preliminary Round tie thanks to a Luke Yates strike shortly before half time.
Both sides had enjoyed wide margin wins against lower league opposition in the F A Cup at the weekend with Town hitting Boldmere for six and Halesowen going one better by firing seven past Lichfield City, and there was now the added intrigue of having been drawn to face each other in the next round.
With the upcoming League matches against Coalville and Alvechurch in mind Tommy Wright made a number of changes to Town’s starting line-up including the introduction of two new signings in full backs Richard Platt and Charlie O’Keefe who had arrived from Bedworth United and Hitchin Town respectively.
The Halesowen squad included striker Jamie Molyneux who graduated from Town’s Youth system and made 39 first team appearances over the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons although mostly from the subs bench.
The game got off to a quiet start with the most memorable incident in the opening ten minutes being when Town keeper Elliott Taylor hit a clearance straight to James Bowen whose attempt to promptly lob the keeper didn’t miss by much.
And it was Halesowen who had the first serious chance in the 12th minute when Liam Hughes conceded a free kick some five yards outside the penalty area which was fiercely struck by Robbie Bunn and beaten away by Taylor plunging full length to his left.
Soon after Yates went close with a shot on the turn from 15 yards out as Town struggled to make any sort of impact, and they were dealt a blow on 21 minutes when Tom Fishwick limped off to be replaced by Yan Ofuso.
Yates was causing the Town backline plenty of ;problems with his pace but it was the equally impressive Robbie Bunn who was next to threaten with a firmly hit drive from 20 yards out which was safely held by Taylor.
But having been second best so far Town came the closet yet to opening the scoring on the half hour mark when in a rare foray into the Halesowen penalty area Nabil Shariff’s first time shot came back off keeper Brendon Bunn’s right hand post before being cleared away.
Halesowen though were soon back on the attack and Jamie Lucas was only inches away with a glancing header from a pinpoint Yates right wing cross and it was no more than they deserved when they took the lead two minutes before the break.
Town has two or three opportunities to get the ball clear but failed to do so and eventually Lucas swept the ball out to Yates on the right and he cut in to drill a sweetly struck left foot drive beyond Taylor into the far corner.
Abraham Eze who had featured in a couple of pre-season friendlies came on for Chris Wreh at the start of the second half followed shortly after by Dylan Parker replacing Ivor Lawton but disappointingly for the Town faithful it was more of the same.
Eze blazed a decent chance well over while Callum Ball had a shot deflected behind, but Halesowen should have doubled their lead on 61 minutes when a quickly taken free kick caught Town out allowing Yates to race clear down the middle
He jinked round the advancing Taylor only for his finish to drift tantalisingly the wrong side of the post.
But Halesowen still meant business and on 65 minutes they brought on their hat trick hero from Saturday Montel Gibson who soon began to make his presence felt as Halesowen continued to spray the ball about with alarming ease.
Town were offered a chance of an equaliser with a quarter of an hour to go when Ball was brought down 25 yards out but Mitchell Glover blazed the free kick wildly over.
Back came Halesowen but Rob Evans couldn’t direct a free header from a corner on target while Bowen went close from distance, and Town’s miserable evening got even worse in the 85th minute when Hughes tangled with Josh Hawker on the halfway line and was sent off.
That set the seal on a dismal performance and it’s going to take an improvement of seismic proportions if this result is going to be reversed when the two teams meet again in ten days time in the F A Cup when £6750 prize money and a place in the Third Qualifying Round await the winners.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Richard Platt, Charlie O’Keefe, Dan Vann (Yan Ofosu 21), Tom Fishwick, Liam Hughes, Mitchell Glover, Ivor Lawton (c) (Dylan Parker 53), Nabil Shariff, Callum Ball, Chris Wreh (Abraham Eze 46). Unused Subs – Ross Oulton & Lewis Wilson
HALESOWEN : Brendon Bunn, Josh Wheatley (Montel Gibson 65), James Bowen, Rob Evans, Andrew Parsons (c), Jordan Piggott, Josh Hawker, Robbie Bunn, Jamie Lucas (Jamie Molyneux 79), Luke Yates, George Forsyth Unused Subs – Jamie Ashmore, Ashley Sammons & Daniel Danks
Referee – Dean Steathman
Assistant Referees – Richard Booth & Jordan Griffiths
Attendance – 131
Match Stats by Rod Abrshams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Hughes Red Card – Hughes Halesowen Yellow Cards – Parsons
7th SEPTEMBER 2019 – BOLDMERE ST MICHAELS – HOME – F A CUP
NABIL’S HAT-TRICK IS TOO MUCH FOR THE MIKES
Stratford Town – 6 – Lyng 23(og) Hughes 36(pen) Shariff (3) 59, 62 & 89 Ball 90 Boldmere St Michaels – 1 – Skinner 47
Match Report by Bryan Hale
A second half hat trick from Nabil Shariff propelled Town into the Second Qualifying Round of the Emirates F A Cup at the Arden Garages Stadium, but the eventual scoreline wasn’t a true reflection of the game as the managerless Mikes put in a spirited performance and prompted a few nervy moments in the stands when they pulled a goal back early in the second half after Town had gone in at half time two up through an own goal and a penalty.
