Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 2-0 Royston Town
Report by Craig Gibbons
STRATFORD Town moved a step closer to securing a place in the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-offs with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Royston Town.
Lewis Wilson scored the opening goal in the 13th minute when he was on hand to guide James Fry’s cross into the far corner after the Crows failed to deal with Will Grocott’s deep corner.
Mike Taylor then bagged the decisive goal eight minutes into the second half when he volleyed home from Fry’s lobbed throughball.
The result leaves Town in the final play-off place, six points clear of Biggleswade Town, eight points clear of Coalville Town and nine points clear of AFC Rushden & Diamonds going into the final three games of the campaign.
Thomas Baillie made four changes to the team which came from behind to beat Lowestoft Town 3-2 in the League Cup semi-final on Tuesday night, with the most notable being the central defensive pairing of Jordan Williams and Jamie McAteer back in the starting XI in place of Tom Fishwick and Mo Sebbeh-Njie.
Taylor was also chosen to lead the line in favour of Dan Creaney, while Wilson was brought into the team 15 minutes before kick-off after Chris Cox went off injured during the pre-match warm-up.
Town got off to a bright start on a chilly afternoon at the Arden Garages Stadium in front of a 245-strong crowd, and Taylor came within an inch of opening the scoring when he out-muscled Harold Joseph and guided the lobbed effort just wide of the mark.
A minute later Town were forced into an early change when McAteer, on his return from injury, was replaced by Sebbeh-Njie after picking up a knock.
Despite the early change, a positive Town outfit kept pushing and they deservedly took the lead in the 13th minute when Grocott’s deep corner wasn’t dealt with which allowed Fry to deliver to Wilson who glanced the ball home from ten yards out.
It took a while for the visitors to get into the game and their first chance came midway through the half when Gus Scott-Morris sliced an effort wide of the mark from outside the area before a Tom Knowles free-kick went straight down the throat of Ross Etheridge two minutes later.
That was as good as it got for the visitors in the first half and despite Town’s dominance, there was a sense of frustration among the home fans that their side did not build on their early lead by the half-time interval.
Seven minutes into the second period Town had a great chance to double their lead when Grocott’s left-footed cross found Taylor at the far post, but ‘The Beast’ could only head over the bar.
But within a moments breath, Taylor did double his side’s lead when he got on the end of Fry’s lofted pass and volleyed home, with the goal coming about after Royston failed to deal with Grocott’s free-kick at the first attempt.
As they say in football, 2-0 is the most dangerous lead of them all and just past the hour mark the visitors were offered a route back into the match when Knowles was brought down by Wilson in the penalty area, but the Royston No.11 could not convert from 12 yards as Etheridge made a fabulous diving save to his right to keep the effort out.
Royston never offered much of a threat since the penalty miss, with their best chance coming in the 88th minute when Josh Castiglione’s powerful 30-yard effort was well dealt with by an in-form Etheridge.
Apart from that, Town were never really troubled and were worthy 2-0 winners.
TOWN: Ross Etheridge, Lewis Wilson, Cody Fisher, James Fry, Jamie McAteer (Mo Sebbeh-Njie 8), Jordan Williams, Wilson Carvalho, Albi Skendi, Mike Taylor, Will Grocott (Dan Creaney 78), Kynan Isaac (Nabil Shariff 73). Unused subs: Tom Fishwick, Chris Cox.
ROYSTON: Harry Smart, Gus Scott-Morris, Harold Joseph, Joe Newton, Taylor Parr, Dan Braithwaite, Eren Kinali (Josh Castiglione 66), Luke Knight, Devante Stanley, Joe Neal (Tom Newman 66), Tom Knowles. Unused subs: Aaron Benstead, Adam Murray.