Four-goal Stratford Town up to tenth with victory over Bromsgrove Sporting
STRATFORD Town came twice from behind before finishing strongly to secure a 4-2 victory over Bromsgrove Sporting at the Arden Garages Stadium.
The Rouslers took the lead against the run of play in the 15th minute when former Bards favourite Jimmy Fry lashed in from close range. Barely 60 seconds later parity was restored, with Josh Hawker flicking in the equaliser from Jamie Molyneux’s cross.
Twelve minutes after the restart Bromsgrove were back in front when ex-Town striker Dan Sweeney confidently stroked home from the penalty spot. Back came the Bards and on the hour mark it was all-square once again as Michael McGrath put the ball into his own net.
Paul McCone then nodded the home side in front in the 82nd minute before second-half substitute Dexter Walters secured the three points for Stratford, emphatically finishing off a swift counter-attack as the visitors pushed numbers forward to salvage a point.
Victory for the Bards lifted them up to tenth place in the table with nine points from their opening six games of the new Southern Premier Central campaign.
There was just one change to the team which drew 1-1 with Kings Langley on Saturday, with Josh Endall replaced by Patrick Zito.
There were plenty of familiar faces amongst the Rouslers ranks, with former players Fry, Sweeney, Mikey Taylor and Joe Curtis all in the squad, and ex-Bards bosses Thomas Baillie and Steve Walker in the dugout.
There was a crowd of 795 at the Arden Garages Stadium for the Bank Holiday Monday clash and it was the hosts who enjoyed the better of the early exchanges, with Rouslers goalkeeper Oliver Taylor called into action twice to keeps the scores level, firstly denying Molyneux and then Will Dawes.
However, those missed chances came back to haunt the home side as, in their first meaningful attack, the visitors broke the deadlock. Sweeney rolled McCone with ease before racing through on goal and although the initial shot was saved down low by Liam O’Brien, the Sporting No. 10 recycled the ball back into the box for Fry to lash home from ten yards out.
Sporting’s lead barely lasted a minute, though, as the lively Molyneux, who had proven to be a handful on the right-hand side, eased past his Miro Pais and fired in a cross towards the near post where Hawker’s flick crept past Taylor to restore parity.
After the fast and frenetic start, the game settled down and it was the Bards who were enjoying the majority of the possession. The Rouslers, though, always looked a threat on the break and O’Brien was called into action twice to deny Callum King-Harmes from restoring the away side’s lead ten minutes before half-time.
The Rouslers started the brighter after the break and won a string of corners but they never came to fruition, however, they were given the prime opportunity to move back in front when Will Grocott was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area in the 57th minute. Up stepped Sweeney and he calmly slotted the ball right down the middle to make it 2-1.
For the second time, though, the Rouslers could not hold onto their lead for long and within three minutes it was all-square once again. Ashley Sammons’ corner was kept alive by Dawes and his low cross was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Michael McGrath.
With 20 minutes remaining the Bards brought on Walters in place of the lively Molyneux and his introduction almost paid dividends immediately.
The former Tamworth winger latched on to the end of a Sammons cross but his spectacular volley flash just wide. Moments later Walters returned the favour. After a slicing run carved open the Bromsgrove defence, Walters teed up Sammons and his powerful effort flew inches wide of the top left-hand corner.
The Bards kept pushing and eight minutes from time they took the lead for the first time, as McCone rose highest to get his head onto James O’Neill’s long throw and direct the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
Four minutes later the Bards sealed all three points when, from a Bromsgrove corner, the ball was swept upfield to the pacey Walters who charged through on goal, cut inside the desperately chasing King-Harmes before emphatically firing into the top corner.
The visitors had a flurry of late chances as the game entered its dying embers late on but Stratford defended resolutely to ensure they came away with their second win of the campaign.
Next up is a trip to Cleethorpes Town in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
STRATFORD TOWN: Liam O’Brien, Patrick Zito, Jack Turner, Ashley Sammons, Paul McCone, James O’Neill, Jamie Molyneux (Dexter Walters 70), Joshua Hawker, Adam Rooney, Will Grocott (Dan Lafferty 80), Will Dawes. Unused subs: Louis Beresford, Felix Miles, Chris Lait.
BROMSGROVE SPORTING: Oliver Taylor, Vladimiro Pais, Harvey Gregson, James Fry, Jack Byrne, Michael McGrath, Callum King-Harmes, George Forsyth, Mikey Taylor (Charlie Shaw 61), Dan Sweeney, Ryan Edmunds. Unused subs: Joe Curtis, Lewis Wright, Dominic Perkins, Kieron Dawes.
REFEREE: Liam Beames
MATCH RATING: 4/5