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Winning run ends and Bards exit play-offs

Stratford Town 0 AFC Telford United 3

AFTER forcing their way into the play-offs following a run of four thrilling victories, 11 goals and two hat-tricks, Town slipped out of the top five without so much as a whimper as they slumped to defeat at the hands of promotion rivals Telford.

The free-scoring Bards struggled to create anything other than an early opportunity for leading scorer Callum Ebanks and while two of Telford’s goals came in added time at the end of the game, few will argue that it was a deserved win for the Shropshire side.

Stratford were dealt a blow ahead of the game when winger Charlie Williams had to be replaced in the starting line-up after picking up an injury – recent signing Callum Coyle took his place down the left for what was his first start.

Action from Stratford Town's 3-0 defeat against Telford. Photo: Mark Williamson
Action from Stratford Town's 3-0 defeat against Telford. Photo: Mark Williamson

And things didn’t improve much for the Bards as a catalogue of errors gifted their visitors a third minute lead. Right-back Ellis Myles-Tebbutt was given far too much time to loft a ball into the six-yard box, keeper Callum Smith failed to catch it and when Ricardo Dinanga steered the loose ball back towards goal it bounced off the upright and Town defender Paul McCone before ending up in the back of the net.

Stratford’s best chance of the match came ten minutes later when Coyle’s cross from the left was perfect for Ebanks but he managed to direct his close-range header straight at grateful Telford keeper Brandon Hall.

For the remainder of the half there was little to choose between the sides with Ebanks having an effort blocked by Bucks defender Orrin Pendley while at the other end, Dinanga was denied by an Alex Worley block. Then in the sixth minute of added time, Ebanks flicked the ball past the advancing Hall only for Pendley to charge back and clear in the nick of time.

The sides continued to trade blows at the start of the second half with Lewis Ison forcing Hall into a save at the foot of his post while Telford frontman Montel Gibson skimmed the top of the bar with a shot.

But the game swung in Telford’s favour on the hour following a double substitute for the Bards with right-back Dan Vann replaced with a third central defender Liam Daly while Coyle lost his place to striker Tom Hewlett. Another change soon after saw Jack Storer – booked and fortunate not to pick up a second yellow – replaced by Dylan Barkers.

On 79 minutes the visitors twice went close in a space of a few seconds. First up, the ball fell to Ellis Brown following a quick break upfield and his shot from outside the area thumped against the crossbar. The rebound fell kindly for Montel Gibson and his shot forced a brilliant full-length save from Callum Smith in the Bards goal.

Three minutes later, the Stratford defence was carved open again as Brown charged through before squaring to Dinanga who somehow managed to clear the crossbar from six yards.

Action from Stratford Town's 3-0 defeat against Telford. Photo: Mark Williamson
Action from Stratford Town's 3-0 defeat against Telford. Photo: Mark Williamson

It seemed only a matter of time before the Bucks would add to their tally but they had to wait until deep into added time before making it 2-0. It came in the 95th minute and followed another quick break from Remi Walker who then teed up Brown who wrong-footed last man McCone before firing home.

Telford’s third came three minutes later when a quickly taken free-kick sent substitute Matt Stenson free and he rounded keeper Smith before scoring and compounding a miserable afternoon for the home side.

Stratford: Smith, Vann (Daly 60), Worley, Hussey, McCone, Storer (Barkers 74), Hawker, Ebanks, Ison, Lafferty, Coyle (Hewlett 60). Subs (not used): Clutterbuck, Williams.

Telford: Hall, Myles-Tebbutt, Fox (Moore 45+5), Piggott, Pendley, Kerr, Walker, Whittall, Dinanga, Gibson (Stenson 90+3), Brown (Styche 90+8). Subs (not used): Webster, Storer.

Referee: Neal Templey

Attendance: 1,175

Bards Star Man: Lewis Ison

Opposition Star Man: Orrin Pendley

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