BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Coalville Town 1 (Dean 84)
Stratford Town 1 (Shariff 17)
Report by Bryan Hale
IN total contrast to their limp effort against Halesowen Town in midweek, Stratford Town turned in a performance packed with 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 Southern Premier 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 showed a number of changes from the Halesowen game.
Ivor Lawton and Callum Ball were both sidelined by injury while 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 & 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 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 pin-point 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.
COALVILLE: Saul Deeney, Stuart Pierpoint, Ellis Storey (Charlie Jemson 51), Steve Towers, Scott McManus, Joe Doyle-Charles, Alex Dean, Luke Shaw, Kairo Mitchell, Tim Berridge, Tom McGlinchey. Unused subs: Kalern Thomas, Leandro Browne, Theo Sjoberg.
STRATFORD: Elliott Taylor, Linden Dovey, Charlie O’Keefe, Luis Morrison, Luke Rowe, Ross Oulton (Tom Fishwick 90), Lewis Wilson, Liam Hughes, Nabil Shariff, Joe Curtis, Kurtis Revan (Chris Wreh 68). Unused subs: Mitchell Glover, Abraham Eze, Sam Lomax.