MIKE Taylor struck twice as Stratford Town cruised to a vital 3-1 victory over struggling Bedworth United at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday.
After a traumatic four days that saw the resignation of manager Darren Byfield and the club’s exit from the FA Cup, this was just what Town needed, albeit against a poor and disjointed Bedworth side.
It was also a first win for the caretaker management team of Steve Walker and Nathan Marsh, who will be hoping to get another bite of the cherry when local rivals Redditch come to town next Saturday.
Town were far superior to Bedworth and on another afternoon the Blues would have scored six or seven.
They got the ball rolling in the 16th minute when a beautifully weighted cross from Chris Cox was met with a bullet header from Taylor.
Bedworth looked vulnerable at the back throughout the afternoon and they almost gifted Stratford a second just three minutes later.
A defensive mix-up allowed gave the lively Wilson Carvalho the chance to gobble up the loose ball. As he went to round Greenbacks goalkeeper Daniel Crane, he was tripped, before he recovered and to fire a shot from a tight angle that hit the post.
Town continued to boss the game, with Albi Skendi’s power and presence in midfield proving too much for the visitors. In the 27th minute, the towering Albanian threaded through a lovely pass to the bustling Taylor, but the striker flashed his effort across the goal and wide.
Skendi was in the thick of it again four minutes before the break when a nice exchange of passes with Lewis Wilson ended with Skendi scooping an effort over Crane and the crossbar.
Bedworth’s first shot on target arrived on the stroke of half-time when Ryan Baldwin’s 18-yard effort was comfortably dealt with by the on-loan Ross Etheridge.
Town should have really been 2-0 or even 3-0 up at the break and they were made to pay for their missed chances just four minutes after the restart.
A wayward pass on the halfway from Carvalho was intercepted by the on-rushing Kai Tonge, who raced clear before coolly slotting past Etheridge.
The equaliser was cruel on Town, but they took just six minutes to restore their advantage.
Will Grocott, making a welcome return to the side after being dropped in the FA Cup defeat to Alvechurch, floated a teasing free-kick into the area. It was flicked on by Jamie McAteer to Wilson, who bundled it home from close range.
Chances continued to fall for Stratford, who hit the woodwork for a second time in the 74th minute.
Taylor was set free and with just Crane to beat, he lifted the ball over him, but found himself too wide to take a shot on. He played it back to Grocott, who looked certain to score, but the midfielder’s shot rattled the bar before it was scrambled to safety.
A third goal seemed just a matter of time and finally it arrived with 11 minutes to go. A great header from Taylor put Grocott into space out wide. Grocott’s shot at goal was blocked by Crane, before a second attempt saw him opt for a cross to the lurking Taylor, who side-footed home from close range.
Tiredness had kicked in for the visitors in the closing stages and Town continued to carve them open with relative ease.
Taylor was denied his hat-trick by Crane after a one-on-one, while with a minute to go, another one-on-one saw young striker Harry Draper, on loan from Stevenage, denied by the busy Bedworth keeper.
The win moves Stratford up three places to 15th in Southern League Premier Central and another three points against an out-of-sorts Redditch next Saturday could see them move up into mid-table.
Stratford Town: Ross Etheridge, Chris Cox, Kieren Westwood, James Fry (c), Jordan Williams, Jamie McAteer, Will Grocott (Ross Oulton 87), Albi Skendi, Lewis Wilson, Michael Taylor (Harry Draper 87), Wilson Carvalho (James Hancocks 82). Subs not used: Eli Bako, Jarrell Hylton.
Bedworth United: Daniel Crane, Jake Whitmore, Elliot Parrott (Kai Tonge 30), Delroy Gordon, Tom Sharpe, Ryan Baldwin (Kieron Brehon 82), Reece Blackmore, Daniel Dubidat (Iysden Christie 61), Alex Troke (c), Barry Fitzharris. Subs not used: Mark Albrighton, Jack Jeys.