But Shariff took the tie out of their reach with two goals in three minutes either side of the hour mark before completing his treble a minute before the end with Callum Ball firing in Town’s sixth as the game headed into added time.
Tommy Wright rang the changes after Town’s back-to-back defeats against Rushall and Biggleswade. Elliott Taylor swapped places with Sam Lomax in goal while Linden Dovey, Luis Morrison, Ross Oulton, Kurtis Revan and Chris Wreh all came into the starting line-up in place of Yah Ofuso, Tom Fishwick, Mitchell Glover, Callum Ball and the departed Cody Fisher.
The Mikes team included former Town favourite Simeon Tulloch and they arrived having beaten Stourport Swifts in a Preliminary Round replay on Monday having also knocked the Swifts out of the F A Vase 48 hours earlier.
But until then they had endured a wretched start to the season taking just a solitary point from their opening five Midland League Premier Division matches to leave them rooted to the foot of the table, and in spite of their successes over the Swifts they had since parted company with their long serving manager Stuart Grosvenor.
Almost inevitably though it was Tulloch who was first to threaten hitting a second minute shot too high and then glancing a header inches wide just four minutes later.
Town responded with off target efforts from both Wreh and Liam Hughes but they began to boss the possession with Revan particularly impressing with his pace down the right.
Nevertheless they didn’t make the best of three successive corners in the 20th minute and needed a touch of luck when they took the lead three minutes later.
Oulton was making his first start of the season after his lengthy injury absence and his free kick from out on the left into the crowded Mikes penalty area brushed off the head of defender Joe Lyng and looped over the stranded keeper Harry Buttery.
Soon after Shariff surged into the penalty area before being crowded out followed by Liam Hughes having a well struck effort safely held by Buttery, and they were seemingly well on top when they doubled the lead in the 36th minute.
Again Revan proved too much for the Mikes defence and he was brought down by Barry Healey to concede a penalty which Hughes blasted past Buttery with the minimum of fuss.
A couple of minutes later break a Revan centre fizzed across the Mikes six yard box frustratingly just beyond Wreh and Shariff and by half time Town at last were looking in control
But two minutes into the second half the Mikes put themselves right back into the game. Town failed to deal properly with a corner from the left and the clearance fell to Skinner some 20 yards out who hit a sumptuous volley past Taylor into the bottom corner.
Suddenly the tension among the supporters was back especially when a mistake by Morrison let in Owen Parry whose shot was kept out by a point blank save from Taylor.
And on 58 minutes the Mikes went even closer when Rikardo Reid escaped down the left to skip round the advancing Taylor and then watched disbelievingly as his shot trickled agonisingly wide of the far post.
Just before Buttery had plunged full length to his right to push away a shot on the turn from Shariff and the Town striker was now quick to snuff out any Mikes hopes of an upset.
A minute after Rikardo had so nearly levelled Shariff ran onto a Hughes pass on the elft of the penalty area to restore Town’s two goal lead and on 62 minutes he added Town’s fourth with a perfectly placed header from an Oulton cross from the right.
Town could now play with a bit more freedom but to their credit the Mikes kept going and only another reaction save from Taylor prevented Skinner’s powerful low drive making it 4-2.
By now Dylan Parker was on in place of Wreh to add his enthusiasm up front and in a slick move down the right he set up a chance for fellow sub Mitchell Glover who could only blaze wildly over.
But Glover did better in the 89th minute when his pinpoint corner from the left headed in by Shariff for Town’s fifth and as the Mikes wilted Ball’s low drive made it six.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Lewis Wilson, Dan Vann, Luis Morrison, Linden Dovey, Ross Oulton (Dylan Parker 66), Kurtis Revan (Callum Ball 79), Ivor Lawton (c), Nabil Shariff, Liam Hughes, Chris Wreh (Mitchell Glover 66). Unused Subs – James Hancocks, Joel Gyasi, Richard Platt & Sam Lomax (GK)
BOLDMERE : Harry Buttery, Brandon Williams, Barry Healey, Alister Brauns, Luke McGinnell, Joe Lyng, Jack Skinner, Jack Burgess (Jake Allen 84), Rikardo Reid (c), Owen Parry, Simeon Tulloch (Taimoor Hussain 66). Unused Subs – Jake Allen, Callum Hall & Kyle Byrne
Referee – Jamie Conde
Assistant Referees – James Clements & Matthew Randles
Attendance – 186
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratforc Yellow Cards – Oulton Boldmere Yellow Cards – None
31st AUGUST 2019 – BIGGLESWADE TOWN – HOME – LEAGUE
LIMP TOWN NO MATCH FOR ON SONG WADERS
Stratford Town – 1 – Shariff 44 (pen)
Biggleswade Town – 2 – White 45 Brooks 84
Report by Bryan Hale
A week is a long time in football as Town supporters found out at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday as just seven days after ending Rushden and Diamonds 100 % record they turned in a totally limp performance to slip to defeat against a Biggleswade side who arrived with only four points from their opening five games of the season.
