Midland Floodlit Youth League, Southern Premier Division
Stratford Town 3
Report by Bryan Hale
PLAYING at the Arden Garages Stadium for only the second time this season last Thursday evening, Stratford Town Youth were ultimately comfortable winners against local rivals Alvechurch.
It was another accomplished performance by Nick Ballinger’s progressive side, who were in control virtually throughout, going in at half-time 2-0 up before adding a third in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.
They went on the attack straight from the kick-off, with Rob Singer immediately causing problems for the Alvechurch defence with his persistence and coming close to opening the scoring after just five minutes with a well-struck effort which was turned behind by the keeper getting down well at the foot of his left hand post.
Soon after Jack Ballinger wasn’t far away with a shot from the edge of the penalty area followed by Michael Boyd almost getting through until he was closed down by the advancing keeper with the ball deflecting away for a corner.
Then on 20 minutes Town had their best chance yet when Singer was fouled only a couple of yards outside the penalty area and Jack Vickers’ free-kick flashed inches wide.
With Mike O’Regan in commanding form in the centre of Town’s backline and well supported by Vickers, Rory Nicholson and Ben Cook, the Alvechurch front runners struggled to make any impact as Town continued to boss the possession.
Jamie Spiers was next to threaten for Town with his shot ricocheting away off a defender before they at last made their pressure count five minutes before the break when Singer latched onto a through pass to coolly slot the ball past the advancing keeper.
And Town doubled their lead three minutes later when Ballinger took advantage of a horrendous mix-up between the Alvechurch keeper and one of his defenders to pounce on the loose ball and slide into the empty net.
Alvechurch tried to get back into the game after the restart, forcing Town keeper Callum Monaghan into his only serious save of the evening in the 55th minute when he took off to his left to push away a goalbound header.
But as the Alvechurch revival petered out, Town regained their earlier control and went 3-0 up with 20 minutes to go when Cook’s perfectly flighted free-kick from the left touchline led to panic in the Alvechurch penalty area which allowed Sammy Mould to return the ball into the six-yard box for Ballinger to head home.
All Town now had to do was see the game out, and they could have added a couple more goals as Nicholson surged through down the inside right channel to fire narrowly wide followed by Ballinger going similarly close with three minutes left.
And then as the game headed into added time, a tempting cross from substitute Dion Love drifted tantalisingly just out of Ballinger’s reach as his hat-trick beckoned.