Beaten in vital clash

01/02 Updated: 09/02 09:08

Stratford 1 Melton 2

STRATFORD failed to ease their relegation fears after slipping to a fourth successive Midlands One defeat on Saturday.

It was something of the proverbial six pointer as five of the 12 sides look likely to be relegated and only two points separating the teams going into the game.

Both sides looked reasonably well organised with neither attack being able to penetrate solid defences.

A Melton penalty corner was well saved by Martyn Helliker whilst Craig McKee saw his penalty corner saved at the other end.

Two further Stratford penalty corners also came to nothing before Melton made the breakthrough after 20 minutes when a quickly taken free-hit was followed by a stunning reverse stick effort that flew across the helpless and blameless Helliker.

In truth, to that point neither side looked like scoring with Mark Leary, Richard Stokes and Twrrance Malcolm well shackled by the visiting defence and Matt Hyatt, Giles Garratt, Jamie Chorley and Tom Murray equally dominant in the home defence.

In midfield, captain Stuart Guise, Greg Ticketts, Neil Jones, Ralph Newbold and McKee were evenly matched with their opposite numbers and both teams were clearly working hard but struggling to find an end product.

In the same way that the opening goal was something of a surprise, so was Melton’s second and whilst the first owed everything to opportunism, the second owed as much to good fortune as a series of deflections in the final minute of the half.

The second-half followed a similar pattern with clogged midfields and massed defences and both sides lacked a spark.

Stratford’s effort never dropped but they lacked fortune and became frustrated. Neil Jones’ industry earned him the man of the match award, although as the game became stretched Helliker must have been a candidate with a series of fine stops.

Richard Stokes missed one chance but brought Stratford back into contention with a low shot that beat the Melton goalkeeper.

But for all their effort the lack of an end product meant Stratord failed to rescue a point.

Edwards Estate Agents sponsored Stratford travel to fellow strugglers Chesterfield, who are four points worse off, this Saturday.

Stratford Ladies 2 Shipston 0

LEADERS Stratford strengthened their grip at the top of Warwickshire League Division One with a comfortable victory over relegation-threatened neighbours Shipston.

Stratford began brightly and, in truth, may have killed the visitors off in the opening ten minutes with Imogen Green denied by the Shipston goalkeeper from open play, then from a penalty corner and then shooting narrowly wide.

Early chances also fell to Holly Outhwaite and Juliet Heyworth but Shipston’s keeper produced an inspired performance to ensure her side remained in contention.

With Stratford largely dominant the visitors were restricted to occasional counter-attacks, from one of which they earned a penalty corner and the shot from the set piece was close to being deflected home at the left hand post.

Other than this alarm, home keeper Becky Casement was largely a spectator as Emma Van Der Heyden, Mel Coleman, Vicki Guise and Georgie Box all had strong games and ensured Shipston’s forwards struggled to make an impression.

Recent recruit Becky Goad, Outhwaite and EJ MacLeoad all went close to applying finishing touches to crash balls or crosses before player of the match Outhwaite picked up Emma Kipling’s pass before turning and lashing a powerful shot into the roof of the net.

It sparked Shipston into their best spell and Casement was required to clear her lines on a couple of occasions to protect the advantage.

The second half followed a similar pattern but Stratford were profligate in front of goal, with Van Der Heyden, Heyworth, Green, Outhwaite and birthday girl and captain Hayley Nicholls spurned chances.

Shipston never really threatened to grab an equaliser and Stratford eased any nerves with Emma Kipling picking up a deflection and volleying home into the far corner.

Stratford travel to second placed Birmingham University this Saturday.

The Ladies 2nds extended their unbeaten record with a 1-0 victory over Rugby.

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