And there was no fluke about the result as the Waders always looked likely winners after surviving Town’s shortlived early flourish.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from the Bank holiday reverse at Rushall. Sam Lomax replaced Elliott Taylor in goal while Callum Ball and Tom Fishwick returned from injury and took over from Joel Gyasi and Chris Wreh.
Town made a bright start with Ball going close in only the fourth minute with a shot on the turn from a Lewis Wilson pass which was tipped over by the Waders keeper Sam Donkin.
The Waders responded with Devante Stanley launching over a deep cross from the right touchline which had to be headed behind by the well positioned Yan Ofuso followed by Dan Vann cutting out a left wing cross from Shaun Lucien and then being in the right place again to deal with another Lucien cross.
And on 15 minutes Lucas Perry overlapped down the left to whip in a low cross which Vann once more had to cut out at full stretch.
The Waders were now looking the more threatening of the two sides and in the 18th minute Perry took advantage of more Town uncertainty as he surged from halfway to hit a shot which was comfortably held by Lomax under the bar.
And the Waders went even closer five minutes later when a Lucien shot was only parried by Lomax and Wilson reacted quickest to clear the loose ball behind as Joe White closed in.
All the creativity was coming from the Waders as the crowd began to become increasingly restless, and Soloman Sambou was next to go close in the 33rd minute with a low drive which was deflected behind off Ivor Lawton with Jordan Gent then heading narrowly from the resulting corner.
Then on 38 minutes Perry was only inches away as he again surged down the middle to hit a fiercely struck effort which fizzed past Lomax’s left hand post.
But against the run of play it was Stratford who took the lead a minute before the break as Ball latched onto a though ball from Wilson to be one-on-one with Donkin and was brought down by the keeper as he tried to wriggle past him.
It was a clear penalty and Nabil Shariff blasted in the spot kick with the minimum of fuss.
The Waders hardly deserved to be behind and were back level inside 60 seconds when White was allowed time and space to turn in the penalty area and fire past Lomax into the bottom corner.
Tommy Wright clearly realised that changes were necessary and both Kieran Revan and Chris Wreh were introduced for the second half in place of Yan Ofuso and Ball.
But there was little immediate improvement and inside the first ten minutes of the second half Lomax made a routine save from Kieron Forbes followed by saving with his legs as Lucien cut in from the left and then took off to his left to grasp a header from White.
The pacy Lucien was a threat every time he was allowed to run at the Stratford backline, but Stratford at last came to life on the hour mark when Wreh tested Donkin with a decent effort from the edge of the penalty area.
The Waders though were soon back on the attack with Lomax having to take off full length to his left to push away a thunderous strike from White and Cody Fisher made a couple of vital clearances as the Waders continued to pile on the pressure.
Joel Gyasi was Stratford’s final substitute in the 72nd minute and almost immediately was scythed down by Matt Ball who only received a yellow card with the crowd pleading for a card of another colour.
But in reality Town were only hanging on and the Waders deservedly wrapped up the points with six minutes to go when they neatly worked the ball across the Town penalty area from the left to the far post where the unmarked Liam Brooks had the simple task of sliding it into the net.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Yan Ofuso (Kieran Revan 46), Tom Fishwick, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Lewis Wilson, Mitchell Glover, Ivor Lawton (c) (Joel Gyasi 72), Liam Hughes, Callum Ball (Chrisc Wreh 46), Nabil Shariff. Unused Subs – Ross Oulton & Elliott Taylor (GK)
BIGGLESWADE : Sam Donkin, Devante Stanley, Lucas Perry, Kieron Forbes (c), Gradi Milenge, Jordan Gent, Shaun Lucien (Drew Richardson 89), Soloman Sambou, Joe White (Rubrn Soares Junior 86), Matt Ball. Liam Brooks.. Unused Subs – Luca Allison, Tom Smith & Kayne James-Thompson
Referee – Neil Pratt
Assistant Referees – James Whittington & Paul Sparrow
Attendance – 192
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – None
Biggleswade Yellow Cards – Ball & Richardson
26th AUGUST 2019 – RUSHALL OLYMPIC – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN SUFFER IN THE RUSHALL SUN
Rushall Olympic – 4 – Smith 10 Letford (2) 28 & 67 Leachman-Whittingham 90
Stratford Town – 1 – Glover 19
Report by Bryan Hale
The August Bank Holiday weekend could hardly have presented Town with two tougher fixtures.
