Stratford Town pick up well-earned point from their Southern Premier Central clash against in-form Alvechurch
THE crossbar denied Stratford Town and Alvechurch – who played the final seven minutes with ten men – the chance of taking all three points in a keenly-contested local derby which finished as a goalless draw.
Church started the brighter of the two sides on a cold afternoon at the Arden Garages Stadium, but the Bards eventually settled into their rhythm and finished the first half strongly.
The home side started the second half in similar fashion, but the in-form visitors were the width of the woodwork away from taking the lead in the 66th minute as Nicholas Clayton-Phillips saw his header back across goal hit the crossbar.
Church continued to push for what would have been a seventh win in eight games, but their cause was not aided when Zak Brown saw red seven minutes from time after picking up two yellow cards in the space of three minutes for silly fouls.
With the man advantage the Bards smelt the possibility of snatching all three points and in the 87th minute, the recently introduced Ahmed Obeng saw an arrowing shot clip the top of the crossbar.
The Bards continued to push forward, but Church managed to hold on to ensure the spoils were shared.
With Tim Flowers missing through illness (not Covid-related), assistant manager Ian King took charge and there was just one change to the team which drew 1-1 at Leiston, with Kynan Isaac coming in for the benched Michael O’Regan.
Both sides entered this match on good runs, but you could tell early doors as to why Church had lost just one of their last 14 previous Southern Premier Central outings.
A strong defence combined with a pacey attack saw the visitors enjoy plenty of the early possession, keeping the Bards pinned back in their half.
Although Jack Storer and Ashley Sammons had half-chances, it was the visitors who carved out the first serious effort of the half, with Clayton-Phillips’ cross glanced on by Daniel Waldron and Murphy Mahoney needed to be alert to push the ball behind.
Church continued to threaten and with 24 minutes on the clock a swift counter saw Waldron race clear and chop inside, sending the covering right-back Dan Vann to the floor, but his tame left-footed effort was easily gathered by Mahoney.
The Bards eventually started to enjoy their own spell and were causing the visitors some problems. A pin-point pass from Lewis Wilson found Will Dawes on the near side. One-on-one with his man, Dawes cut inside but could only curl straight at Dan Jezeph.
Eight minutes later the Bards missed a glorious chance to go ahead. Jordan Williams leapt like the proverbial salmon to get his head on Will Grocott’s in-swinging corner, but he could only direct the ball straight at Jezeph from point-blank range, either side and it would have been a certain goal.
Williams was in the thick of the action again two minutes later, as the centre-back went on a marauding run that was abruptly ended by Jamie Willets on the edge of the box, with the Church defender duly yellow carded for the offence.
Storer went for goal from the resulting free-kick, but his fine effort was expertly tipped over by Jezeph, as both sides went into the break on level terms.
After the interval the Bards were certainly seeing more of the ball and within ten minutes of the restart they came within a whisker of taking the lead, as Storer’s stinging drive from outside the box flew just over the bar.
Moments after the hour mark the Bards had another chance to break the deadlock. Dawes managed to break free down the left and his cutback found Grocott, but Ashley Carter timed the block to perfection to prevent the Bards skipper putting his side ahead.
After their relatively slow start to the second period, only the woodwork prevented Church from nosing themselves in front four minutes later.
Waldron’s deep cross was met by Clayton-Phillips who directed the ball back across goal, only to see it hit the crossbar. And three minutes later Mahoney's strong hand managed to push Sam McLintock's fierce left-footed drive behind for a corner.
The game changed seven minutes from time when Brown, who had been booked just three minutes earlier, picked up his second yellow card of the afternoon and was sent for an early shower.
Galvanised by this, the Bards could sense a winner and had it not been for the woodwork, substitute Obeng would have surely bagged it. A raking pass found the former Leamington man on the right-hand side and after jinking inside, his fine effort glanced the top of the crossbar.
The Bards kept Church pinned back with a string of stoppage time corners, but they could not find a winner and came away with a deserved point which moved them up to 10th in the table.
STRATFORD: Mahoney, Vann, Isaac, Wilson, Magunda, Williams, Dawes, Storer (Obeng 81), Wakefield (Fry 75), Grocott, Sammons. Unused subs: Lafferty, O’Regan, Andoh.
ALVECHURCH: Jezeph, Cassidy, Burton (Ezewele 45+2), Turton, Willets, Carter, McLintock, Brown, Waldron, Dias (Hallahan 64), Clayton-Phillips (Skeen-Hamilton 75). Unused subs: Phillips, Patterson.