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Stratford Town hold high-flying Coalville Town to 1-1 draw





STRATFORD Town defended with lion’s courage – and had some luck along the way – as they held on to claim a point from their clash against high-flying Coalville Town.

The Bards spent large parts of the Southern Premier Central fixture on the back foot, but took a 1-0 lead after 11 minutes through Will Grocott’s penalty.

Boasting two of the division’s top three scorers in Billy Kee and Tim Berridge, there was no doubting that Coalville had the firepower to turn this game around.

And 13 minutes after the restart it was the latter who restored parity with a low finish into the bottom corner for his 15th goal of the campaign.

The Ravens – who had hit the bar earlier in the first half – went for the jugular but could not find a way past a Stratford defence that was putting everything on the line.

The woodwork then came to the rescue of Stratford again five minutes from time, as Jake Eggleton’s header hit the inside of the post and bounced into the grateful hands of man-of-the-match Liam O’Brien.

The point for the Bards moved them up a place to 11th and stretched the gap between themselves and the drop zone to eight points.

Tim Flowers made just one change to the team which beat Tamworth on Saturday, with Owen James coming in for Leroy Lita, who dropped to the bench.

There was also a spot among the substitutes for Jack Storer after serving his one-game suspension for his sending off at Redditch United.

The Bards were handed a few early warning signs after being guilty of giving away possession rather cheaply, with Tom McGlinchey having a couple of shots on goal, one of which needed saving down low to his left by O’Brien.

Despite their shaky start, the Bards were awarded a penalty after 11 minutes when James was tripped after collecting a loose ball from a Coalville clearance that cannoned off Will Dawes.

Grocott coolly slotted home the resulting spot-kick with aplomb, sending Ravens ‘keeper Tomasz Bukowksi the wrong way and placing the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

Coalville continued to enjoy the majority of the possession and in the 28th minute only the woodwork prevented them from getting back on level terms.

Luke Shaw’s stunning free-kick from 25 yards out looked destined to hit the back of the net, but the ball smacked the underside of the bar before bouncing back into the area where Kee could only head wide with the goal gaping.

Having weathered the Ravens storm, the Bards enjoyed a good spell of their own towards the end of the half, with Grocott seeing a 25-yard free-kick pushed behind by Bukowski while Ashley Sammons lashed an effort high and wide after the Ravens failed to deal with an in-swinging corner.

There was no doubting the Ravens would come out all guns blazing after the restart and in the 53rd minute O’Brien was there to preserve Stratford’s lead.

Shaw’s in-swinging corner was met by an unmarked Stephen Towers at the back post, but his header was superbly pushed away by the Bards shot-stopper.

However, the visitors were not going to be denied and just before the hour mark parity was restored when Berridge’s low drive flashed past O’Brien and into the bottom corner.

Buoyed by the equalising goal, Coalville continued to attack at will.

Wave after wave of attacks, particularly down the right-hand side, came from the visitors, but Stratford’s defence showed sheer determination to ensure the scores remained level.

And on the occasion when the Bards’ back line was breached, O’Brien was there to pick up the pieces.

With the visitors pushing men forward, they were susceptible to the counter. However, when Stratford did get the ball, second-half substitute Lita cut a lonely figure up top.

As time wore on there was a sense Stratford might just be able to hold on, but with five minutes to go another slice of luck went their way when Eggleton saw his header hit the inside of the post, with the ball bouncing kindly back into the grasp of O’Brien.

Immediately up the other end Lewis Wilson came within a whisker of putting the Bards in front, but his fizzing drive flashed just wide of the mark.

Five minutes of stoppage time was to follow and Stratford needed to keep doing what they had been doing all game to come away with a draw.

Having survived the Ravens onslaught, the Bards managed to break clear and win a corner, where they would play keep ball to run down the clock and ensure the points were shared.

STRATFORD: O’Brien, Wilson, Bushaj, Sammons (Fry 90+1), Turner, Williams, James (Okoro 78), Oulton, Taylor (Lita 62), Grocott, Dawes. Unused subs: Storer, Lafferty.

COALVILLE: Bukowski, Dean, Putman, Eggleton, Towers, Taylor (Smith 89), Shaw (Waite 71), Doyle-Charles, Berridge, Kee, McGlinchey. Unused subs: Tomlin, Jinkinson, Assuncao.

ATTENDANCE: 314



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