After ending Rushden and Diamonds 100% record on Saturday their Monday fixture saw them travel to Rushall Olympic who had replaced the Diamonds as the Central Division table toppers and who were also the Division’s leading scorers with 12 goals from their four games.
And the Pics showed that they are leading the table on merit with some clinical finishing on a blistering hot afternoon.
On their first visit to Dales Lane’s spanking new 3G pitch Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from Saturday. Callum Ball and Tom Fishwick were ruled out through injury while Linden Dovey was unavailable so in came debutant Yan Ofosu, Joel Gyasi and Nabil Shariff with Liam Hughes having to takeng over from Fishwick in the backline while Shariff partnered Chris Wreh up front.
And it was Shariff who was involved in the first serious action of the game after only five minutes when Mitchell Glover swung in a corner from the right which was met by Sharriff with a bullet header which bounced down off the underside of the bar.
Town appealed frantically that it was over the line but referee Ruebyn Ricardo waved ;play on and with no VAR to help Town out the Pics may well have had a lucky escape.
And they made the most of their reprieve five minutes later ironically with a right wing corner of their own. Taken by Reece Mitchell it reached Lee Smith at the far post who climbed above everyone else to power a header past Town keeper Elliott Taylor.
That gave the Pics all the momentum they needed and Taylor soon had to make a smart low save from Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham followed by Sam Whittall shooting over from the edge of the penalty area.
But on 19 minutes Town were level when Glover produced another of his trademark long range “specials” giving Pics keeper Jonathan Platt no chance as he hit a stunning right footer from 20 yards out into the top corner
And as the Pics struggled to regain their composure a speculative effort from the right touchline by Lewis Wilson landed on the roof of the net much to the relief of the backpedalling Platt.
But after a welcome drinks break the Pics were soon back on the attack and regained the lead in the 28th minute. Taylor could only parry a sharp Leachman-Whittingham effort low to his left with Levi Rowley seizing on the loose ball to slide it across for Jonathan Letford to cheekily backheel it into the net.
A mazy run down the left from his own penalty area by the speedy Ben Lund briefly threatened a third Pics goal ten minutes before the break but he badly misplaced his attempted pass to Letford and there was still only one goal in it at half time.
Town made a lively start to the second half with both Chris Wreh and Lewis Wilson having shots deflected behind and when the Pics responded Taylor did well to hold a low drive from Smith at the foot of his left hand post.
A Smith cross on the hour mark set up a shooting chance for Rowley but Cody Fisher was in the right place to make a vital bock followed soon after by Lund’s surge inside being halted by a perfectly timed tackle from Ofosu.
Letford then wasted a great chance on 63 minutes when he got through down the inside right channel but then over-ran the ball allowing Dan Vann to get back and snuff out the danger.
But Letford put that behind him four minutes later when he put the Pics two up as he controlled a throw-in in the penalty area and swivelled to hit a low right foot drive beyond Taylor into the far corner.
Tommy Wright looked to boost Town’s attacking options by moving Wilson into the backline and switching Hughes up front and it almost paid an immediate dividend with the big man having a shot cleared off the line while substitute Kurtis Revan worked his way into a shooting position only to then pass instead.
But the Pics were looking comfortable and with ten minutes to go only a brave save by Taylor prevented them going further ahead as he was smartly off his line to block as Lund again used his speed to gallop down the middle.
But the Pics weren’t to be denied and as the game headed into added time they took their total to four for the afternoon and 16 for the season with an assured finish from Leachman-Whittigham to maintain their grip on top spot in the fledging league table.
STRATFORD : Elliott Taylor, Yan Ofosu, Liam Hughes, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Lewis Wilson, Mitchell Glover (James Hancocks 85), Ivor Lawton (c), Joel Gyasi (Kurtis Revan 61), Nabil Shariff, Chris Wreh. Unused Subs – Ross Oulton, Dylan Parker & Sam Lomax (GK)
RUSHALL : Jonathan Platt, Chekaine Steele, Reece Mitchell, Lee Smith, Asa Charlton, Sam Whittall, Shaquille Leachman-Whittingham, Alex Moore (Dan O’Callaghan 68), Levi Rowley (Mitchel Clarke 78), Jonathan Letford, Ben Lund (Keiron Berry 85).. Unused Subs – Jakob Burroughs & Joe Fryatt (GK)
Referee – Ruebyn Ricardo
Assistant Referees – Gary Lord & Alec Simpson
Attendance – 374
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Revan & Shariff
Rushall Yelllow Cards – Moore
24th AUGUST 2019 – RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS – HOME – LEAGUE
WREH IS THE GEM AS TOWN OUTSHINE THE DIAMONDS
Stratford Town – 3 – Wreh (2) 30 & 80 Ball 48 (pen)
Rushden & Diamonds – 1 – Fishwick 90 + 3 (og)
Report by Bryan Hale
The Diamonds arrived at a sundrenched Arden Garages Stadium as league leaders with a 100% record but Town provided them with a comprehensive reality check as they turned in their best performance of the season to run out emphatic winners.
