It’s ‘Ice’ and easy but Bards leave it late
Long Eaton United 2
Stratford Town 3
STAR man Lewis Ison’s ice cool stoppage time winner secured all three points for the Bards at Grange Park on a wintry afternoon in Nottinghamshire, reports Kevin Hand.
The Bards’ starting 11 was a familiar and reassuring sight with captain Paul McCone and other senior players returning after sitting out the Birmingham Senior Cup defeat at Bedworth United. There was also a start for Jamie Molyneux on the right following his return to the club in the absence of the injured Jack Storer.
The opposition included Joseph Nyahwema who had trialed for Stratford 12 months ago and was to be a major influence in the game.
The contrast in the ‘form stats’ coming into the fixture were stark with the home side on an eight-game losing streak having conceded 28 goals while the Bards were on a winning sequence of three including victory over table-toppers Mickleover. And for 30 minutes this seemed to be a self-fulfilling prophecy as Stratford went two-up, but a barnstorming performance from the Blues made for a nervy and heart-stopping finale.
Stratford made a strong start and on five minutes Callum Ebanks played in Ison whose shot was turned aside by the keeper who then denied Ebanks five minutes after good work by Dylan Barkers. It was all Stratford with Long Eaton barely able to get a kick as Tom Solanke ruled midfield and with Chris Hussey and Paul McCone dominating at the back.
The opener came on 26 minutes. A Hussey corner from the right went all the way to the back post where skipper McCone tapped home.
Ebanks was provider for Stratford’s second on 29 minutes that was finished emphatically by Ison. The Bards were rampant and when Ebanks nicked the ball off Riece Bertram on 37 minutes and bore down on goal, it needed a timely save from Ross Durrant to prevent a third.
Slackness and perhaps over-confidence seeped into Stratford’s play and Long Eaton’s opener came from a simple long ball on 42 minutes, James Spruce able to reduce the arrears.
The second half saw the Blues fly out the traps. The Bards were never easy in possession and with the hosts pressing relentlessly, it was no surprise when Nyahwema levelled on 67 minutes after he gathered another long ball.
Long Eaton then went close to taking the lead when the excellent Spruce won the ball but this time Nyahwema was wasteful from a good position.
In the end, Stratford were grateful to ‘ice man’ Ison for betting the late winner with a stunning strike.
Stratford Town: O’Brien, Vann, Worley, Hussey, McCone, Solanke, Molyneux (Laffety 64), Barkers (Wilson 84), Ebanks, Ison, Williams. Subs (not used): O’Sullivan, Daly, John.