Stratford 2-1 Cheltenham Town
Report by Colin Stoner
TOMMY Wright was delighted with the result – and more importantly the performance – as his home debut in the Stratford Town dug-out ended with a confidence-building victory at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Goals from Nabil Shariff and Louis Morrison set Town on the way before League Two side Cheltenham netted through Luke Varney two minutes from time.
Conceding so late was the only downside to a really positive team display as manager Wright used 22 players in front of a crowd of 434.
Ivor Lawton, whose signature was confirmed on Friday, patrolled midfield impressively while centre-backs Morrison and Josh Endall, who both look set to sign, marshalled the Robins’ attacking threat alongside Tom Fishwick.
Upfront, Shariff proved a handful upfront as he took his goals tally to three so far.
“The lads put in a great shift and have done probably what nobody expected and beaten a League Two team,” said Wright.
“I’m absolutely delighted. It’s my first time in the dugout here and it’s a great feeling.
“I couldn’t have asked for more when we were winning 2-0 so to concede so late was slightly disappointing.
“But at this stage, it’s about getting fitness in the legs and getting the concentration right. If we keep demanding more and more, our chances of achieving something will go up.”
Town were certainly never overawed by their full-time visitors and they were more happy to build from the back, pushing and probing.
Cheltenham were unfortunate to take an 11th-minute lead when Tahvon Campbell collected Grant Horton’s pass but his lob bounced on the top of the Town bar.
Seven minute later, however, Stratford were in front after Shariff cut inside on the left and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner past keeper Rhys Lovett.
Home keeper Elliott Taylor dived to his right to push aside a free-kick from Chris Clements and also gathered from Campbell’s weak shot as the Robins looked for a response.
But Stratford went close to doubling their lead before the break as Lovett kept out a low effort from the lively Joel Gyasi after he had combined with Shariff and then Shariff’s shot was blocked by his legs.
Sam Lomax took over in the Town goal for the second half and he was quickly involved with a diving save from Clements following Rohan Ince’s pass and then keeping out a Ryan Broom strike.
In between Cheltenham striker Varney had a goal ruled out for offside but the next goal fell to Stratford, with a helping hand from Lovett.
Morrison met Marlon Lukinga’s free-kick with a flick header on 75 minutes and sub keeper Scott Flinders could only fumble the ball into his net.
Varney cut the deficit on 88 minutes as he sidefooted home after George Lloyd caused the initial danger and they almost had a leveller in injury time, only for Lomax to pluck the ball from Lloyd’s header.
STRATFORD: Taylor, Cox, Endall, Morrison, Fishwick, Lawton, Gyasi, Lukinga, Shariff, Wilson, Isaac, Fisher, Lomax, Tumelty, Ford, Dovey, Eze, Hancocks, Parker, Mukota, Wilder, Wreh.
CHELTENHAM: Lovett, Rowley, Raglan, Cole, Clements, Campbell, Boyle, Addai, Ince, Horton, Brennan, Flinders, Long, Tozer, Thomas, Broom, Debayo, Lloyd, Varney, Lawrence, Stanton, Basford, Atwell.