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Stratford Town back into play-off places with 2-0 victory over Hitchin Town


Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central

Stratford Town 2-0 Hitchin Town

Report by Craig Gibbons

STRATFORD Town moved back into the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Central play-off places with a comfortable victory over lowly Hitchin Town at the Arden Garages Stadium.

First-half goals from Wilson Carvalho and Lewis Wilson proved to be the difference as the Blues moved up to fifth in the table.

Head of football Thomas Baillie made three changes to the team which beat Tamworth 1-0 on Saturday, with Ross Etheridge replacing Matija Sarkic (returned to Aston Villa) in goal, Dan Summerfield coming in for Cody Fisher (benched) and Albi Skendi replacing Kian Williams (benched).

Town struggled to get going against a Hitchin side which had lost their last six league outings and the visitors had the first chance of the game in the fourth minute when Ezra Forde headed wide from Noah Chesmain's cross.

Four minutes later Josh Bickerstaff tried his luck from range but his speculative effort flew over the bar.

Town's first shot came in the tenth minute but James Fry's effort from the edge of the area was straight at Hitchin keeper Michael Johnson while Nabil Shariff flashed an angled drive wide of the far post five minutes later.

However, three minutes later the deadlock was broken and in some style too as Carvalho cut inside on the far side before unleashing a delicious curling shot into the far corner beyond the outstretched arm of Johnson.

Moments later Etheridge had to be at his best to deny Dan Webb from Isaac Galliford's corner, scrambling across his line to deny the header from creeping into the far corner as the visitors looked to get back into the game.

But they fell 2-0 behind three minutes later when the Hitchin defence failed to clear a long ball which allowed Shariff the opportunity to play in Wilson, who slotted the ball through the legs of Johnson from close range.

Town were almost out of sight in the second minute of first half stoppage time but Albi Skendi's low shot after some fantastic build-up play was saved down low by Johnson.

Hitchin came out after the break all fired up to get back into the game and had enough chances in the opening five minutes of the second period to do so, but wasteful finishing from Galliford and Michael Cain, with the latter blazing over from a couple of yards out when it looked harder to miss.

Galliford continued to be the focal point of all chances created and he almost pulled one back just past the hour mark but his free-kick from the right side of the box was well saved by Etheridge.

Town struggled through the half and their first meaningful attack of the second period in the 68th minute saw Carvalho's shot from a tight angle cleared only as far as Skendi, who blazed wide from 20 yards out.

Hitchin continued to press and the ever-present Galliford almost made it 2-1 with five minutes to but Etheridge managed to shift his weight quickly to the opposite side to get a hand on his low effort.

The visitors showed no signs of letting off the gas in the dying moments but their efforts to bag a consolation were finally thwarted when the full-time whistle blew to bring an end to proceedings.

TOWN: Ross Etheridge (GK), Dan Summerfield (Kian Williams 45), Kynan Isaac, James Fry (C), Jamie McAteer, Jordan Williams, Lewis Wilson, Albi Skendi, Nabil Shariff (Felipe Barcelos 76), Will Grocott (Dan Preston 81), Wilson Carvalho. Subs: Cody Fisher, Ross Oulton.

HITCHIN: Michael Johnson (GK), Jack Green, Noah Chesmain, Jay Dowie (Max Ryan 87), Dan Webb, Lewis Ferrell, Michael Cain (Scott Belgrove 76), Josh Bickerstaff, Ezra Forde, Isaac Galliford, Alfie Cue. Subs: Kieran Barnes, Edwin Mensah, Craig Packham.

Full report and reaction in Thursday's Herald.

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