And star of the show was their former Diamonds striker Chris Wreh who revelled in his call-up to the starting line-up in place of Nabil Shariff after his impressive substitute appearances hitting two goals to take his seasonal tally to four and running the Diamonds defence ragged throughout the searingly hot afternoon.
But for the second week running Kynan Isaac was the centre of attention when Town’s matchday squad was announced. This time though it was because his name was missing from the teamsheet as the prodigal midfielder had once again decided that he preferred life elsewhere with North Leigh apparently his latest destination.
Instead Liam Hughes had recovered from tonsillitis to make his competitive Town debut while in other changes Linden Dovey took over from the suspended Luis Morrison with Elliott Taylor replacing Sam Lomax in goal and Dan Vann returning at the expense of Joel Gyasi.
In contrast the Diamonds were unchanged from their win over Nuneaton Borough last weekend while their subs bench included ex-Town keeper Niall Cooper.
Hughes had made a big impression in the pre-season friendlies and was first to threaten with a shot on the turn in only the fifth minute which flashed narrowly wide of Diamonds keeper Ben Heath’s right hand post.
At the other end Jack Bowen wasn’t far away with an attempted lob from wide on the right as both sides made a lively start.
Wreh was looking to make an impact with his pace and on 15 minutes only a perfectly timed tackle from the imposing Diamonds skipper Liam Dolan prevented him breaking through down the left.
Diamonds responded with a low drive from Matt Slinn fizzing wide before both sides enjoyed a well earned drinks break on the 25 minute mark.
When play resumed Town put together a flowing move instigated by Wreh and ending with Lewis Wilson floating over a cross from the right but Callum Ball’s header was easily gathered by Heath.
And when they took the lead in the 31st minute it was all down to Wreh’s persistence as he dispossessed the dithering Jack Ashton on the left of the penalty area and ran on to steer the ball past Heath via the inside of the far post.
Diamonds looked for an immediate response but Tom Fishwick did well to get a clearing header to a left wing cross from Nat Gosnal-Tyler followed by Taylor confidently claiming a Ben Acquaye cross from the opposite flank.
But right on half time Diamonds wasted their best chance yet when Acquaye’s pinpoint cross from the right reached the unmarked Bowen at the far ;post and with time and space all he could do was head wide when it seemed easier to score.
The importance of that miss was emphasised three minutes into the second half when Mitchell Glover was bundled over in the penalty area as he tried to latch onto a Wreh pass. Referee Andrew Ellis immediately pointed to the spot and Ball coolly sent Heath the wrong way to put Town two up.
Taylor made a smart save at the foot of his right hand post to keep out a Lorraine effort but Town could have added a third soon after when the irrepressible Wreh whipped in a low cross from the left which flashed tantalisingly beyond the stretching Ball.
Diamonds promptly made a double substitution followed by their third soon after and they tested the Town defence with some teasing crosses but Dovey and Fishwick got in the vital headers and Taylor continued to impress with his clean handling.
Town again went close to extending their lead on 74 minutes when Hughes going almost caught Heath out with an exquisite curler from 25 yards out which the keeper was relieved to grasp under his bar.
And when they did go three up with ten minutes to go inevitably it was Wreh yet again as he latched onto ta Glover through ball to scamper away and fire past the advancing Heath.
That was effectively “game over” but Town were denied a clean sheet deep into added time when Fishwick and Sam Johnson went up to meet a long ball into the penalty area and it glanced off the defender beyond the helpless Taylor.
But it was only a footnote to what had been a thoroughly satisfying afternoon as Tommy Wright’s changes surely brought about so much more than even he originally thought possible.
