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Stratford Town Youth hit back to claim a point

STRATFORD Town Youth came from two down after to share the points with Rugby Town Juniors in a fast and furious MFYL Premier Division South clash at the MoodChimp Stadium on Thursday evening, writes Bryan Hale.

Having seen their last chance of retaining their title disappear when they lost to the new champions Stourbridge on Bank Holiday Monday, the Juniors knew that only a win here would guarantee them finishing as runners-up this time round.

But Town’s storming second-half performance ensured that they had to settle for a draw, which means they will now finish third at best.

The pace was hectic from the start with Dan Atkins forcing a fine save from the Juniors keeper Robbys Maketa in only the ninth minute followed by a left wing cross from Tyrike Richards-Burke drifting over Maketa and clipping the outside of the far post.

The Juniors responded with Edward Brogden having his shot blocked by Josh Aspinall-Smyth and then blazing the rebound over before they took the lead in the 21st minute.

It was the first goal that Town had conceded in seven home matches and stemmed from an uncharacteristic mistake by Aspinall-Smyth, who had the ball nicked off him by Brogden who then ran on to slot it past advancing Town keeper Archie Donaldson.

Back came Town, with Maketa pulling off a brilliant save five minutes later diving full length to his left to parry a fiercely-struck effort from Bradley West and then recovering quickly enough to block West’s follow-up and the importance of that save was instantly apparent as play switched to the other end where the Juniors doubled their advantage.

Again, it was due to a defensive mistake, with Luke Jones capitalising on a loose clearance to volley the ball past Donaldson from 20 yards out.

As the openings kept coming at both ends, West hit a thunderous drive against the bar on 38 minutes, while the tricky Jones shot narrowly wide for the Juniors.

In the closing couple of minutes of the first half, two chances fell to Tuesday’s four-goal hero Harry Hartin.

Firstly, he twisted and turned past three defenders in the penalty area to make room for a shot which he hit straight at Maketa and then he fired inches wide after a neat lay-off from Tom Rowe.

George Kirby wasn’t far away with the first opportunity after the break, but it was then the Juniors' turn to rattle the bar on the hour mark when Gabe Webster let fly with a tremendous right footer from all of 35 yards out.

Town though were now looking the more threatening of the two sides and were right back in the game on 63 minutes when James Pomeroy surged into the left of the penalty area and drilled the ball beyond Maketa into the far corner of the net.

And from then on, Town had all the momentum with more and more of the action being concentrated in the Juniors' half.

With 20 minutes to go, Kirby hit a fierce drive straight at Maketa and then saw another similar attempt deflected behind while a Richards-Burke header flew tantalisingly the wrong side of the post and Town’s pressure eventually told with a thoroughly-deserved equaliser in the 78th minute.

Again, the move came from down the inside left channel and this time it was Caine Elliott who swept it past Maketa to make it all square.

Now it was Town who were the more likely winners, with a 20-yard first time effort from Kirby being shovelled round the post by Maketa and two or three corners being nervously headed away by the Juniors' defence.

However, the winner wouldn’t come and at the final whistle a draw was probably the fairest outcome to what had been a cracking game between two evenly-matched side who had both given 100 per cent.

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