Stratford Town 1-2 Cheltenham Town: Dean Holdsworth has high expectations of his players
RUTHLESS Stratford Town boss Dean Holdsworth showed no mercy in taking off a triallist who was at fault for Cheltenham Town’s winning goal on Tuesday night, declaring: “I will not accept a certain standard dropping.”
The Bards started with what seems to be the favoured starting XI for when the new season gets under way and were thoroughly deserving of their tenth-minute lead when Will Dawes tapped into an empty net after Jack Storer’s initial free-kick had been tipped onto the crossbar by Max Harris.
The home side continued to create chances but could not find that second goal and right on half-time the Robins drew level when a corner from the left wasn’t dealt with, giving Dylan Barkers the chance to smash in from close range.
After the break the visitors started the stronger and a mistake from a Bards triallist, who had only been on the pitch eight minutes, led to Callum Ebanks breaking free down the left before crossing to the back post where Dan Nlundulu had the simple tasking of finishing from close range and score the decisive winning goal.
The triallist was quickly replaced and looked visibly disconsolate but Holdsworth told the Herald he has certain expectations from his team.
“That shows the ruthless nature of me but I will not accept a certain standard dropping.”
Reflecting on the game as a whole, he added: “The lads were outstanding in the first half. The first XI we put out did outstanding against very good opposition.
"We did some good things and there are still some things to work on but we’re improving fitness-wise and in creating partnerships. Some of the young lads that came on did well and it was also good to get some of the academy players onto the pitch.
“Overall it was a good exercise for us against a good club.”
The Bards started brightly at the Arden Garages Stadium with Jamie Molyneux in particular looking very lively, and when he won a free-kick on the edge of the area after some excellent hold-up play, the home side took full advantage.
Storer saw his 20-yard effort tipped onto the crossbar by Harris but Dawes was on hand to tap the rebound into an empty net.
The Bards continued to play some neat football in the centre of the park and both Molyneux and Dawes were offering outlets down the wings. The League One visitors, whose starting XI had a blend of youth and experience, struggled to deal with Stratford’s bright start but as the half wore on they started to grow into the game and saw more of the ball.
The Robins continued to search for a way through a resolute Bards defence but the closest they came to threatening Liam O’Brien was three minutes before the interval when a speculative long-range drive from Ellis Chapman flashed wide of the mark. However, with the very last kick of the half they bagged the equaliser.
A floated corner from the left-hand side was only half dealt with by O’Brien and after a bit of pinball in the penalty area, former Alvechurch midfielder Barkers slammed in from close range for 1-1.
There were a couple of changes for both sides after the break and within two minutes of the restart it was Stratford’s triallist goalkeeper who was called into action, saving well with his legs to deny the recently introduced Nlundulu from giving the Robins the lead.
Storer then saw a shot deflect over up the other end but in the 53rd minute the visitors moved into a 2-1 lead. The Bards were guilty of giving possession away cheaply in the middle of the park and that allowed Ebanks to break free down the left-hand side, he then delivered to the back post where Nlundulu lay in waiting to tap home from a couple of yards out.
As the game wore on both sides made numerous changes, with the Bards opting for youth and giving their academy players a chance, while the Robins brought on their experienced first-teamers.
Stratford’s youngsters performed well against League One opposition and there was a special mention for Joshua Kilbride who made his debut at the age of 16. No further goals would come as the Robins saw out the remaining minutes to secure a 2-1 win.