STRATFORD : (4-5-1) : Elliott Taylor, Linden Dovey, Tom Fishwick, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Lewis Wilson, Mitchell Glover (Ross Oulton 88), Ivor Lawton (c), Liam Hughes, Callum Ball (Nabil Shariff 64), Chris Wreh (Kurtis Revan 81) Unused Subs – Joel Gyasi & Sam Lomax (GK)
DIAMONDS : (4-4-2) : Ben Heath, Zack Reynolds (Sam Johnson 66), Liam Dolman (c), Jack Ashton, Sam Brown, Ben Acquaye, Matt Slinn (Julian McDonald 54), Nathan Hicks, Nat Gosnal-Tyler, Tom Lorraine, Jack Bowen (Ben Farrell 54). Unused Subs – Ryan Dove & Niall Cooper (GK)
Referee – Andrew Ellis
Assistant Referees – Dan Stokes & Charles Humphrys
Attendance – 325
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Hughes
Diamonds Yellow Cards – None
17th AUGUST 2019 – KINGS LANGLEY – HOME – LEAGUE
DEFENCES GO AWOL AS TOWN AND THE KINGS SHARE SIX GOAL BONANZA
Stratford Town – 3 – Ball 6 Wilson 26 Wreh 90
Kings Langley – 3 – Campbell-Mhlope 7 McKeown (2) 19 & 61
Report by Bryan Hale
Town and the Kings served up a six goal thriller in the Arden Garages Stadium sunshine on Saturday with Tommy Wright’s side rescuing a point with another late strike from super-sub Chris Wreh who had smashed in that dramatic late winner against Needham Market a week earlier.
Until then it looked as if the Kings had done enough to clinch the win in a game which featured some suicidal defending by both sides with all three of Town’s goals coming from Mitchell Glover free kicks.
The talking point when Town’s starting line-up was announced concerned the return of the prodigal Kynan Isaac after suitably apologising to boss Tommy Wright for his earlier behaviour. Also returning were skipper Ivor Lawton who was much missed at Stourbridge and Callum Ball while those dropping out were James Hancocks, Dan Vann and the tonsilitis victim Morgan Brown.
And it was Issac who was immediately involved with a shot which rebounded to Glover whose follow-up was held by Kings keeper Melvin Minter.
But the Town supporters didn’t have long to wait for the opening goal as in the sixth minute Glover launched a free kick into the Kings penalty area which was headed on by Luis Morrison and turned in from close range by Callum Ball.
However the lead was to last for less than sixty seconds as the Town backline was caught out by a hopeful ball down the middle. Sam Lomax charged out of his area to try to intercept but was beaten to it by Matt Campbell-Mhlope who then had the simple task of rolling it into the empty net.
And it was more uncertain Town defending which allowed the Kings to take the lead on 19 minutes when Lawton and Lomax left a deep Gary Connolly cross from the right touchline to each other allowing the alert Eoin McKeown to nip in and slot home.
But it was then Town’s turn to come back when another Glover free kick from out on the left in the 26th minute was missed by the Kings defence to provide Lewis Wilson with a straightforward tap-in at the far post
A couple of minutes later only a brilliant save by Minter prevented Nabil Shariff putting Town ahead as her tipped the striker’s shot onto the post and when play switched to the other end it need a perfectly timed tackle from Tom Fishwick to halt a dangerous run from Mitchell Weiss.
The non-stop action continued and on the half hour mark Lomax had to plunge to his left to keep out a Weiss header from a Charlie Ruff free kick.
Minter again showed his quality as he went full length to push out a driven-in low right wing cross from Joel Gyasi as half time was surprisingly reached with the score still 2-2.
The Kings wasted a great chance to regain the two minutes into the second half when more hesitation at the back provided MicKeown with a shooting chance but he delayed his effort allowing Cody Fisher to block with Weiss then blasting the loose ball over.
Another chance came Kings way soon after with Fishwick doing well to deflect a fierce Kane Farrell behind, while it was Minter again when Town countered as he took off to his left to grasp a Shariff volley.
Lomax then produced a tremendous double save on the hour mark parrying a thunderous Weiss drive and then recovering quickly enough to keep out Farrell’s attempt from the rebound.
But the Kings wouldn’t be denied and were back in front on 61 minutes when McKeown latched on to another through ball and ran on to easily slot past Lomax.
As Town tried to respond substitute Kurtis Revan set up a chance for Glover with twenty minutes to go only for the busy midfielder to drive wide from 20 yards out
But the Town defence continued to be all over the place with Wilson deflecting a Steve Ward shot behind and Weiss heading narrowly over from the resulting corner.
Another terrific close range save from Minter on 80 minutes kept the Kings lead intact as he pushed a Shariff effort onto to the bar and shortly after he safely held a decent effort from the lively Revan
Shariff then had two further opportunities only to blaze over both times, and the Kings seemed to be hanging on for all three points until Glover floated over yet another free kick for Wreh to finish off a breathless afternoon with a point saving header.
