Stratford Town 2-2 Kings Langley
Evo-Stik Southern Premier
JUSTIN Marsden left it late to fire home his first goal in Stratford Town colours but his injury-time strike was perfect timing to rescue a vital point on Tuesday night.
Town could not have wished for a better start, with Ben Stephens’ superbly-hit strike giving them the lead after just two minutes but non-existent marking allowed Ryan Plowright to level and a fluke from Jerry Amoo via a huge deflection gave Kings Langley the lead after 22 minutes.
From then on Town laboured for an equaliser but their resilience was rewarded in the third minute of stoppage time as Marsden, on as a substitute, twisted one way and then another to find space to drill a low angled finish into the net.
It had been dubbed a must-win by Town boss Carl Adams against a team just above the drop zone, but a salvaged point from an often disjointed performance felt like a victory of sorts.
More importantly, it extended the gap to the drop zone to seven points.
Town had to omit Will Grocott for the first time for a league game since his summer arrival through illness, but it was fellow midfielder Stephens who took the eye early on.
His second goal for the club since joining from Kettering was one to savour. Collecting the ball 25 yards from goal, he took a couple of strides towards goal and hammered a sumptuous right-footer beyond helpless keeper Xavi Comas.
Moments later, Comas was beaten again with Mike Taylor evading the keeper’s challenge after being put through by Stephens’ perfectly-weighted through-ball, only for visitors captain Jorell Johnson to clear Taylor’s angled effort.
But Kings Langley were full of pace and purpose and they had an equaliser on 12 minutes.
From Town’s point of view, though, it was sloppy defending from a set-piece. David Hutton whipped in a corner from the left and midfielder Plowright towered above his marker to nod home powerfully from six yards.
It got worse ten minutes later as Kings Langley went ahead with a huge slice of fortune. Town full-back Kieren Westwood blocked a right-wing cross from Jerry Amoo but the ball was sent spinning and looped beyond keeper Niall Cooper and a goalline defender into the far corner.
Stratford were stunned and their disbelief was exacerbated by the heroics of visitors keeper Comas who produced three wonderful stops to preserve their lead.
Stephens sent the ball towards the top corner until Comas stuck out a hand and then the shotstopper reacted instantly to parry Taylor’s close-range follow-up.
Stephens was again unfortunate when his half-volley was spectacularly punched away but Town were struggling to find any fluency and too often wasted possession.
In the second half. Town found more urgency but Ahenkorah and Taylor had efforts blocked as the defence backpedalled.
Kings Langley, though, threatened to add a third goal when the ball bounced to the unmarked Amoo 16 yards out but he smashed his half-volley a foot wide.
That escape signalled a cranking up of Stratford pressure while the visitors tried to slow the game.
Town skipper James Fry had his head in his hands when his rasping drive took a deflection to whiz wide and Fry’s header dropped wide before Guy Clark’s header landed on the roof of the net.
Then, three minutes into an added five, Marsden produced a moment of magic, cutting in from the left and the striker signed from Bedworth earlier this month sent a smart finish arrowing into the corner of the net.
TOWN (4-3-3): Cooper; Clark, Fry, Francis, Westwood; Summerfield, Stephens (Marsden 58), Fitzharris (Faulkner 63); Tulloch, Taylor, Ahenkorah. Subs not used: Evans, Parker, Kalenda.
KINGS LANGLEY (4-2-3-1): Comas; Cox, Folarin, Johnson, Rodrigoe; Hitchcox (Kipeya 72), Plowright; Amoo, Hutton, Balogun (Swales 75); Duku. Subs not used: Munday, Pattison, Ward.
Referee: Tom Reeves