Off-the-pace Stratford Town brushed aside by St Ives Town in final home game of Southern Premier Central season
STRATFORD Town's final home game of the 2021-22 Southern Premier Central campaign ended in disappointment, as St Ives Town ran out comfortable 3-0 winners at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Dylan Williams's penalty and clinical finish from Liam Cross inside the first 15 minutes had put the visitors in control, before former Bards man Nabil Shariff popped up at the back post seven minutes into the second half to tap in the third to secure all three points for his side.
Off-the-pace Stratford never really threatened throughout and the defeat means they have now won just one of their last six league outings.
There were three changes to the team which lost at Royston Town last time out, with James Fry, Dan Vann and Will Dawes coming in for Paul Field, Bailey Aisthorpe and Owen James who all dropped to the bench.
With a healthy crowd in attendance on a glorious sunny afternoon, the Bards were looking to give the fans a good send off in their final home game of the campaign, but with just six minutes on the clock they were a goal down.
Dan Lafferty was adjudged to have handled in the area in an attempt to clear from Luke Fairlamb's corner and Williams duly obliged from 12 yards out, sending Liam O’Brien the wrong way and slotting home into the bottom right-hand corner with aplomb.
Nine minutes later the visitors doubled their lead. Cross used his pace to get in behind the Bards defence before confidently firing underneath O’Brien to notch his sixth of the season and give St Ives some breathing room.
Shariff then came close to scoring against his old club when he cut inside Vann, but his effort towards the far corner was well parried by O’Brien.
If anything the drinks break came at a good time for the hosts, as it gave them a chance to regroup and take on instructions from interim boss Ian King.
But the home side’s plight was not helped a couple of minutes later when Jack Storer was replaced by Brennan Denness-Barrett after pulling his hamstring.
It took until the 35th minute for the home side to carve out their first key chance, with recently-introduced Denness-Barnett stealing possession and feeding Dawes, but his curling effort from outside the area was off target.
Dawes was again in the thick of the action moments later, firstly heading wide from Ashley Sammons’ cross before firing a tame left-footed effort straight at Edward Brearey.
But the Bards were once again indebted to O’Brien for keeping them in the match, with the shot-stopper getting a strong left hand on Williams' fierce strike towards the top corner to keep the score at 2-0 at half-time.
The Bards knew they needed to perform much better in the second period if they were going to get something from this game, but seven minutes after the restart any hopes of that comeback were dashed.
Having given possession away cheaply in their own half, a cross from the left-hand side found its way through to Shariff at the back post and he had the simple task of tapping in at the far post to put the visitors into an unassailable 3-0 lead.
St Ives continued to look dangerous every time they went forward, with Cross’ pace causing all sorts of problems on the right.
He surged into the box and cut the ball back to Ethan Johnston who had all the time to pick his corner, but could only blaze over.
O'Brien was once again called into action with 18 minutes remaining, this time pulling off a fine save to stop substitute Nehemiah Richard-Neal from adding a fourth.
The Bards tried as hard as they could to give the home fans something to cheer about, but more often than not the ball was given away cheaply in the centre of the park or there was no end product in the final third.
In the end the game fizzled out for the Bards who succumbed to their 19th defeat of the campaign.
STRATFORD: O’Brien, Wilson, Higginson, Fry, Vann, Williams, Lafferty (Field 55), Sammons (Oulton 55), Storer (Denness-Barnett 25), Grocott, Dawes. Unused subs: Aisthorpe, James.
ST IVES: Brearey, Flanagan, Johnston, Richens, Solkhon (Milne 56), Toseland, Cross (Baker 82), Hottor, Shariff (Richard-Neal 63), Williams, Fairlamb. Unused subs: Jackson, Osei-Bonsu.