Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central
Coalville Town 1-2 Stratford Town
Report by Bryan Hale
STRATFORD Town pulled off a crucial win as they came from behind at a wild and windy Owen Street to take all three points from one of their rivals for an Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-off spot and gain revenge for their defeat by the Ravens in early February.
With Coalville kicking down the Owen Street slope, Stratford were soon under pressure with Andrew Wright dragging his shot wide from a promising position in only the fifth minute and soon after having a better directed effort held by Laurence Bilboe getting down well to his right.
Bilboe then made a routine save as Scott McManus got his head to an Alex Dean corner before Stratford began to work their way into the game, with Chris Cox cleverly making room for a fierce left-footer which was confidently dealt with by Ravens keeper Richard Walton, who had a spell at Stratford earlier in the season.
And only the woodwork prevented Stratford taking the lead on the half-hour mark when a Wilson Carvalho cross from the left was headed against the post by Coalville skipper Steve Towers.
Walton then had to plunge to his right to push away a low drive from Albi Skendi, but the Ravens finished the first half strongly and went ahead three minutes before the break when Kyle Perry’s shot deflected off a Stratford defender and fell kindly to Tom McGlinchey who fired past Bilboe.
Barely sixty seconds later it was Stratford’s turn to be saved by the woodwork when Kairo Mitchell smashed the ball against the bar after Bilboe had fumbled a Perry cross.
But Stratford stunned the Ravens by equalising five minutes into the second half when Will Grocott’s sweetly struck 20-yarder seemed to take Walton by surprise as the ball arrowed past him into the back of the net.
Then on 66 minutes Stratford took the lead when Mike Taylor celebrated his recent return to the Arden Garages Stadium by latching on to Cody Fisher’s long ball and outpacing the Ravens defence before expertly slotting past the advancing Walton.
Thomas Baillie’s side are not known for giving games away from winning positions, and with Bilboe pulling off crucial saves from Coalville’s two best chances, it was Stratford who went close to extending their lead late on when Taylor headed against the bar from a Grocott free-kick and then had a fierce right-footer tipped over by Walton.
But their afternoon ended on a sour note when substitute Kai Williams was shown a straight red card in added time for a rash challenge on Kalern Thomas.