Halesowen Town 0-2 Stratford Town
Evo-Stik South Premier Central
SECOND-HALF goals from Wilson Carvalho and Will Grocott secured victory to push Stratford Town closer to the play-off places.
Town had hit the woodwork twice in the first half at the Grove before finally going ahead on 58 minutes after Mike Taylor had been fouled and Carvalho was unerring from the penalty spot.
Then Grocott tucked home the second on 71 minutes with a poacher’s close-range finish.
Stratford were far from their fluent best, especially in a first half littered with errors, but they ultimately had too much for struggling Halesowen.
Town welcomed back keeper Ross Etheridge who has returned for the rest of the season from Nuneaton Town, with Richard Walton dropping out of the team.
Halesowen, under new bosses Rob Smith and Larry Chambers, included two new signings, with Callum Coyle and Liam Truslove having joined on loan from Solihull Moors and Kidderminster Harriers respectively.
The hosts, too, started smartly and provided plenty of questions early on in the first half.
Lewis Reilly should have done better when he rose to meet Coyle’s left–wing cross but he nodded over while Walsall loanee Tobias Hayles-Docherty drilled a low shot into the sidenetting after a sharp turn of pace down the left.
Town struggled to keep hold of the ball to build any pressure but they still had opportunities, only to be thwarted by the woodwork and keeper Kieran Boucher.
The home No 1, on his home debut, flew to his right to parry Jamie McAteer’s half-volley from a Grocott corner and then he tipped a curling 25-yarder from Albi Skendi onto the bar at full stretch.
Carvalho went past two defenders in a teasing run down the left before firing goalwards but Boucher blocked with his feet before Town went even closer.
McAteer got a glancing touch onto another Grocott corner but the ball flew across goal and thudded against the upright.
The second half continued on the same theme, with Halesowen having the odd moment of danger but Stratford looking the more likely scorers.
For Halesowen, a neat drag-back by Hayles-Docherty conjured an opening but his shot was deflected into the hands of Etheridge five minutes into the second half.
But Town had an increasing edge in possession and chances. Chris Cox sent a header skywards after getting onto the end of an inviting Grocott free-kick before the breakthrough came on 58 minutes.
Lewis Wilson overlapped to cross from the right and as Taylor twisted to get in a shot he was flattened by full-back Joab Wheatley. Referee Neil Pratt had an easy decision to award a penalty and Carvalho slotted the spot-kick into the bottom corner.
Grocott’s trickery took him to the heart of the area, only to shoot into the sidenetting, but a second goal followed on 71 minutes.
Carvalho’s pass sent Isaac charging down the inside left channel and though his shot was pushed out by Boucher Grocott was on the loose ball in an instant and drilled his shot into the net from six yards.
Halesowen threatened to get a consolation with Coyle firing goalwards from the edge of the box but Etheridge was equal to the task to push his shot around the post.
HALESOWEN: Kieran Boucher; Joab Wheatley, Jack Kelly, Ivor Lawton, Daniele Bragoli ©, Asa Charlton, Lewis Reilly, Callum Coyle, Lee Hughes (Roland Agbor, 68), Liam Truslove (Dean Hawkshaw, 83), Tobias Hayles-Docherty. Subs: Jack Rea, Samuel Tonks, Dominic Hill.
STRATFORD: Ross Etheridge, Chris Cox, Kynan Isaac, James Fry ©, Jamie McAteer, Jordan Williams, Lewis Wilson, Albi Skendi, Michael Taylor, Will Grocott (Ross Oulton, 83), Wilson Carvalho. Subs: Andre Olunkanmi, Claudio Dias, Josh Cooke, Taylor Morrison.
Referee: Neil Pratt