Stratford Town show their character in narrow victory over Southern Premier Central basement boys Stourbridge
Stratford Town 1
HEART, desire and character were all on show as Stratford Town got the better of a wasteful Stourbridge at the Arden Garages Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Glassboys are still in search of their first win of the season after James Fry’s 37th minute header was enough to give the Bards all three points.
Although far from their best, the hosts showed real team spirit to keep the visitors at bay, with goalkeeper and man-of-the-match Liam O’Brien pulling off some brilliant saves throughout to ensure there was a clean sheet come full-time.
Head coach Paul Davis made four changes to the team which suffered a 5-3 defeat to Cirencester Town in the Southern League Challenge Cup a week ago, with Fry, Joe Magunda, Jaanai Gordon and Ashley Sammons coming in for Jack Turner (injured), Daniel Lafferty (benched), Jack Self (not in squad) and Owen James (benched).
Although it was bottom-of-the-table Stourbridge who enjoyed more of the early possession, the first key chance of the game came the way of the Bards in the fifth minute. Ahmed Obeng got in behind the Glassboys defence on the right-hand side and his miscued shot turned into a dangerous cross, but Enoch Andoh couldn’t quite stretch his leg out far enough to make a connection at the back post.
However, just three minutes later the Glassboys should have taken the lead. After the Bards gave the ball away cheaply, Darryl Knights played the ball into Montel Gibson who neatly turned past his marker and with the goal at his mercy, he somehow poked his effort wide when it seemed easier to score.
Stourbridge’s bright and dangerous start certainly belied their position in the league table, but sometimes when you’re down the bottom your luck is against you and midway through the half a number of big chances all in a matter of seconds went begging.
The dangerous Knights once again got in behind the Bards defence, only to see his effort pushed away by the on-rushing O’Brien. The ball fell back at the feet of Knights whose follow-up effort was blocked by Jordan Williams and then the loose ball was fired over by Grimsby Town loanee Gibson.
Those missed chances came back to haunt Mark Yates’s men in the 37th minute when the Bards bagged the opening goal against the run of play.
The ball made its way to Obeng about 25 yards out, he brought the ball down from a height with such ease before delicately chipping the ball to the back post where Fry, in acres of space, had all the time in the world to pick his spot and bury the header into the back of Charlie Price’s net.
Try as they might to try and end the first half with a flourish, Stourbridge struggled to find a way past the central defensive pairing of Magunda and Williams who were solid as a rock at the back throughout the opening 45 minutes. O’Brien also deserved the plaudits after making a number of fantastic saves whilst commanding his area brilliantly to thwart the Glassboys.
After a below-par first half, the Bards came racing out the blocks in the second half and within a minute they had threatened Stourbridge’s goal. Lovely hold up play from Gordon saw the striker feed in Andoh on the left-hand side of the area. Despite the angle being against him, Andoh let fly and his stinging effort was palmed away by the strong left hand of Price.
In a similar story to the first half, Williams and Magunda were putting their bodies on the line to deny the visitors from breaching through and on the odd occasion when Stourbridge did get a sight on goal, O’Brien was there to mop up the pieces.
As the game wore on the Glassboys started to enjoy more of the possession and forced a series of corners that resulted in little, but Gibson did test O’Brien with a fierce angled drive with ten minutes remaining that needed a strong hand to keep out of the net.
Immediately up the other end the Bards had a chance to kill the game off when a long ball made its way to Gordon who held the ball up well before turning and shooting, but his sliced effort landed on the roof of the net, much to the relief of Glassboys ‘keeper Price.
Stourbridge’s bad luck in front of goal was epitomised in the 88th minute when a fierce drive from Joshua Marsden cannoned off Gibson’s midriff and with O’Brien going the other way, the ball somehow went the wrong side of the post.
The Bards then held out the final four minutes of stoppage time to claim their fourth win from six games.
BARDS: O’Brien, Wilson, Isaac (Hopkins 82), Fry, Magunda, Williams, Obeng (Vann 88), Andoh (James 71), Gordon, Grocott, Sammons. Unused subs: Lafferty, Leachman-Whittingham.
GLASSBOYS: Price, Usher-Shipway, O’Hanlon, Solanke (Clayton 85), Morris, Rowe-Turner, Marsden, McQuilkin, Gibson, Knights (Gyasi 89), Wilson. Unused subs: Portman, Bushaj, Clayton, Okafor.