STRATFORD Town got their season off to the best possible start with a hard-fought 2-1 win at newly-promoted Royston in a match which saw each side have a man sent off in the second half, writes Bryan Hale.
The match got off to an explosive start with Royston almost taking the lead in just the third minute when Gus Scott-Morriss floated over a deep cross from the right which was met with a firm header by Scott Bridges, only for Stratford’s new keeper Louis Connor to plunge to his left and palm the ball behind.
The importance of that save was emphasised two minutes later when another new Stratford signing, Lee Thomas, crossed from the left to the far post where it was headed in by Ben Stephens.
But Royston soon settled down and equalised on 21 minutes when Stratford failed to clear a cross from the right and John Frendo drilled the loose ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Six minutes later, Stratford were back in front as Stephens surged through a couple of unconvincing challenges to slip the ball to Will Grocott, who helped onto to the overlapping Thomas and the left-back thumped it beyond the helpless Royston keeper Joe Welch.
Royston pressed for another equaliser after the restart, but their chances were dealt a blow in the 56th minute.
Connor brilliantly turned behind a stinging volley from Frendo and as the subsequent corner came across, there an incident in the six-yard box, which led to Royston’s giant defender Adam Murray being sent off and Stratford’s Loyiso Recci being yellow carded.
That was to prove crucial later, as with ten minutes left Recci pulled down Josh Castiglione to receive a second yellow followed by the inevitable red, but in a frantic finale, which included five added minutes, Stratford held on for all three points.
Stratford Town: Louis Connor, Dan Summerfield, Lee Thomas, Andy Gallinagh, Loyiso Recci, Liam Francis, Ben Stephens (Charlie Evans 78), James Fry (c), Edwin Ahenkorah (Mike Taylor 76), Will Grocott, Jazz Luckie.