STRATFORD secured a superb seven-run victory over title-chasing Shifnal to boost their Birmingham League Division Two survival hopes.
On numerous occasions this season the Panthers have played good cricket which has not brought its full rewards, but on Saturday Mike Brown’s side reaped the maximum 24 points thanks to an impressive effort with bat and ball.
The visitors won the toss and chose to field at Swans Nest Lane but they did not get the early wickets they were seeking as Harry Adams (28) and Rob West put on 71 for the first wicket.
John Price (29) joined West to put on a further 79 and, at 150-1, the hosts were well placed for a late assault to try and push their score towards 300.
However, once West was dismissed for an excellent 89 off 119 balls, the innings ground to a halt as Alex Riley (3-45) and Jack McIver (3-71) turned the screw.
Jake Salmon did provide some impetus with an unbeaten 33 off 32 balls but Stratford had to settle for a score of 220-8 off their 55 overs and knew only an excellent bowling performance would be enough to seal victory.
Early wickets were the order of the day and they duly arrived as skipper Brown struck twice and Adrian Witts once to reduce Shifnal to 44-3.
Charlie Home then led a recovery with 85 off 104 balls including nine fours and three sixes but, at 140-6, Stratford sensed victory was there for the taking.
Home was joined by Bryn Simmons to take the score to 170 when crucially Home was pinned leg before by Brown.
The match was well and truly in the balance and two further wickets from Brown (5-69 off 17 overs) reduced the Shropshire side to 192-9 but, with time on their side, the visitors still had realistic hopes of sealing the narrowest of successes.
Jack Edwards, with an unbeaten 33 off 28 balls, did his best for the visitors but, with two overs still to come, spinner Perry Derrick (3-61) had Alex Riley caught by West off the final ball of the 53rd over and Shifnal were dismissed for 213.
It was a vital win for third from bottom Stratford, especially as second bottom Coventry & North Warwickshire picked up 20 points with their seven-wicket victory over a Stourbridge side who are staring relegation in the face.
With seven matches remaining, Stratford lead Coventry & NW by one point but crucially are now within seven and ten points respectively of C&R Hawks and Oswestry, who were both beaten on Saturday.
Stratford make the journey to Shropshire to face Oswestry in another important game on Saturday.