Stratford 2 Barton 9
SHELL-shocked Stratford suffered an embarrassing start to the second half of their Midlands League One season after crashing to a heavy defeat against rock-bottom Barton.
The visitors, who arrived without a league win this term, included several new faces and they were helped by a Stratford performance that lacked in almost every department.
Stratford have been incredibly inconsistent this season, but having opened the season with a comfortable 5-2 win at Barton, hopes were high for the double and the start of a climb away from the relegation zone.
Instead, within 15 minutes the home side found themselves three goals adrift as some inept defence, individual errors and a lack of structure gifted goals to Barton and left Martyn Helliker exposed.
The sole highlight of the first-half was a sublime long ball out of defence by captain Stuart Guise which picked out Richard Stokes on his long awaited return to first team hockey.
Stokes showed good presence to hold off three defenders and the instincts of a natural goalscorer to finish just when the chance looked to have gone.
But hopes of a fightback disappeared when a lack of marking led to an immediate reply from the visitors and Stratford’s embarrassing first half ended not a moment too soon but not quick enough to prevent Barton adding two further goals to finish 6-1 ahead.
Half-time in the Stratford camp was perhaps surprisingly constructive and calm, although part of that may have been down to shock.
The second half was an improvement but that could hardly be described as a difficult achievement.
Having shipped a seventh goal on the break, a Stratford penalty corner was rammed home by Dom Howkins who picked up Greg Rickett’s rebound.
Further goals could have followed with Terrance Malcolm his usual handful up front whilst Guise and Ricketts provided some good ball from midfield.
Despite the improvement, Barton, who were now playing with confidence and skill, scored two further goals despite Giles Garratt’s solid defending and more saves from Helliker.
Stratford will be eager to bounce back from the savage beating when they visit fourth placed Kings Heath Pickwick this Saturday.
Hampton in Arden 0 Stratford Ladies 2
LEADERS Stratford strengthened their grip at the top of Warwickshire Ladies League Division One with a routine victory over rock-bottom Hampton on Saturday.
Edwards Estate Agents sponsored Stratford were again missing Charlie Wadhan through appendicitis, so Charlie Salt retained her place after a promising debut the previous week.
With captain Hayley Nicholls in New York, new signing Becky Goad made her debut with Holly Outhwaite wearing the arm band.
Stratford began slowly and were indebted firstly to keeper Becky Casement who stayed tall to deny a home forward one on one and then to Melissa Coleman who deflected a goalbound shot around the post with a last gasp intervention.
These attacks seemed to kick Stratford into gear and with defenders Coleman, Vicki Guise and Salt marking closely and tackling fiercely, the Hampton attacks were dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Emma Van Der Heyden at sweeper made several well timed interceptions and with Katherine Hellier in excellent form in midfield, Stratford began to take control.
EJ MacLeod was often central to Stratford’s best play, missing driving runs with some intelligent passing, whilst the experience of Rachel Kent and Emma Davis further ensured midfield superiority.
Wide players Emma Kipling and Juliet Heyworth enjoyed thrusts down the flanks, with Kipling firing over a series of impressive crosses and Heyworth close to a goal or two when appearing late at the far post.
Outhwaite and Gemma Foster linked well together up front, with the soon to be missed Foster scoring both goals in her last game before setting off travelling.
Goad showed up well on the back of only two training sessions with her new team-mates and looks a good acquisition.
With the temperature dropping and the pitch frosting over, there was some doubt as to whether the game would be completed but Stratford produced a pleasing performance and deservedly picked up the points.
Stratford make the short trip to Solihull Blossomfield this Saturday.
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