Stratford 1 Wolverhampton 3
TWO late goals sentenced Stratford to a harsh Midlands One defeat against high-flying Wolverhampton on Saturday.
Stratford, who went into the clash chasing the double over the promotion-chasing visitors, set out to establish midfield parity with Dom Howkins, captain Stuart Guise and Greg Ricketts forming a strong spine with Craig McKee and Ralph Newbold playing as wing backs but defending narrowly.
Chances were at a premium and Wolverhampton’s much vaunted penalty corner routines were seen only twice in the first half with both efforts being scrambled away, while keeper Martyn Helliker twice saved one-on-one chances when coming off his line quickly.
Stratford defenders Matt Hyatt, Jamie Chorley and Giles Garratt all enjoyed strong games, while at the other end a series of three penalty corners came to nothing with Craig McKee and Stuart Guise both denied by the visiting keeper and Terrance Malcolm just failing to get on the end of the third effort.
It was a moment of individual skill that brought the game’s first goal from Wolverhampton’s top scorer who tricked his way into space and unleashed an unstoppable reverse stick effort into the roof of the net.
Stratford stuck to their task and top scorer Mark Leary, Malcolm, Richard Stokes and McKee all had half chances snuffed out by last ditch tackles.
Ralph Newbold went agonisingly close when cutting in from the left flank and seeing his effort trickle past the post.
The same fate awaited Greg Rickett’s blast from a set piece with the goalkeeper fortunate to deflect the effort past his right hand post.
Stratford’s ascendancy finally yielded a deserved equaliser after 55 minutes with man of the match Newbold grabbing his first first team goal.
Newbold created space down the left, leaving three defenders in his wake before finishing with a reverse stick effort.
Both sides then had five minutes of playing a man down as first Ricketts was sin binned for breaking down play after Neil Jones was similarly warned for the same offence, while on Rickett’s return a visiting forward earned a rest on the sidelines for a late tackle.
Wolves regained the lead when a fine run across the home defence saw a cross flash across the area for a forward to apply a deft finishing touch past Helliker who had again produced several fine saves in his usual strong performance.
With time ticking away, Stratord began to force the pace and lose patience which led to the visitors scoring again two minutes from time when a drag flick effort was cruelly deflected away from Helliker and into the net.
It was a harsh final scoreline for the home team who took heart from competing well against one of the top teams.
Edwards Estate Agents sponsored Stratford entertain mid-table Worcester this Saturday with points still vital as five teams are likely to be relegated.
Stratford Ladies 2nds romped to a convincing 9-0 victory at Long Buckby. Simone Allen-Bennett led the way with a hat-trick to which Amy Chambers 2, Scooby, Clemmie and Lauren Kilbride added.
Laura Cox took the player of the match accolade.
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