Keepers in star roles but Stratford suffer narrow defeat

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FOOTBALL

Stratford Town Youth 1-2 Halesowen Town
Midland Floodlit Youth League, Premier Division South
Report by Bryan Hale

HALESOWEN came out on top at an Arctic-feeling MoodChimp Stadium on Thursday evening after a tightly-fought encounter notable for outstanding performances from the respective keepers.
Halesowen’s Harry Sulley set the tone with an early penalty save while Town’s Archie Donaldson kept Nick Ballinger’s side in the game with a succession of top drawer saves as Halesowen piled on the pressure in the second half.
Town made an encouraging start and had a great chance to take the lead with only a quarter of an hour gone when George Dawson was brought down in the penalty area.
Getting up to take the spot-kick himself, he hit it low to Sulley’s left but the keeper guessed correctly and got down well to push it behind.
Dawson tried to make amends shortly after as he wriggled his way along the byline on the right but again Sulley denied him with a smart save at the foot of the post.
As Halesowen responded Donaldson pushed away a fiercely-struck effort on the half-hour mark followed by Sulley doing well to hold a low drive from Ben Couki before Halesowen took the lead on 41 minutes with a close-range finish from Danny Danks.
Town looked for an immediate equaliser but a decent 20-yard shot from Harry Hartin in the final minute of the half was once more safely held by Sulley as Halesowen went in at the break one-up.
Halesowen began to boss the crucial midfield possession after the break forcing Town to defend in depth and in numbers. Donaldson was soon in action beating away a number of on target efforts and also having to deal with several crosses into the six-yard box, but he was eventually beaten by Jamaal Thompson with 20 minutes to go who lashed it in from 15 yards out to double Halesowen’s lead.
Town tried to hit back with James Pomeroy looking particularly lively wide on the left and the game took a final twist when they pulled a goal back on 88 minutes.
Halesowen conceded a free-kick right on the edge pf the penalty area and when Sulley could only parry Yusuf Saleem’s drive Frankie Evans reacted the quickest to bundle the rebound over the line.
Suddenly Town had the chance of rescuing a point but time was on Halesowen’s side and despite a couple of panicky clearances they were able to see the game out and clinch the win.