Stephens double gives stylish Town victory

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Ben Stephens scored two superb free-kick against Evesham. Photo: Mark Williamson

FOOTBALL

Stratford Town 2

Bromsgrove Sporting 1

Pre-season friendly

BEN STEPHENS rounded off an excellent individual display with two goals to give Stratford Town victory at the MoodChimp Stadium in their penultimate friendly on Tuesday night.

There were plenty of pluses from 1 to 11and substitutes for boss Carl Adams, and victory was assured after two sublime finishes from midfielder Stephens sandwiched a Wade Malley effort.

There were certainly signs, especially in the first half, that Town are starting to find their rhythm, mixing plenty of invention with buckets of endeavour.

Stephens was the the fulcrum, finding space to link with front two Edwin Ahenkorah and Mike Taylor, while Lee Thomas and Charlie Evans charged forward to provide width.

Chances came on a regular basis. Ahenkorah slipped in the opening stages just as he fired goalwards but it wasn’t long before Town had their opening goal. It was a mix of perseverance and panache, with Taylor collecting Ahenkorah’s superb flick and though the big No 9 was crowded out on the edge of the area, he kept his calm to set up Stephens for a curling shot into the corner of Reece Francis’ net.

Thomas flashed a volley out of the ground after connecting with Stephens’ pass before Stephens was denied by the keeper from a Taylor flick. Only the woodwork kept out Ahenkorah’s ferocious 20-yarder after he shimmied one way and another.

Sporting, who start their competitive season on Monday, were working hard to stifle Town but they had a couple of glimpses of goal. Early on Max Loveridge’s drive was parried by keeper Louis Connor and then John Pykett side-footed wide with the goal gaping.

If that was a let-off, Sporting made amends two minutes into the second half with the equaliser. Full-back Josh Quaynor crossed from the left and Malley was unmarked to tap in from six yards.

Seven minutes later, Stratford had regained the advantage, with another well-constructed finish. Evans made a break down the right, Will Grocott clipped the ball into the feet of Stephens and he nimbly clipped his shot over the keeper into the net.

Stephens had a great chance for a hat-trick shortly afterwards, taking Taylor’s pass in his stride but hooting straight at Francis.

It was nip and tuck after that. Jazz Luckie just could’t net a firm contact to trouble the Sporting keeper and Stephens and Grocott sent efforts wide, while Luckie raced free but couldn’t find the target.

Sporting battled and battled and shots from Aza Roberts and Sam Wills went close but not close enough.

Town: Connor; Recci, Gallinagh, Clark; Evans, Summerfield, Grocott; Stephens; Taylor, Akenhorah. Subs: Marsden, Luckie, Washbourne, Francis, Hancocks, Florin.

Sporting: Hewitt, Jones, Willock, Morris, Quaynor; Pykett, Wills, Roberts, Loveridge; Wilson, Malley. Subs: Birch, Kelly, Cowley, Savage, Fulford.