Lane Head come from behind to edge out FC Stratford

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FOOTBALL

Total Motion Midland League, Division Two
FC Stratford 2-3 Lane Head
Report by Craig Gibbons

FC STRATFORD let slip a 2-1 lead as Lane Head fought back with two goals in the final ten minutes to snatch a 3-2 victory at the Arden Garages Stadium.

A Craig Ball own-goal had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute before Lane Head drew level three minutes into the second period through Jake Griffiths.

Harry Hartin restored Stratford’s lead just past the hour mark, but the drama was far from over as Griffiths notched his second in the 84th minute to make it 2-2 before Liam Pullar bagged the winner three minutes later.

Boss Nick Ballinger drafted in four players from the club’s reserve side due to lack of numbers, with Adam Southorn starting in defence and Matt Nutt, Harry Dunn and Kearan Ebanks on the substitutes bench.

Ballinger had told the Herald earlier in the week how pleased he had been with the progress of his youngster’s since switching to men’s football and he would have been delighted with some of the play on offer in the first period.

Quite simply the hosts should have been out of sight before they even took the lead on the half-hour mark, with Hartin spurning a huge chance in the 19th minute after racing in on goal, but his lobbed effort was saved by Callum Smith.

Three minutes later a stinging volley from James Pomeroy looked destined for the bottom corner, only for the ball to unfortunately hit his own man and the chance was gone.

Despite their dominance, Stratford almost fell behind in the 29th minute, but Jamie Griffiths’ header was nodded off the line.

Immediately up the other end Stratford nosed themselves ahead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances as Alfred Boylin’s low in-swinging cross was skewed into the far corner by Craig Ball.

Five minutes later Ashley Wilkes had the chance to put the hosts 2-0 up, only to volley over at the back post with the whole goal to aim at.

Just before the break Lane Head a couple of chances to draw level, with Thomas Taylor shooting wide of the far post before Griffiths lashed horribly over moments later.

Lane Head came out a completely different team after the break and started playing at high intensity, with a fantastic save from Archie Donaldson denying Griffiths from making it 1-1.

But the striker would not be denied as almost immediately he nodded over the Stratford keeper from a deep cross launched back into the box, with the hosts adamant he was well offside.

Lane Head continued to press and in the 52nd minute they almost turned the game on its head, but Ball could only powerfully header wide of the mark from a corner.

After a nervous start to the second period, Stratford eventually settled down and spurned a great chance to retake the lead just before the hour mark when Ash Wilkes could only lash over after surging into the box.

Wilkes turned provider, though, in the 64th minute as his delightful reverse pass set free Hartin, who calmly slotted passed Smith to put Stratford back in front.

Stratford came agonisingly close to doubling their lead with 17 minutes remaining, but Matt Nutt’s glancing header from Wilkes’ superb in-swinging cross cannoned off the underside of the bar and away from danger.

The woodwork was rattling up the other end of the pitch six minutes later as Pullar capitalised on some hesitancy in the Stratford defence to fire an effort off the underside of the bar.

As the game entered the final ten minutes Lane Head started to take charge of proceedings and they restored parity once again in the 84th minute when Griffiths notched his second of the game with a neat turn and finish that went through the legs of Stratford keeper Donaldson.

Three minutes later the visitors turned the game around when Liam Pullar slotted home from inside the area to give Lane Head the lead for the very first time.

Stratford would not give up, though, and they came within a whisker of making it 3-3 just moments later, but his first-time volley from Boylin’s corner flew just wide of the top corner.

STRATFORD: Archie Donaldson, Adam Southorn, James Pomeroy (Harry Dunn 74), Josh Aspinall-Smith, Nick Cox, Alfie Boylin, Caine Elliott, Dan Poulson, James Macmillan (Matt Nutt 54), Harry Hartin, Ash Wilkes. Subs: Kearan Ebanks.

LANE HEAD: Callum Smith, Reece Allsop, Sam Cunningham, Jack Pain, Craig Ball, Ashley Justin, Aaron Handley (Dan Watkiss 82), Will Sneddon, Jamie Griffiths (James Kelly 38 – Liam Puller 72), Thomas Taylor, Jake Griffiths. No unused subs.

For the full report and match reaction, read Thursday’s Herald.