STRATFORD : (4-2-1-3) : Sam Lomax, Lewis Wilson, Tom Fishwick, Luis Morrison (Lynden Dovey 68), Cody Fisher, Joel Gyasi (Kurtis Revan 62),, Ivor Lawton (c), Mitchell Glover, Kynan Isaac (Chris Wreh 68), Callum Ball, Nabil Shariff, Unused Subs – Dylan Parker & Elliott Taylor (GK)
K/LANGLEY : (4-3-3) : Melvin Minter, Gary Connelly, Jorell Johnson (c), Callum Adebiyi, Kane Farrell, Roddy Collins, Eoin McKeown (Louis Collierb 84), Josh Coldicutt-Stevens, Mitchell Weiss, Charlie Ruff (Harrison Crawford 79), Matt Campbell-Mhiope (Steve Ward 72) Unused Subs – Max Hercules & Luke Alfano
Referee – Andrew Genders
Assistant Referees – Joe Larkin & Josh Sudbury
Attendance – 255
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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12th AUGUST 2019 – STOURBRIDGE – AWAY – LEAGUE
TOWN ARE LEFT SHATTERED BY THE GLASSBOYS
Stourbridge – 3 – Grocott 26 Landell 49 Brown 63
Stratford Town – 1 – Shariff 67 (pen)
Report by Bryan Hale
History repeated itself at the War Memorial Ground on Monday evening. Twelve months ago after winning their opening day fixture the then Town boss Darren Byfield’s side were given a reality check in the second game of the season, and it was exactly the same for Tommy Wright’s squad this time round.
With the Glassboys strike force of Kieran Cook, Andre Lansdell and Greg Mills in scintillating form Town were second best throughout. Three down shortly after the hour mark they pulled one back from the penalty spot but their misery was then completed when Luis Morrison was red carded with eleven minutes to go.
Town’s starting line-up showed two changes from Saturday with James Hancocks and Mitchell Glover coming in for Ivor Lawton – who was ruled out with a knee problem – and Callum Ball. Tom Fishwick took over the captain’s armband.
The Stourbridge side included the former Town favourites Will Grocott and Jordan Williams while Mike Taylor was on the subs bench.
Predictably the Glassboys made a bright start and in the sixth minute only the offside flag prevented Landell breaking clean through while shortly after the dangerous Mills surged down the inside left channel to shoot straight at Town keeper Sam Lomax.
Five minutes later it was Cook’s turn to get in on the act as he cut in from the right to hit a low drive which was turned behind by Lomax plunging to his right followed by Mills firing across goal as he again got the better of Dan Vann.
A Nabil Sheriff header forced the Glassboys keeper James Wren into what was to be a rare save in the 20th minute but Mills was soon threatening again with a close range shot deflected behind off Fishwick and another effort fizzing over.
But when Stourbridge went ahead in the 26th minute almost inevitably it was Grocott who was on the mark. Fairly quiet up to then he was in the right place in the six yard box to tuck home a Landell cross from the right.
By now Wilson had been moved to right back to counteract the pace of Mills with Vann moving inside and Morrison switching into midfield, but Stourbridge continued to have the better of the possession.
Town were clearly missing Lawton’s influence in midfield but they at least managed a couple of corners in the closing minutes of the half with Wren also dealing comfortably with a Morrison effort from the edge of the penalty area,
But it was Mills who went close to doubling the Glassboys lead a minute before the break with a header from a deep right wing cross from Kristian Green.
Saturday’s matchwinner Chris Wreh was introduced for the restart to help Shariff up front, but Stourbridge were soon on the attack again with Lomax pulling off a smart save from Grocott, and they went two up in the 49th minute when for the umpteenth time Mills scorched down the left to whip in as low cross which was met with an assured close range finish from Landell .
Shortly after Cook had a fierce effort blocked as did Landell a moment later as the Stourbridge continued to pile forward.
And it was no surprise when the Glassboys added a third on 65 minutes when Jordan Brown climbed above everyone to head in one of Grocott’s trademark pinpoint corners.
As if to show what Town were missing the Glassboys then replaced Landell with Taylor, but before the ex-Town striker could have a kick Town were gifted a goal when referee Richard Cattell spotted a handball as a Stourbridge defender attempted to clear a cross and Shariff slammed the resulting penalty past Wren with the minimum of fuss.
But it was only to be a footnote and Town’s evening got worse on 79 minutes when Morrison scythed down the tricky Cook and was promptly sent off.
The final whistle couldn’t come quickly enough from then on and Town were left to reflect on some harsh lessons learned from one of the season’s title favourites.
