STRATFORD Town made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season as struggling Redditch United slumped to their seventh defeat in eight league games on Saturday, writes Bryan Hale.
It may have been the only Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central fixture of the day due to both Stratford and Redditch having already exited the Emirates FA Cup, but it was certainly not lacking in interest or intrigue as both clubs had been making the headlines off the pitch during the week.
Stratford had announced the appointment of ex-Kettering boss Thomas Baillie in the new role as head of football while the Reds had replaced manager Paul Davis with Paul Smith following his departure from Highgate.
But on the field it was Stratford who ran out deserving winners in a game in which the Reds seldom really threatened.
Mohammed Sebben-Njie had an early effort well held by Stratford keeper Ross Etheridge, but with most of the action in midfield there was little to excite the crowd until the 25th minute when Redditch keeper Louis Connor – who was Strtatford’s regular stopper last season – mis-kicked as he tried to clear a backpass.
The ball looped into the air and dropped to Mike Taylor, whose header landed on the roof of the net, but the burly striker was bang on target on 33 minutes when he headed Stratford into the lead from a Will Grocott free-kick for his fifth goal of the campaign.
And Stratford doubled their lead five minutes later when Grocott’s corner was turned in by Jordan Williams.
Connor kept Redditch in the game in the early minutes of the second half with smart saves from Lewis Wilson and Wilson Carvalho as Stratford pressed for a third goal which would surely clinch the points, but the Reds responded with substitute Nyeko Sinclair not far away from 25 yards out and a fiercely-struck shot from Montel Gibson only being held by Etheridge at the second attempt.
Stratford though continued to have the better of the possession and were agonisingly close to adding a third with a quarter of an hour to go when Eli Bako’s curler from the edge of the penalty area came back off Connor’s left hand post with the keeper well beaten.
Baillie was naturally pleased with the result and said: “It was good to get the win, but we need to show a bit more confidence and that will come with the results.
“We were better in the first half but for whatever reason we didn’t really get going in the second, but we are progressing and I’m sure we’ll soon be moving up the table.”