FC STRATFORD were left to reflect on a win that could have been a defeat and a loss that could have been a victory.
Stratford battled to a smash-and-grab 1-0 win at fellow promotion-chasers Bartestree in Midland League Division Three on Saturday.
However, they then bowed out of the Birmingham Vase on Tuesday night to Black Country visitors Bustleholme, going down 2-0 despite having plenty of possession.
Manager Dave Poulson will hope they can bounce back on Saturday when they head to neighbours Shipston Excelsior in a match which pits fourth against fifth.
Poulson said the Bartestree performance proved they have got the desire and passion to maintain their challenge for honours.
“To say the Bartestree game was a tough one might be an understatement,” Poulson told the club’s website.
“I feel we might have been a little rusty with a lack of games but I also must give full credit to Bartestree for the way they played.
“They will rightly feel they deserved something out of the game, they pressed us all over the pitch, limited us to distance shooting and their delivery into the box from corners and free kicks was superb and put us under real pressure.
“This is why this result is probably one of the most pleasing because we really had to dig deep to get it.”
Nick Cox scored the match-winner at Herefordshire side Bartestree, who lie second in the table. The goal came midway through the second half when Dan Stokes flicked on a Reece Staley throw-in and Cox took one touch before firing past the keeper.
Defensive security was also vital, with a sixth clean sheet in ten league games, and Poulson was quick to praise his defensive unit.
“Our defence was brilliant particularly at the end when the ball seemed to be going into our box constantly,” he said.
“Nick Cox was outstanding in midfield and Nick Holt in goal made some great claims towards the end to really take some pressure off.”