Third defeat in four league outings for Stratford Town

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FOOTBALL

Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central
Hitchin Town 2-0 Stratford Town
Report Bryan Hale

STRATFORD Town slipped to their third defeat in four games at a spring-like Top Field.

Thomas Baillie had promised changes after the midweek setback at AFC Rushden & Diamonds and the first was in goal where Laurence Bilboe, who is on loan from Rotherham United, came in for Ross Etheridge to become the sixth keeper used by Town this season.

Elsewhere, Jamie McAteer and Jordan Williams returned after suspension and were joined in the backline by Lewis Wilson while Nabil Shariff partnered Dan Creaney up front in a 3-5-2 formation, all of which meant that Will Grocott and Wilson Carvalho dropped to the substitutes bench.

Hitchin were soon pushing forward, with both Harry Draper and Michael Cain going close in the opening quarter of an hour followed by Cain shooting straight at the new Town keeper, who then needed two attempts to hold a low drive from Isaac Galliford.

In a rare Stratford attack, Shariff had a decent effort well saved by Hitchin keeper Michael Johnson, but it was the hosts who were making all the chances, McAteer clearing off the line from Alfie Cue after Morgan Penfold’s original shot had also been blocked.

But having been under pressure for most of the first half only the woodwork prevented Stratford from taking the lead right on half-time when a quickly taken free-kick caught Hitchin out and Kynan Isaac cut in from the left to smash a shot against the underside of the bar.

And it was the same piece of woodwork that was involved when Hitchin went ahead in the 63rd minute.

Galliford’s well-struck effort cannoned against practically the identical spot as Isaac’s, with the linesman immediately signalling that it had bounced down over the line.

Hitchin then missed a great chance to double their lead a couple of minutes later when Cue burst through the middle only to drag his shot wide as Bilboe advanced to challenge.

Bilboe came out best in a one-on-one with Galliford with 15 minutes to go, and Hitchin wrapped up the points on 81 minutes when the busy Galliford’s shot again came back off Bilboe and this time Ezra Forde drilled the rebound into the bottom corner.