BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 2 (Glover 70, Wreh 90+2)
Needham Market 1 (Marsden pen 90)
Report by Craig Gibbons
STUNNING goals from second-half substitutes Mitchell Glover and Chris Wreh fired Stratford Town to a 2-1 victory over Needham Market on the opening day of the 2019/20 BetVictor Southern Premier Central season.
After a drab first half and a relative lacklustre 25 minutes of the second, Glover conjured up a moment of magic to put Town ahead in the 70th minute.
Having spotted Marcus Garnham off his line, Glover’s lobbed outside-of-the-boot effort from all of 40 yards sailed over the Needham goalkeeper and into the back of the net with the assistance of the underside of the crossbar.
The Marketmen continued to pepper the Town goal until the end and they were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute when a rash challenge by Dan Vann on Luke Ingram was punished by referee Steve Durnall and Joseph Marsden duly obliged from 12 yards out to seemingly salvage a point for the visitors.
However, the drama was far from over as the hosts snatched the winning goal in the second minute of stoppage time when Wreh beautifully curled home into the top corner from 25 yards out to ensure his side maintained their record of never losing on the opening day of the season since their promotion to the Southern League in 2013.
Only four members of last season’s squad were on show for Tommy Wright’s first competitive game in charge since taking over from Thomas Baillie, with Cody Fisher, Thomas Fishwick, Lewis Wilson and Nabil Shariff getting the nod on the opening day of the campaign.
Such was the unfamiliar nature of the Town squad since Baillie’s departure to become the Lambs’ head of senior football, seven players were handed their competitive debut for the Blues.
A swirling wind greeted the players for kick-off and it was the Marketmen who created the first chance of the game inside five minutes when Cambridge United loanee Joe Neal got in behind the Town defence and squared to Marsden who could only poke his effort wide of the mark from a few yards out.
Despite a mediocre start, Town got their first effort on goal in the 12th minute when Wilson guided Shariff’s left-wing cross straight down the throat of Needham shot-stopper Garnham.
Chances were certainly at a premium as neither side struggled got to grips with the wind, but Town came close to taking the lead in the 26th minute when Joel Gyasi’s powerful shot was spilled by Garnham, but neither Callum Ball or Wilson could make the most of the rebound.
Soon after Shariff flashed a powerful drive over the bar as the hosts started to take a stranglehold of proceedings.
Neal was certainly proving to be a nuisance up top for the visitors and he should have put the Marketmen ahead just past the half-hour mark when he raced into the box after latching on to Russell Short’s throughball, but he could only lash his shot horribly wide.
That proved to be the last of the action of a lacklustre first half as both sides went into the break on level terms.
Playing into the wind, Town should have nosed themselves ahead just three minutes after the restart when Ivor Lawton nodded Cody Fisher’s corner into the path of Wilson whose shot from eight yards out had everything barring accuracy.
Immediately up the other end it needed a goal-saving tackle from former Lover Island star Luis Morrison to stop Gareth Heath’s shot from finding the bottom corner before Marsden headed just over the bar moments later as the visitors cranked up the pressure.
But then a moment of magic from substitute Glover gave the hosts the lead with 20 minutes to go as he spotted Garnham off his line and astutely lobbed the ball over the Needham keeper from all of 40 yards with the assistance of the underside of the crossbar.
The visitors continued to push for the equaliser and their efforts were rewarded in the 90th minute when Luke Ingram was fouled in the penalty area by Daniel Vann.
Marsden smashed the ball home from 12 yards out to bring his side level, but the action was far from over as immediately up the other end Town snatched all three points when Wreh cut inside onto his right foot and bent an effort right into the top corner of Garnham’s net.
TOWN: Sam Lomax, Cody Fisher, Luis Morrison-Derbyshire, Thomas Fishwick, Lewis Wilson, Ivor Lawton, Nabill Shariff, Joel Gyasi (Mitchell Glover 63), Daniel Vann, Morgan Brown (James Hancocks (90+2), Callum Ball (Chris Wreh 63). Unused subs: Elliot Taylor, Michael O’Regan.
NEEDHAM: Marcus Garnham, Daniel Morphew (Jake Dye 85), Callum Sturgess, Russell Short (Luke Ingram), Keiran Morphew, James Barker, Samuel Squire (Nicholas Ingram 81), Gareth Heath, Joe Neal, Craig Parker, Joseph Marsden. Unused subs: George Exworth