BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Nuneaton Borough 2 (Kettle 68, Powell 88 pen)
Stratford Town 0
Report by Bryan Hale
STRATFORD Town are still looking for their first points since the departure of Tommy Wright, but at least they put in a far more spirited performance than recently in going down to play-off chasing Nuneaton Borough at Liberty Way on Saturday.
Very much in the game at half-time, it was the second half that was again their undoing as the Borough went on to clinch the points with a free-kick and a late penalty.
With Tom Fishwick and Luke Rowe having followed Nabil Shariff out of the Arden Garages Stadium exit door, heading for Romulus and Worcester City respectively, and Ross Oulton suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend, caretaker boss Paul Davis was faced with a number of tricky selection decisions.
He began by recalling Sam Lomax in goal and Dan Vann to right-back, with Foday Nabay and Kairo Edwards-John coming into midfield and Chris Wreh making a rare start upfront.
The Borough side included ex-Town players Jack Byrne from the Micky Moore era and Callum Powell plus the redoubtable ex-Leamington keeper Tony Breeden.
Town had an early chance when Ravi Shamsi escaped down the inside right channel only to shoot against the advancing Breeden and soon after he linked up well with Wreh before being crowded out.
Borough responded with a couple of sharp runs down the right from Powell and a shot over from the edge of the penalty area by Devon Kelly-Evans’
A foul on Powell in the 20th minute gave Town their first really difficult moment as Alex Henshall floated over a testing free-kick, but two top-quality defensive headers from Matt Bower and Vann dealt with the danger, and when play switched to the other end Town had a free-kick opportunity of their own, but Shamsi’s effort was easily held by Breeden.
Powell was continuing to be Borough’s danger man, but was being well policed by Kai Woolard-Innocent and their next attack came from the opposite flank with Henshall’s whipped-in cross in the 35th minute cleared behind by Kyle Rowley followed by Lomax saving comfortably from Mitchel Candin.
The Town keeper then used his height to confidently collect another Henshall free-kick as half-time was reached with the afternoon still goalless.
Borough came the closest to opening the scoring three minutes into second half when a looping header from Jamie Towers drifted narrowly wide and soon after a shot on the turn from Henshall wasn’t far away.
James Clifton then tried his luck from distance, with the ball fizzing just over as Borough tried to make their pressure count, and on 62 minutes they had the perfect opportunity to do just that when Town conceded a penalty for an apparent handball.
Up stepped Breeden, who had a decent record from the spot in his Leamington days, but this time he blasted the kick wildly over with the ball hit with such ferocity that it damaged a neon light in the back of the stand behind the goal much to the ironic cheers of the crowd – something which has since gone viral!
But Town’s reprieve was to be short-lived as six minutes later they gave away a free-kick a yard or so outside the penalty area and when Henshall drove it into the six-yard box, it was spilled by Lomax and Joel Kettle reacted quickest to turn the loose ball into the net.
From then on Borough did their best to close the game down, with Town now offering little threat upfront and they wrapped up the points when Town conceded another handball penalty with two minutes left.
In spite of impassioned requests from the travelling Town faithful for Breeden to have another go, this time it was Powell and he thumped it past Lomax with the minimum of fuss to extend Town’s overall winless run to seven.
NUNEATON: Tony Breeden, Jack Byrne, James Clifton, Joel Kettle, Jamie Hood, Isaiah Osbourne (Nigel Julian 82), Callum Powell, Alex Henshall, Jamie Towers (Miles Addison 90+3), Devon Kelly-Evans, Mitchel Candin (Ryan Edmunds 76). Unused subs: Luke Benbow, Tyrel Belford.
TOWN: Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woolard-Innocent, Courtney Richards, Kyle Rowley, Matthew Bower, Lewis Wilson, Foday Nabay, Chris Wreh (Kyle McFarlane), Ravi Shamsi, Kairo Edwards-John (Matthew Campbell-Mhlope 58). Unused subs: Kyle Ambris, Boubakar Traore, Jack Bennett.