Stratford Town down rivals Redditch United to register first three points of new Southern Premier Central campaign
Stratford Town 2
Obeng 22, Dawes 39
Redditch United 1
Southern Premier Central
STRATFORD Town registered their first three points of the season with a 2-1 victory over close rivals Redditch United at the Arden Garages Stadium tonight, Tuesday.
The last time these two sides met was on 27th October when the Bards ran out 2-1 winners thanks to first-half goals from Callum Powell and Ashley Sammons in what proved to be the last Southern Premier Central game of the 2019-20 season before it was curtailed due to Covid-19.
Fast-forward ten months and the outcome of this game followed exactly the same path, with Paul Davis’s men racing into a commanding 2-0 first-half lead through goals from Ahmed Obeng and Will Dawes.
Experienced non-league veteran Asa Charlton pulled one back for the visitors just past the hour mark and while the Reds pushed hard for the equaliser, they could not find a way through a stubborn Stratford defence.
Head coach Davis made three changes to the team which suffered a 3-1 defeat to Coalville Town on the opening day of the season on Saturday, with Jack Turner, Dawes and Sammons – making his second debut for the Bards after returning from Halesowen Town – all coming in for Dan Vann, Enoch Andoh and Jack Self who found themselves on the bench.
Meanwhile, the Reds line-up featured former Bards loanee Dan Sweeney as well as goalkeeper Kieran Boucher who once spent a pre-season at the Arden Garages Stadium before returning to Redditch for the curtailed 2020-21 campaign.
And it was the Bards who started the brighter of the two sides, with Sammons forcing Boucher to save down low to his left with a long range effort in the third minute before Dawes saw a tame effort blocked at the near post three minutes later.
The hosts continued to dominate proceedings in a blistering opening quarter-of-an-hour display and only the woodwork kept the scores level in the 15th minute.
Kynan Isaac went on a surging run right through the heart of the Redditch defence before unleashing a fierce drive which cannoned off the inside of the post and spun away from goal.
This kind of dominance certainly deserved a goal and in the 22nd minute the Bards got exactly that.
A perfectly weighted ball from Sammons set Obeng free down the right and he drove at his man before cutting inside with finesse and arrowing a left-footed shot into the back of the net beyond the outstretched hand of a despairing Boucher.
With someone of Sweeney’s ability up front, the Reds were always going to be a threat when they did go forward and it was the lively striker who had a chance to draw his side level in the 28th minute, but his curling effort from the edge of the area went just wide of the mark.
However, the visitors rarely ventured into the Bards’s penalty area and with six minutes of the first half remaining the hosts got a thoroughly deserved second goal.
Dawes, who had been particularly dangerous throughout the opening 45 minutes, managed to create himself some space in the box following some good work on the byline. He shifted the ball onto his left foot and curled home with aplomb to make it 2-0.
Unsurprisingly the Reds made two changes at the break in a bid to get back into this game, with Lewis Hudson, already on a yellow card for an 11th-minute foul on Obeng, and Curtis Jemmett-Hutson making way for Daniel Djurovic and Callum Allchurch.
It was clear that some of the intensity had dropped from the Bards’s game and their lead was cut by half just past the hour mark when a deep free-kick from the far side was glanced on by Charlton, with the ball looping over the despairing O’Brien and into the back of the net.
That goal re-energised the visitors who had looked down and out in the first half, and while they had their chances, they struggled to find a way through a solid Bards defence, with Joe Magunda and Jordan Williams at the centre of everything.
The hosts still remained a threat and they had a series of corners throughout the half, but dangerous crosses from Sammons failed to materialise into a third goal.
But it was a mistake at the back which almost led to Stratford restoring their two-goal advantage with just four minutes remaining.
With Dawes picking up the loose pieces, he cut inside onto his left foot but could only curl wide from just inside the penalty area.
The Reds continued to plug away and after winning a corner in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, Boucher could only head wide and that would prove to be virtually the last kick of the game.
STRATFORD: O’Brien, Turner, Grocott (Self 69), Sammons, Williams, Isaac, Fry, Magunda, Obeng (Andoh 83), Gordon, Dawes (Hopkins 86). Unused subs: James, Vann.
REDDITCH: Boucher, Hudson (Djurovic h/t), Nassuncolo (May 79), George, Wollacott, Tilt, Sweeney, Nabi, Digie, Jemmett-Hutson (Allchurch h/t), Charlton. Unused subs: Cox.