Stratford Town hold league leaders Stourbridge to goalless stalemate
Evo-Stik South Premier Central Stratford Town 0-0 Stourbridge
Report by Craig Gibbons
STRATFORD Town brought the curtain down on 2018 with a 0-0 draw against league leaders Stourbridge - a more than useful point in their push for a play-off place come the end of the season.
Town's head of football Thomas Baillie made three changes to the starting XI which beat Banbury United on Boxing Day, with Dan Preston coming in for the injured Chris Cox, Shawn Richards for Ross Oulton and Nabil Sharif in for Shane Benjamin, who dropped to the bench.
Kieron Westwood and the returning Dan Summerfield also made the substitutes bench in place of Oulton and Jarrell Hylton respectively.
The first half came and went as chances were few and far between, with both teams scrapping it out in the middle of the park in front of a 620-strong crowd at the Arden Garages Stadium - Town's highest attendance of the season so far.
While Will Grocott had a scare with a poor headed backpass in the ninth minute, Town keeper Matija Sarkic was quick off his line to stop Luke Benbow racing in on goal.
Grocott then had a speculative volley from around 30 yards fly wide of the far post before Benbow curled over a 25-yard free-kick with five minutes of the first period to go.
Town should have taken the lead four minutes later, though, but Jamie McAteer could only head against the post from close range after getting on the end of a pin-point Grocott delivery from the far side.
Nine minutes into the second half Stourbridge keeper Niall Maher was called into action to save at his near post from Wilson Carvalho, who was set up by Shawn Richards after the Town No.9 had carved his way through the Glassboys defence like a hot knife through butter.
Immediately up the other end, Sarkic had to be at his best to get down low enough to get a hand on a powerfully struck effort from Benbow from inside the area.
The game continued to ebb and flow as the half progressed, with Benbow curling over a free-kick just past the hour mark while Carvalho and James Fry had shots blocked up the other end.
Sarkic then spilt a Benbow shot in the 83rd minute as the Glassboys continued to push for the decisive winning goal.
The visitors had one last chance in the third minute of stoppage time but Greg Mills saw his powerful free-kick from a tight angle pushed away at the near post by Sarkic.
STRATFORD: Matija Sarkic, Dan Preston (Claudio Dias 70), Cody Fisher, James Fry, Jamie McAteer, Jordan Williams, Nabil Sharif, Lewis Wilson, Shawn Richards, Will Grocott (Shane Benjamin 83), Wilson Carvalho. Subs: Ross Etheridge, Kieron Westwood, Dan Summerfield.
STOURBRIDGE: Niall Maher, Aaron Hayden, Aris Christophorou, Paul McCone, Stuart Pierpoint, Aaron Forde, Kaiman Anderson, Leon Broadhurst, Luke Benbow, Brad Birch (Rob Thompson-Brown 75), Greg Mills. Subs: Darryl Westlake, Chekaine Steele, Jake Evans, Tom Tonks.
For match reaction and the full report, read Thursday's Herald.