Needham Market defeat still haunts Stratford Town boss Baillie

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Stratford Town head of football Thomas Baillie.

THOMAS Baillie admitted Stratford Town’s defeat to Needham Market earlier in the season still gives him nightmares and that he wants to put things right on Saturday when the two play-off hopefuls lock horns at the Arden Garages Stadium.

The Blues lost 2-1 to Needham back in November and Baillie labelled the result as the one which has disappointed him the most during his tenure with the club.

“On that day we were simply not good enough,” he said.

“Although we lost 2-1, we could have still actually won the game, that’s how bad it was. Out of all the games here at Stratford, that’s the one that has disappointed me the most and it still gives me nightmares.

“It’s a game that always haunts me as we did not deal with Needham well enough.

“We’re a better side now than we were then and we’ve got some players back that did not play in the defeat.

“It’s going to be a tough game but it is an important one because we want to try and put a gap between ourselves and them.”

Although Town have won their last two league outings, a 1-0 victory over Tamworth on Saturday followed by a 2-0 success over Hitchin Town on Tuesday, Baillie admitted he was still trying to improve the Blues’ attacking threat.

“We’re trying to find the best solution in the final third but I don’t think we’ve got it just yet,” he said.

“We’re not creating enough chances, we’re not scoring enough goals and there’s going to be a time when that comes back to haunt us so we have to keep searching for the player – or players – until we find the solution.

“We have not been as dynamic in the final third than we should have been over the last few weeks but we’ve managed to trundle on.

“We have got a real good feel factor at the moment and we’re motoring on so these next couple of games are really important. However, I can’t stress enough that the final third is a work in progress.

“Defensively, though, we are superb.”

After the Needham clash, Town make the trip to Lye Meadow on Tuesday night to take on Alvechurch for the sixth time this season.

The Church got the better of Town 1-0 earlier this month in the league, thanks to a stoppage-time strike from Josh March and Baillie is expecting another tough battle.

“It will be good to get the Alvechurch game over with so I don’t have to think about them for the rest of the season,” joked Baillie.

“Joking aside, Alvechurch are up near the play-offs so we know it will be tough.”

Baillie also feels Stratford Town are not getting the credit ‘they deserve’ for their progress this season.

Since former Kettering Town gaffer Baillie took over from Darren Byfield – who is now at Walsall Wood – the Blues have climbed away from the threat of relegation and are right in the mix for a play-off place with 19 games to go.

Despite this, the Town boss insists his side are not getting they praise they should be getting.

“We’re a good a side and I don’t think we’re getting the credit we deserve given what resources we have and the players that are missing,” he said.

“Maybe it’s because we go about things quietly and don’t shout from the rooftops.

“We tend to go with the steady and hard-working player rather than the player that turns himself into an internet hero via Twitter.

“We’ve got a group of hard-working players and work rate is what is winning us games.

“Over the last few games we have had no Chris Cox, no Albi Skendi, had Wilson Carvalho off ill and had to deal with the loss of Mike Taylor to Tamworth, but we have still trundled on.”

Baillie added Town had not been flamboyant about getting the job done and would continue to be that way.

“The most flamboyant thing we’ve done is Carvalho’s triple twirl in the air celebration,” he joked.

“We’ve still got aspirations of being in the play-offs and if someone had said from September we’d have gone from near the bottom to fifth-top, people would have bitten your hand off.

“I keep saying we are not the finished article but we are progressing nicely and I have faith this team can get better still.”

In other news this week, Baillie has challenged goalkeeper Ross Etheridge to keep the No.1 jersey after Matija Sarkic’s loan from Aston Villa came to end following the 1-0 victory over Tamworth at the weekend.

Etheridge, who had not played since the 5-1 defeat to AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy last month, was back between the sticks for the 2-0 victory over Hitchin Town on Tuesday night and made a number of fine saves to keep the visitors at bay.

And when asked if Town would be in the market for another goalkeeper to replace Sarkic, Baillie said: “Ross has been very good when he has been called upon.

“He did not have a good game at Fylde and his performance was below our expectations.

“We then had the option to take Matija after that game, we did take that, and we now have options to take other goalkeepers.

“It’s up to Ross whether it’s his shirt or not. At the moment it is his and we will go from there.”

Baillie added Town’s links with a number of professional clubs allowed them to bring in loan players such as Sarkic.

“No matter the playing position, we have to consider the loan deals because those players can be the difference between being promoted or not,” he added.

“We don’t have the resources to spend hundreds of pounds on players so we have to look at these kind of offers – it would be silly not to.”