STRATFORD Town Youth made it two wins from two in the MFYL Premier Division South as they turned in a performance brimming with character and commitment to overcome a classy Hereford side at the Arden Garages Stadium on Thursday evening, writes Bryan Hale.
Yet the game got off to the worst possible start for Town with Rob Lord having to limp off inside the opening two minutes with Caine Ellliott coming on instead, and it was Elliott who went close to firing Town ahead a few minutes later with a well-struck effort from distance which flew narrowly wide.
With Town already looking the more threatening of the two sides they took the lead in the ninth minute with a header from Tommy Harrington and three minutes later they were two up when Bradley West let fly with a fierce left-footer from 25 yards out which was too much for the Hereford keeper Dan Keane, who got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
Hereford tried to respond with a shot from Shaun Yalland which was comfortably held by Town keeper Ryan Woodward, but Woodward was called into more serious action on 25 minutes with a smart close-range save from Joe Mellars.
Then on the half-hour mark, Town had a great chance to extend their lead when West surged into the penalty area down the inside right channel and was brought down by Keane only for him to take the spot kick himself and blaze it well wide.
Hereford’s let-off was only shortlived however as Harrington added Town’s third in the 38th minute when he cut in from the right and coolly steered the ball past the advancing Keane.
But Hereford gave themselves a glimmer of hope a minute before the break when Luke Firkin slotted home from inside the six-yard box, and it was to become a different game in the second half.
Hereford noticeably upped their tempo and began to have more and more of the possession with Town increasingly being forced to defend in depth and in numbers.
Sean Swann-McBride was unlucky with a thunderbolt 20 yards out which cannoned against the bar, but with Josh Aspinall-Smyth and Sacha Everard in commanding form at the back Town held on until Matt McLeod made it 3-2 with a neat turn and crisp finish with fifteen minutes to go.
From then on, Hereford’s efforts for an equaliser became even more frantic as they piled forward with a series of crosses into the Town penalty area and some nail-bitngly near misses, but with everyone battling away to the end, Town survived to clinch the win which sets them up nicely for their FA Youth Cup tie at Alvechurch next Wednesday.