Gavin Hurren praises the 'Bardy Army' after Stratford Town claim crucial win at AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-2 Stratford Town
Southern Premier Central
GAVIN Hurren thanked the supporters for travelling down to AFC Rushden & Diamonds in their numbers as ten-man Stratford Town battled to their first win since October, reports Stuart Morse.
Saturday’s match was a classic six-pointer with the Diamonds lying rock-bottom of the Southern Premier Central table and the Bards in 20th, both in desperate need of wins to climb out of the relegation zone.
Hurren’s men had failed to win on the road this season but that wretched run looked to be ending when Carl Dickinson headed in from Will Grocott’s corner in the 34th minute.
However, controversy struck when Dan Lafferty was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 58th minute after a case of mistaken identity. Despite being down to ten, the Bards battled on and sealed all three points when Grocott stroked home from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time.
The win brought an end to a run of five straight league defeats and it was their first since the 4-2 success over Needham Market on 22nd October.
“Before this game we had 18 cup finals left. We’re both down there and we knew it was going to be a battle,” said Hurren.
“The pitch was a tough one to play on but we set up with a game plan and the lads delivered everything we asked of them.
“They gave their all, they fought, they ran, they did everything that needs to be done to win a match.
“Jack Turner came back into the team and was a man mountain, Josh Hawker stood out, Jamie Molyneux had a really good first half. I could go through the whole team. everyone from numbers one to 16 did everything they needed to do.”
He added: “The fans were fantastic. We’ve been up against it but they turned up in their numbers on Saturday and it meant so much.
“We’re working hard to get out of this but there’s still a long way to go. It’s a big three points but we need to go again.”
There were four changes to the side which faced Royston Town a fortnight ago.
Paul McCone was missing through illness so Turner slotted into the defence alongside Dickinson.
Molyneux was handed a start as Mikey Taylor dropped to the bench, while Grocott resumed as captain at the expense of Hamilton Bunga, who was joined on the bench by new recruit Jaylan Wildbore.
Meanwhile, the Diamonds had just gone through a complete change of personnel and had seven debutants in their line-up.
The first chance of the game went to the hosts as a poor back pass from Taylor Morrison put goalkeeper Liam O’Brien under pressure as his clearance was charged down by Andy Mandjoba.
Stratford started to settle and it was the visitors who were playing the better football with Molyneux, Andre Wright and Callum Ebanks linking well.
And in the 34th minute the Bards had their reward when Grocott’s in-swinging corner was met by Dickinson who headed home for his first goal since signing for the club.
Despite some late pressure from the home side, Stratford managed to get into half-time with their lead still intact.
The Bards started the brighter after the restart but just before the hour mark they were reduced to ten men.
Hawker and Turner had both put in a challenge on a Diamonds player just past the centre circle. Turner was booked but the referee then handed a second yellow to Lafferty who was nowhere near the action.
The Bards knew they were going to be up against it with 32 minutes plus stoppage time remaining.
However, they continued to play the better football and with quarter of an hour to go the recently introduced Taylor bore down on goal and was clipped after rounding Dean Snedker in the Diamonds goal.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Grocott calmly slotted home after a lengthy delay to give Stratford some crucial breathing room.
Hurren’s men then managed to see out the remaining minutes to pick up a much-needed victory.
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS: Dean Snedker, Luca Doorbar-Baptist, Miguel Lopes De Matos, Sidik Atcha (Fraser Corden 75), Evangelos Empochonstif, Luke Massingham, Andy Mandjoba, Charlie Pattison (Anthony Agemoh-Davies 80), Jenson Cooper (James Burnside 73), Conor Tee, Joel Anker. Unused subs: George Joyce, Charlie Waller).
STRATFORD TOWN: Liam O’Brien, Dan Lafferty, Taylor Morrison, Josh Hawker, Carl Dickinson, Jack Turner, Jamie Molyneux (Adulai Sambu 86), Jesse Akubuine, Callum Ebanks (Jaylan Wildbore 88), Will Grocott, Andre Wright (Mikey Taylor 67). Unused subs: Louis Beresford, Hamilton Bunga.
REFEREE: Gareth Davis