Evo-Stik South Premier Central
St Neots Town 1-2 Stratford Town
Report by Bryan Hale
STRATFORD Town shrugged off the departure of leading scorer Mike Taylor to Tamworth 48 hours ago to reinforce their play-off credentials with a battling performance in an attritional encounter against struggling St Neots.
Aston Villa loanee Matija Sarkic made his debut as the fifth keeper used by Stratford this season and there was also a debut for striker Shane Benjamin in place of the departed Taylor.
On a desperately heavy pitch, the Saints were soon on the attack and in only the seventh minute their skipper Luke Knight hit a low drive from 20 yards out which was turned behind by Sarkic at the foot of his left-hand post.
Soon after Tom Wood wasn’t far away with a thunderous effort as he ran on to a left wing cross from Jack Daldy and Stratford didn’t really threaten until the half-hour mark when another Town debutant in Benjamin met a Will Grocott free-kick with a firm header which was comfortably held by Saints keeper Finlay Iron.
But chances continued to be few and far between until Stratford took the lead in the 69th minute when another Grocott free-kick was only cleared as far as Wilson Carvalho some 25 yards out as he lashed it into the top corner.
With 15 minutes to go Sarkic pulled off another smart save low to his left to beat away a well struck left-footed effort from Johnny Herd, with Jamie McAteer clearing Wood’s attempt from the rebound off the line.
Stratford doubled their advantage in the 84th minute when substitute Shawn Richards turned past his marker to slot the ball past Iron just three minutes after coming on.
The Saints gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Taylor Parr pulled one back as the game headed into added time, but Stratford saw the game out to deservedly take the points.
For reaction and the full report, read next Friday’s Herald.