BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stourbridge 3 (Grocott 26, Landell 49, Brown 63)
Stratford Town 1 (Shariff 67 pen)
Report by Bryan Hale
HISTORY repeated itself for Stratford Town at Stourbridge’s War Memorial Athletic Ground on Monday night.
Twelve months ago after winning their opening day fixture, 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 11 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.
In Lawton’s absence 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 Andre Landell breaking clean through while shortly after the dangerous Greg 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 Shariff header forced 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 Lewis 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 match-winner 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 Grocot.
And they went two up in the 49th minute when for the umpteenth time Mills galloped down the left to whip in a 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 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 Tom Turton’s pin-point corner.
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 in the area 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.
GLASSBOYS: James Wren, Kristian Green, Jordan Williams, Ashley Carter, 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.
TOWN: 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 Revan, Elliott Taylor.