DARREN Byfield made a winning start as Stratford Town manager as his side claimed a 1-0 victory over St Neots at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday.
Midfielder Will Grocott scored the only goal of the game in the 50th minute, firing home Lewis Wilson’s cross to seal a deserved three points for Byfield’s side.
After conceding 15 goals in eight pre-season friendlies, Stratford produced a sound defensive performance, with new boys Brad Maslen-Jones and Jamie McAteer enjoying excellent debuts.
Town, with just three players from last season’s squad named in the starting line-up, started the better of the sides.
Another new signing, Callum Powell, created their first chance as he threaded the ball through to Edwin Ahenkorah, whose well-placed effort was tipped wide by Finlay Iron.
Ahenkorah and Powell teamed up again ten minutes later and this time Ahenkorah was the provider to Powell, whose left-footed shot from 20 yards went inches wide of Iron’s right-hand post.
Saints were very much in the game at this point and they were desperately unlucky not to break the deadlock in the 34th minute.
Johnny Herd produced one of his monster throw-ins into the box, it was allowed to bounce, before being met by a bullet header from James Peters. The ball struck the bar, bounced back to Saints midfielder, who somehow bundled the rebound wide with the goal begging.
Town kept their heads and enjoyed more success down the right-hand flank when another new signing, Chris Cox, beat his man, had a one-on-one with Iron, but the defender frustratingly shot straight down the throat of Iron, on loan from Cambridge United.
Grocott had a quiet first half by his lofty standards, but his devilish corner on the stroke of half-time was met in the six-yard box by the towering McAteer, only for the ball to whistle just wide.
Stratford took full control after the break and they got their deserved goal in the 50th minute when Wilson’s pull back gave Grocott the time to fire home into the bottom corner from ten yards.
Town were unlucky not to add to their total, with the robust Powell causing Saints all sorts of problems down the left-hand side.
The former Leamington man went on a mazy run in the 71st minute, collecting the ball after a poor clearance from Iron, which left him exposed and away from goal.
Despite being urged to shoot by the majority of the Town faithful, Powell beat his man before producing a looping effort that had Iron beaten, but it sailed six inches over.
The chances continued and Town looked went agonisingly close to a second in added time.
Wilson Carvalho beat his man on the left and crossed to James Fry and the Town skipper looked certain to score, but Fry’s shot went wide.
Stratford Town: Nathan Vaughan, Chris Cox, Kieren Westwood, James Fry (c), Bradley Maslen-Jones, Jamie McAteer, Callum Powell (Claudio Dias 90), Will Grocott, Edwin Ahenkorah (Jazz Luckie 80), Wilson Carvalho, Lewis Wilson (Kynan Isaac 66). Subs not used: Mike Taylor, Jordan Williams
St Neots Town: Finlay Iron, Matty Miles, Johnny Herd (Harry O’Malley 80), Luke Knight (c), Daniel Olaniran (Tom Wood 80), Taylor Parr, Claudio Ofosu, James Peters, Lewis Irwin, Dion Sembie-Ferris, Dylan Williams (Davante Stanley 48). Sub not used: Jack Keeble