Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central
Lowestoft Town 3-2 Stratford Town
Report by Bryan Hale
STRATFORD Town’s first ever visit to the Amber Dew Events Stadium ended in defeat as Lowestoft Town’s star striker Jake Reed enjoyed a memorable afternoon.
Town’s starting line-up was unchanged from their CSS Southern League Challenge Cup final win on Tuesday which meant that Will Grocott and Mike Taylor remained on the subs bench where Kai Williams replaced Chris Cox, who was ruled out by illness.
While Town were chasing a play-off spot, Lowestoft needed a point to be absolutely sure of staying up and they were probably still smarting from their semi-final defeat at the Arden Garages Stadium ten days earlier.
Town had a chance in only the second minute when Albi Skendi surged through to set up an opportunity for Dan Creaney, but his scuffed shot was an easy save for keeper Elvijs Putnins and with Lowestoft in particular favouring the long ball, neither goal was seriously threatened.
Dylan Williams had a shot rebound away off Jordan Williams and Ross Etheridge did well to hold a whipped in right-wing cross from Jacek Zielonka.
But on 27 minutes Lowestoft took the lead when their ace marksman Reed celebrated his 200th Trawler Boys appearance as he latched onto a through ball to shoot past the advancing Etheridge. The Town keeper half stopped it, but it had enough momentum to trickle over the line.
And seven minutes later Reed struck again with a clinical finish from ten yards out to put the Trawler Boys two up.
But Town were gifted a way back into the game six minutes before the break when there was a horrendous mix up over a backpass between Lowestoft skipper Josh Curry and keeper Putnins which allowed the alert Nabil Shariff to nip in and slot it into the empty net.
And Town could have levelled right on half time, but Creaney blazed wastefully over after being picked out buy Kynan Isaac’s pinpoint cross.
Grocott had replaced an out of sorts Mo Sebbeh-Njie immediately after Lowestoft’s second goal and there was a further Town change at the restart, with Taylor coming on for Cody Fisher and Isaac switching to left-back.
But before that change had any effect Town had equalised when Grocott’s 47th-minute corner was initially headed against the post by Creaney, who then reacted quicker than anyone else to head the rebound into the net.
With Lowestoft looking rattled both Taylor and Creaney went close after Jordan Williams had flicked on a Grocott free-kick followed soon after by Shariff having a fiercely struck effort deflected behind.
Reed was chasing a hat-trick which would have taken his Trawler Boys tally to exactly 100 and in the 65th minute that looked on as he charged down the inside left channel only to be halted by a perfectly timed tackle from the immaculate Jordan Williams.
The game was far more open now and with 20 minutes to go Dylan Williams had the next chance while at the other end Wilson Carvalho headed across goal instead of trying to beat Putnins at his near post.
But Reed was not to be denied and in the 85th minute he expertly tucked away a Dylan Williams cross to reach his century of goals and his double century of appearances on the same afternoon as Lowestoft secured their status for another season while Town’s play-off hopes remain on hold.
STRATFORD: Ross Etheridge, Lewis Wilson, Cody Fisher (Mike Taylor 46), Jimmy Fr, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (Will Grocott 39), Jordan Williams, Wilson Carvalho, Albi Skendi, Nabil Shariff, Dan Creaney, Kynan Isaac (Kai Williams 89). Unused sub: Rajan Shergill.
LOWESTOFT: Elvijs Putnins, Josh Curry, Adam Smith (Cion Wren 90 + 4) , Kyle Barker, Adam Tann, Connor Deeks, Jacek Zielonka (Henry Pollock 80), Andrew Fisk, Jake Reed, Shaun Bammant, (Armani Schaar 71) Dylan Williams. Unused subs: Cion Wren, Jack Wilkinson, Andrew Reynolds.