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Stratford Town conclude Southern Premier Central campaign with score draw at Bromsgrove Sporting



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A YOUTHFUL Stratford Town battled back from a goal down to claim a point from their final game of the season at Bromsgrove Sporting.

Having fell behind to a Matthew Barnes-Homer penalty in the 27th minute, the Bards – who had seven players under the age of 20 in their squad due to injuries – restored parity through the lively Brennan Denness-Barrett ten minutes later.

In the second period the woodwork came to the rescue of Stratford when Josh Quaynor’s free-kick smacked against the inside of the post. Despite having to spend a lot of the second 45 defending, the youthful Bards held firm to salvage a well-deserved point.

The draw brought an end to a run of three straight defeats and while the Bards currently sit 13th in the table following the conclusion of their fixtures, at worst they could end the campaign in 15th if St Ives Town and Redditch United win their respective games in hand.

Interim boss Ian King made four changes to the team which fell to a crushing 3-0 defeat at home to St Ives Town on Saturday, with Paul Field, Bailey Aisthorpe, Ross Oulton and Denness-Barrett replacing James Fry, Dan Vann, Will Dawes and Jack Storer.

The opening exchanges were fairly even, but the Rouslers always looked dangerous down the wings, with Joseph Willis and Barnes-Homer not afraid to put the ball into the box and test the Stratford defence.

But it was the visitors who carved out the first key chance of the half, with Dan Lafferty neatly threading the ball through to Will Grocott whose left-footed effort from just outside the box flew narrowly over.

Five minutes later, though, Liam O’Brien was called into action, superbly getting down low to his right-hand side to stop Willis’ powerful header creeping in at the near post.

Midway through the half the home side were awarded a penalty when Harry Higginson brought down Callum Ebanks, and Barnes-Homes made no mistake from 12 yards, firing high into the top corner to give his side the lead.

Just two minutes later the Bards came within a whisker of restoring parity, but Oliver Taylor flung himself to his right to tip behind Grocott’s fiercely-struck volley.

But the Bards continued to plug away and eight minutes before the break they got a deserved equaliser.

A quickly taken corner from Grocott found Lafferty and he surged into the box before cutting the ball back to Denness-Barrett who fired high into the roof of the net from six yards out.

And Denness-Barrett came close to putting his side in front of the stroke of half-time.

After coming out the better of a contentious 50:50 challenge in the area with Jordan Goddard, Denness-Barrett picked up the loose ball, created some space to get the shot off, but he was always leaning back and the effort failed to trouble Taylor in the Sporting goal.

The opening exchanges of the second period were scrappy and it took until the hour mark for the first chance to arrive, with Barnes-Homer seeing his vicious volley expertly pushed behind by O’Brien.

It took a while for the Bards to venture into the Sporting half with purpose and in the 64th minute only a fine save from Taylor stopped Denness-Barrett from making it 2-1.

After some neat play on the left-hand side, Lafferty threaded the ball through to the lively Denness-Barrett who shot back across goal, but Taylor did well to get down to his right quick enough to make the save.

There weren’t many chances for either side during the second period, but the woodwork came to the rescue of the Bards 18 minutes from time, when Josh Quaynor’s 25-yard free-kick beat the sprawling O’Brien before hitting the inside of the post and away from danger.

Sporting continued to push for the decisive winning goal to guarantee their step three status, but a youthful Stratford defended superbly to keep the home side at bay and ensure the spoils were shared at the Victoria Ground.

BROMSGROVE: Taylor, Dugmore, Quaynor, Hayward (Perkins 67), McGrath, Kettle, Willis, Barnes-Homer (Candlin 87), Ebanks (Letford 37), Goddard. Unused subs: Marusiak, Molyneux.

STRATFORD: O’Brien, Field, Aisthorpe, Oulton, Higginson, Williams, Lafferty, Sammons, Wilson, Grocott, Denness-Barrett (Collins 88). Unused subs: Vann, Beresford, Okoro, James.

ATTENDANCE: 807



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