STRATFORD – (4-4-2) : Sam Lomax, Dan Vann (Lyndon Dovey 73), Tom Fishwick, Luis Morrison, Cody Fisher, Joel Gyasi (Callum Ball 62) , Mitchell Glover, James Hancocks (Chris Wreh 46), Morgan Brown, Lewis Wilson, Nabil Shariff, . Unused Subs – Kurtis Reavan & Elliott Taylor (GK)
STOURBRIDGE – (4-3-3) : James Wren, Kristian Green, Jordan Williams. Ashley Carter (c), Jordan Brown, Tom Turton, David Bellis, Will Grocott (Ryan Winwood 73), Andre Landell (Mike Taylor 64);, Kieran Cook (Kyle Finn 85), Greg Mills. Unused Subs – Arron Lloyd & Zac Foster
Referee – Richard Cattell
Assistant Referees – Jamie Howe & Ashley Davenport
Attendance – 719
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Vann Red Card – Morrison
Stourbridge Yellow Cards – Taylor
10th AUGUST 2019 – NEEDHAM MARKET – HOME – LEAGUE
THE SUBS STRIKE TO GIVE TOMMY THE RIGHT START
Stratford Town – 2 – Glover 70 Wreh 90 + 2
Needham Market – 1 – Marsden 89 (pen)
Report by Bryan Hale
Town finally returned to serious action at a windswept Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday after a summer of upheaval following their play off defeat at Kings Lynn at the end of last season.
Boss Thomas Baillie had switched to Tamworth soon afterwards to be replaced by Tommy Wright while most of the players had also moved on meaning that Town’s starting line-up here had an unfamiliar look with only Cody Fisher, Tom Fishwick, Nabil Shariff and Lewis Wilson surviving from the last campaign.
And it was two tremendous long range strikes from substitutes Mitchell Taylor and Chris Wreh which earned Town the points in a game which seldom reached any great heights as both sides struggled to cope with the gale blowing straight down the pitch.
Town had that wind behind them from the kick off, but it was Needham who created the first chance of the afternoon in the fifth minute when their Cambridge United loanee Joe Neal escaped down the right only for Joe Marsden to prod wide at the near post.
Town’s first sight of goal arrived ten minutes later when Wilson’s header from Shariff’s left wing cross was a comfortable save for Needham keeper Marcus Garnham.
The wind was proving a problem for both sides with Town seemingly reluctant to test Garnham by shooting from distance while Needham looked sharp up front when given the chance to break from midfield.
But Joel Gyasi brought a smart save out of Garnham on 27 minutes when he cut in from the right to hit a low shot which the keeper could only push away getting down well to his right.
Soon after Shariff at last hit a decent effort from 20 yards out which Garnham watched anxiously as it fizzed inches over, but Needham then had a great chance on 33 minutes when the lively Neal latched on to Russell short’s long ball down the inside right channel only to blaze wide as Town keeper Sam Lomax came out to challenge.
Town were then offered an opportunity three minutes before the break when Needham conceded a free kick some 25 yards out but Morgan Brown disappointingly hit it both high and wide.
And it was Town who should have gone ahead in the first minute of the second half when skipper Ivor Lawton headed on Fisher’s corner for Wilson to lash the ball wide from six yards out.
But Needham now had the advantage of the wind and only a terrific block by Luis Morrison prevented Gareth Heath from opening the scoring at the other end.
And ominously Needham began to look increasingly comfortable. Joe Marsden headed narrowly over, a Callum Sturgess was blocked in the penalty area and only the offside flag prevented Marsden getting away down the left.
But bizarrely it was a long range goal against the wind which gave Town the lead with twenty minutes to go when substitute Mitchell Glover spotted Garnham off his line and showing terrific presence of mind lifted the ball over the stranded keeper with the outside of his right boot from all of 40 yards out.
Needham tried hard to get back into the game but Town looked to be seeing the game out until they gifted the Marketmen a leveller on 89 minutes when Dan Vann tripped Luke Ingram inches inside the penalty area allowing Marsden to blast the spot kick past Lomax.
But it was not yet all over and in the second minute of added time Chris Wreh unleashed an unstoppable 25 yarder which rocketed into the top corner to clinch the points for Town and give new boss Wright the perfect start while at the same time continuing their record of not having lost on the opening day of the season since their promotion to the Southern League in 2013.
STRATFORD : Sam Lomax, Luis Morrison, Cody Fisher, Dan Vann, Tom Fishwick, Lewis Wilson, Ivor Lawton (c), Joel Gyasi (Mitchell Glover 63), Morgan Brown (James Hancocks 90+2), Nabil Shariff, Callum Ball (Chris Wreh 63). Unused Subs – Michael O’Regan & Elliott Taylor (GK)
NEEDHAM : Marcus Garnham, Dan Morphew (Jake Dye 84), Callum Sturgess, Russell Short (Luke Ingram 63), Keiran Morphew, James Baker Sam Squire (Nicholas Ingram 81), Gareth Heath (c), Joe Neal, Craig Parker, Joe Marsden, Unused Sub – George Exworth
REFEREE – Steve Durnall
ASSISTANT REFEREES – Mitchell Cartwright & Ian Croston
ATTENDANCE – 221
Match Stats by Rod Abrahams
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Stratford Yellow Cards – Fishwick, Glover & Morrison
Needham Yellow Cards – D Morphew & Marsden