Stratford Town's late heartache at Mickleover was difficult to take, says coach James Fry
Mickleover 4-3 Stratford Town
Southern Premier Central
STRATFORD Town coach James Fry admitted Olalekan Osideko’s 90th-minute winner for Mickleover was a “difficult one to take”, reports Stuart Morse.
The Bards had battled back from 3-1 down to get back on level terms thanks to goals from Will Grocott and Mikey Taylor, and they looked on course for a point, only to end up coming away with nothing on the stroke of full-time.
Elliott Reeves had given the hosts the lead after just four minutes when he latched on to Andrew Dales’ defence-splitting pass and finished past the on-rushing Liam O’Brien.
Twelve minutes later, though, parity was restored when a clever free-kick routine saw Ashley Sammons’ inch-perfect cross headed home by Martin Riley, who would later be forced off with a calf injury.
Mickleover nosed themselves back in front five minutes before the break when Stuart Beavon did well to roll Sam Wilding inside the penalty box and fire home. Things went from bad to worse for the Bards in the third minute of first-half stoppage time as Ryan Wilson’s superb curling free-kick from 25 yards out gave O’Brien no chance.
There was a spirited start to the second half from Stratford and six minutes after the restart they reduced the arrears as Grocott was on hand to tap in the rebound from Taylor’s initial shot.
Grocott’s set-pieces were causing the home team all sorts of problems and five minutes before full-time a corner from the left was not cleared and Taylor pounced to make it 3-3.
Stratford continued to push for a winner but in the 90th minute Carl Dickinson was caught out on the halfway line by Osideko, who calmly beat the advancing O’Brien to secure the win for Mickleover.
Reflecting on the result, Fry said: “’I’ve been here three weeks and maybe it’s a little bit of the story of the season. The lads have done so well to get back in the game and we don’t clear the ball on the halfway line and we end up losing.
“I thought we got a reaction at half-time, we had nothing to lose and I thought we were outstanding. We scored two and probably could have scored more but it’s a sucker-punch when they score so late, it’s a difficult one to take.”
Stratford made two changes to the starting XI from their previous league outing at Coalville Town, with Sam Wilding replacing the suspended Josh Hawker and Aksum White taking Jamie Molyneux’s place.
The Bards started with five at the back enabling White and Taylor Morrison to move forward as wing-backs. It appeared a very youthful side for Mickleover and speed was the key to their goals. It took the home side just four minutes to go ahead as a through ball from Dales split Riley and Dickinson and centre-forward Reeves calmly beat the advancing O’Brien.
Reeves nearly added to his tally three minutes later but Riley made the last-ditch tackle that left the forward receiving treatment for nearly eight minutes. The enforced break enabled the Bards to regroup and immediately they won a free-kick in the Mickleover half.
A superbly worked move by Grocott and Sammons resulted in the Stratford captain putting a perfect cross to the far post and Riley rose highest to head in his first Stratford goal. Stratford looked comfortable playing the neater football, however, that was all to change on the half-hour mark when Riley pulled up with a calf injury.
Gavin Hurren elected to bring on Molyneux and the word from the bench was to play a flat four at the back, with Molyneux playing on the right-hand side.
This changed within minutes and Stratford went back to a five, bringing Molyneux back over to the left and now playing wing-back. These changes and confusion allowed the home side back into the game and five minutes before half-time Beavon received the ball in the box and he cleverly rolled Wilding to give Mickleover the lead again.
Eight minutes of stoppage time were added due to the injuries to Reeves, Riley and Wilding, and in the third of those Mickleover made it 3-1 when Wilson’s 25-yard free-kick flew past the despairing O’Brien. At the end of the half Stratford’s White was advancing down the right wing but pulled up with a hamstring problem.
Dan Lafferty was introduced after the break and once again the Bards reverted to a back four.
It was a spirited Stratford from the off and captain Grocott picked up a rebound from a Taylor effort to reduce the arrears in the 51st minute. Sammons then had a great effort tipped over by home goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge five minutes later.
It was all Stratford now and Mickleover were restricted to the odd breakaway, with substitute Osideko nearly extending the home team’s lead but O’Brien tipped his effort onto the post. Taylor was causing the Mickleover defence problems and Molyneux had the opportunity to level when breaking through on the right in the 70th minute but his effort drifted agonisingly wide.
Stratford’s pressure finally reaped its rewards when, in the 85th minute, Mickleover failed to clear a Grocott corner and Taylor pounced to make it 3-3. Having battled back to restore parity, Stratford lost the game in the 90th minute when Osideko caught Dickinson napping and raced through on goal to snatch all three points for Mickleover.
Four minutes of injury time were not enough for Stratford to get back into the game and the Bards headed back to Knights Lane pointless.
The Bards have now won just one of their last ten league outings. After Tuesday night’s scheduled home game against Redditch United was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, the Bards are next in action this Saturday when Royston Town visit the Arden Garages Stadium (3pm kick-off).
MICKLEOVER: Jonathan Hedge, Lucas Yeomans, Ryan Wilson, Ethan Mann, James Butler, Philip Watt, Andrew Dales, Mitchell Rose, Elliot Reeves (Olalekan Osideko 51), Stuart Beavon, Oliver Greaves (Mason Warren 77). Unused subs: Brandon Ferron, Pablo Mills, Jake Scott.
STRATFORD TOWN: Liam O’Brien, Paul McCone, Taylor Morrison, Ashley Sammons, Martin Riley (Jamie Molyneux 30), Carl Dickinson, Aksum White (Lafferty 45), Sam Wilding (Jesse Akubuine 58), Mikey Taylor, Will Grocott, Andre Wright. Unused subs: Bennett Pitcher, Cameren Philip.
REFEREE: Daniel Pattison