BetVictor Southern Premier Central
Stratford Town 1 (Flanagan 20)
Stourbridge 2 (Nicholls 33, Tonks 42)
Report by Craig Gibbons
STRATFORD Town lost for the seventh game in succession after narrowly going down 2-1 to play-off chasing Stourbridge at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday.
A lively first half for the Blues saw them deservedly take the lead in the 20th minute through debutant Reece Flanagan.
But 13 minutes later the Glassboys were back on level terms when Alex Nicholls’s diving header from Will Grocott’s inch-perfect delivery found the back of the net.
And nine minutes later the comeback was complete, with the visitors capitalising on a Kai Woollard-Innocent error which ended with Tom Tonks firing in from close range.
Defeat for Paul Davis’s men also extended their winless run to nine games, but with other results going their way, the Blues remain fourth-bottom going into Tuesday’s crunch clash at Redditch United, who have lost their last 18 league games.
The Town starting XI once again showed a handful of new faces, with Daniel Alessi, Daniel Sweeney and Flanagan being handed their debuts taking while David Neligwa made the bench, taking the number of players used to this season to 58.
Alessi is an Australian defender who has joined on dual registration from National League North side Hereford, former Walsall player Flanagan signed from fellow league rivals Rushall Olympic, Sweeney arrives at the Arden Garages Stadium on a short-term loan from National League side Solihull Moors and Neligwa is on dual registration from Kidderminster Harriers.
There were four changes to the team which suffered an agonising 1-0 defeat at Needham Market last weekend, with Alessi, Sweeney and Flanagan replacing the suspended Ross Oulton, absent Abdou Diakhate and the recently departed Chris Wreh respectively while Sam Lomax replaced Jack Bennett between the sticks.
The Stourbridge starting line-up meanwhile included former Town faces in Jordan Williams and Will Grocott, with Cody Fisher also named on the bench.
Stourbridge, who were looking to get their play-off charge back on track, started the brighter of the two sides, with Kristian Green seeing an effort parried by Lomax before the Town keeper comfortably held on to a Williams header moments later.
Three minutes later Town had a glorious chance to take the lead, with Sebbeh-Njie playing Sweeney clean through, but the last-ditch challenge from Ashley Carter prevented a certain goal.
Town, though, were finding plenty of joy with their pace up top and once again Sweeney found himself in behind the Glassboys defence in the 17th minute after getting on the end of Javia Roberts’s throughball, but goalkeeper Charlie Price was out quick to keep the scoreline at 0-0.
But three minutes later after an intense period of pressure, Town got their just rewards when Roberts’s shot deflected kindly into the path of Flanagan, who had the simple task of firing into an unguarded net.
The Glassboys went in search of an immediate response and in the 33rd minute they were back on level terms when Grocott floated a delicious cross into the box and the unmarked Nicholls powerfully headed home from close range.
And nine minutes later the visitors had turned the game around. Woollard-Innocent was guilty of giving possession away to Williams inside his own penalty area, Anthony Dwyer picked up the loose ball and laid it into the path of Tonks, who powered the ball into the bottom corner from eight yards out.
Four minutes after the break another error from Woollard-Innocent allowed Nicholls to surge at goal, but the Glassboys striker could only drill wide from 18 yards out.
Grocott was starting to have a huge impact on proceedings, with a lot of the play going through the former Town favourite.
And it was his influence which saw Dwyer get two shots on goal prior to the hour mark.
The first from the edge of the area was comfortably saved before the second effort curled inches wide of Lomax’s left-hand post.
Despite being on the back foot, Town nearly drew level with 20 minutes remaining when Tom Mehew’s in-swinging free-kick was glanced on by Sweeney, but Price plunged to his right to superbly tip the ball over the bar.
Town continued to plug away and Kyle Rowley was next to take a shot at goal, with his well-struck thunderous effort from Woollard-Innocent’s corner flying just past the angle of post and crossbar.
But that was as close as Town would come to getting an equaliser, as the visitors held on to clinch the three points.
TOWN: Sam Lomax, Dan Vann, Kai Woollard-Innocent (Will Davidson 90+4), Courtney Richards, Daniel Alessi, Kyle Rowley, Lewis Wilson, Mo Sebbeh-Njie (David Neligwa 79), Dan Sweeney, Reece Flanagan (Tom Mehew 64), Javia Roberts. Unused subs: Charles Ten-Grotenhuis, Rheiss McLean.
GLASSBOYS: Charlie Price, Kristian Green, Ashley Carter, Thomas Turton, Jordan Williams, Jordaan Brown, David Bellis, Thomas Tonks, Anthony Dwyer (Andre Landell 89), Will Grocott (Joshua Ezewele 88), Alex Nicholls. Unused subs: Thomas Kirkpatrick, Cody Fisher, Jamie Willets.