BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 1 (McLean 90+1)
Rushall Olympic 2 (Letford 50, Rowley 72)
Report by Bryan Hale
FRUSTRATED boss Paul Davis has warned his Stratford Town players to stop making mistakes following their 2-1 defeat at home to Rushall Olympic on New Year’s Day.
Town put on a spirited showing in the first half to get to the break on level terms, but just five minutes after the restart Olympic’s top scorer Jonathan Letford put the visitors ahead.
A route back into the match for Town was made even more difficult when Ross Oulton was given his marching orders after picking up two yellow cards.
Levi Bennett added the crucial second goal with 18 minutes remaining and although new signing Rheiss McLean pulled one back for Town in the first minute of added time, the late flourish was too late as the Pics held on to come away with the three points.
“I appreciate that players at this level make mistakes, but what we need to do is make less mistakes,” said Davis after the match.
“Teams playing against us make mistakes, but not as many as us.
“I thought that we did well in the first half and okay in the second, and I can’t recall a game this season when we’ve created as many chances as we did on Wednesday.
“But we conceded two poor goals and when you make mistakes like that which lead to goals they cost you games.
“We also made mistakes at the other end such as not shooting when the opportunity arrives or not moving the ball quickly enough.
“And that’s frustrating because I felt at half-time that we would score and that if we kept a clean sheet we would win, but because of our mistakes we didn’t keep a clean sheet and we didn’t score enough goals which is why we ended up with nothing.”
After the Boxing Day debacle at Banbury United, there were a number of changes to Town’s starting line-up, beginning in goal where Jack Bennett was preferred to Sam Lomax.
New signing Gedeon Okati, who has joined from Banbury, came into the backline and took the left-back slot with Lewis Wilson taking over from Matt Bower in the centre.
Elsewhere, Kai Woollard-Innocent replaced Kyle Ambris and there was another new face in Javia Roberts – who has previously been at Alvechurch and Walsall Wood – plus the welcome return of Ross Oulton after a six-game injury absence with Foday Nabay and Will Davidson making way.
And on the substitutes bench, there were two more recruits in Charlie Ten-Grotenhuis and McLean, who have arrived from Farnborough and Wisbech Town respectively.
Roberts soon announced himself with a fierce drive inside the opening minute which was deflected behind, and as Town made a lively start, Pics goalkeeper Jonathan Platt pulled off a spectacular save leaping to his right to push away a well-struck shot from Chris Wreh.
Soon after Roberts had another on-target effort blocked before the Pics began to settle down with Alex Moore firing over with their first serious goal attempt in the 20th minute.
Moore was closer five minutes later with a header from an Asa Charlton cross followed by Bennet confidently holding a long-range effort from Dan Waldron, but Roberts was causing the Pics defence plenty of problems with his pace on the right and on 35 minutes he sprinted clear to whip in a low cross which fizzed across the six-yard box with no Town player close enough to apply the finishing touch.
Town were certainly playing with a bit more verve than recently and ended the first half strongly, with Platt doing well to cut out a Woollard-Innocent cross and Kyle Rowley volleying narrowly wide.
But after a promising first half Town fell behind only five minutes into the second when they couldn’t deal with a simple long pass down the inside right channel, with Letford outpacing Wilson to slot the ball through the advancing Bennett’s legs into the empty net.
Town needed a quick leveller if they were to get back into the game, but Oulton fired wide from distance and Woollard-Innocent fatally hesitated when faced with a clear opening
The hosts the squandered the best chance of all on the hour mark when Woollard-Innocent and Roberts combined down the right, with the former’s cross reaching Tom Mehew at the far post who could only sidefoot it weakly straight at the relieved Platt from no more than two yards out.
And it got even worse for Town on 68 minutes when Oulton was sent off.
Having received an early yellow card in the game’s opening minutes for a typically wholehearted challenge, he lunged in again and the second yellow followed by the mandatory red was inevitable.
Four minutes later the result was put beyond doubt when Pics substitute Levi Rowley neatly controlled a Charlton cross from the left to steer it past Bennett and all they had to do from then on was close the game out which they were able to do without any really serious alarms.
McLean managed to pull one back for Town as the game headed into added time after good work from Wreh, but it was too little too late, and with Leiston beating Needham Market in the afternoon’s early kick-off, Town have now slipped into the bottom four as their situation becomes increasingly desperate.
TOWN: Jack Bennet, Dan Vann, Kai Woollard-Innocent (Rheiss McLean 64), Courtney Richards, Gedeon Okito, Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Ross Oulton, Chris Wreh, Tom Mehew (Charles Ten-Grotenhuis 80), Javis Roberts (Shiloh Remy 80). Unused subs: Matt Bower, Will Davidson.
OLYMPIC: Jonathan Platt, Mitchell Clarke, Asa Charlton, Dan O’Callaghan (Levi Rowley 62), Sam Whittall, Orrin Pendley, Dan Waldron, Alex Moore, Basa Sawyers (Kieran Cook 64), Jonathan Letford, Richard Batchelor. Unused subs: Reece Mitchell, Jakob Burroughs, Lee Smith.