BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 1 (Shariff 44 pen)
Biggleswade Town 2 (White 45, Brooks 84)
Report by Bryan Hale
A WEEK is a long time in football as Stratford Town supporters found out at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday, as just seven days after ending AFC Rushden and Diamonds’ 100 per cent winning record they turned in a totally limp performance to slip to defeat against Biggleswade Town.
And there was no fluke about the result as the Waders always looked likely winners after surviving Town’s short-lived early flourish.
Town’s starting line-up showed three changes from the Bank Holiday Monday reverse at Rushall Olympic.
Sam Lomax replaced Elliott Taylor in goal while Callum Ball and Tom Fishwick returned from injury and took over from Joel Gyasi and Chris Wreh.
Town made a bright start, with Ball going close in only the fourth minute with a shot on the turn from a Lewis Wilson pass which was tipped over by the Waders keeper Sam Donkin.
The Waders responded, with Devante Stanley launching over a deep cross from the right touchline which had to be headed behind by the well-positioned Yan Ofuso followed by Dan Vann cutting out a left-wing cross from Shaun Lucien and then being in the right place again to deal with another Lucien cross.
And on 15 minutes Lucas Perry overlapped down the left to whip in a low cross which Vann once more had to cut out at full stretch.
The Waders were now looking the more threatening of the two sides and in the 18th minute, Perry took advantage of more Town uncertainty as he surged from halfway to hit a shot which was comfortably held by Lomax under the bar.
And the Waders went even closer five minutes later when a Lucien shot was only parried by Lomax and Wilson reacted quickest to clear the loose ball behind as Joe White closed in.
All the creativity was coming from the Waders as the crowd began to become increasingly restless, and Soloman Sambou was next to go close in the 33rd minute with a low drive which was deflected behind off Ivor Lawton with Jordan Gent then heading narrowly from the resulting corner.
Then on 38 minutes, Perry was only inches away as he again surged down the middle to hit a fiercely struck effort which fizzed past Lomax’s left-hand post.
But against the run of play, it was Stratford who took the lead a minute before the break as Ball latched onto a throughball from Wilson to be one-on-one with Donkin and was brought down by the keeper as he tried to wriggle past him.
It was a clear penalty and Nabil Shariff blasted in the spot-kick with the minimum of fuss.
The Waders hardly deserved to be behind and were back level inside 60 seconds when White was allowed time and space to turn in the penalty area and fire past Lomax into the bottom corner.
Tommy Wright clearly realised that changes were necessary and both Kieran Revan and Wreh were introduced for the second half in place of Yan Ofuso and Ball.
But there was little immediate improvement and inside the first ten minutes of the second half, Lomax made a routine save from Kieron Forbes followed by saving with his legs as Lucien cut in from the left and then took off to his left to grasp a header from White.
The pacy Lucien was a threat every time he was allowed to run at the Stratford backline, but the hosts, at last, came to life on the hour mark when Wreh tested Donkin with a decent effort from the edge of the penalty area.
The Waders, though, were soon back on the attack, with Lomax having to take off to his left to push away a thunderous strike from White and Cody Fisher made a couple of vital clearances as the Waders continued to pile on the pressure.
Gyasi was Stratford’s final substitute in the 72nd minute and almost immediately was scythed down by Matt Ball, who only received a yellow card with the crowd pleading for a card of another colour.
But in reality Town were only hanging on and the Waders deservedly wrapped up the points with six minutes to go when they neatly worked the ball across the penalty area from the left to the far post where the unmarked Liam Brooks had the simple task of sliding it into the net.
TOWN: Sam Lomax, Yan Ofuso (Kieran Revan 46), Tom Fishwick, Dan Vann, Cody Fisher, Lewis Wilson, Mitchell Glover, Ivor Lawton (Joel Gyasi 72), Liam Hughes, Callum Ball (Chris Wreh 46), Nabil Shariff. Unused subs: Ross Oulton, Elliott Taylor.
WADERS: Sam Donkin, Devante Stanley, Lucas Perry, Kieron Forbes, Gradi Milenge, Jordan Gent, Shaun Lucien (Drew Richardson 89), Soloman Sambou, Joe White (Ruben Soares Junior 86), Matt Ball, Liam Brooks. Unused subs: Luca Allison, Tom Smith, Kayne James-Thompson