MANAGER Carl Adams will look to ensure Stratford Town will ‘again punch above our weight’ after reaching the third tier of English non-League football.
Adams steered Town to a second promotion in two years after Monday’s nerve-jangling 3-2 win against Larkhall Athletic in front of a record crowd of 1,054 at the DCS Stadium.
Goals from Aaron Moses-Garvey, Joe Halsall and Tyrone Fagan put Town three goals ahead just past the hour mark, but then the hosts were left biting their nails in the final ten minutes when Joe Tumelty and Tyler Sibbick struck twice for Larkhall in a four-minute spell.
A delighted Adams praised the team’s togetherness which has taken Stratford to the Evo-Stik Southern Premier for the first time in their history and he is convinced the players will again rise to the challenge of facing the likes of Weymouth, Leamington and Redditch United.
“We will be in among the big boys now,” said Adams. “We are probably going to be an average Joe in a very big league but we will certainly try to punch above our weight.”
Having led Coleshill Town to the Midland Combination title, Adams guided Town to the Midland Alliance title in his first season, then a top ten finish in the first season in the Southern League and now promotion after finishing third.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for everyone connected with the club but I have to thank the lads, they have been brilliant,” said the former Birmingham City player.
“That togetherness has won us promotion, without a doubt.
“We came out of the Alliance as champions, then finished tenth in our first season in the Southern League and I made the decision that we just needed to keep everyone together and we would keep improving. That’s why we are now.
“The nucleus is the same and then we have been able to add a little bit more quality with the likes of Aaron Moses-Garvey, Kevin Charley and Rob Thompson-Brown.”
Despite some anxious moments in both play-off games, Town ended the season with 11 wins in 12 matches.
Monday’s play-off final against Bath-based Larkhall proved a real roller-coaster contest. Town had a dream start with a goal after just three minutes, Moses-Garvey collecting a superb crossfield pass from Rob Thompson-Brown and racing down the right before drilling an unstoppable cross-shot past keeper Josh Barrington.
Just before half-time, it was 2-0 when Halsall charged into the area to finish from Kevin Charley’s reverse pass and Fagan coolly slotted home a third on 61 minutes after Charley hit the post.
The nerves grew, however, when Tumelty’s corner flew into Town’s net on 77 minutes and Sibbick headed home unmarked four minutes later.
Adams saluted the winning know-how of key men like Scott Hadland, Gary Moran, Andy Kemp, Fagan and Charley.
“They have all played at the Premier level or above and there’s a lot of experience there,” he said. “Sometimes you just need to give the lads the freedom on the pitch and let them manage situations as much as you want to manage as the manager. They can organise themselves and I think I’ve got the lads capable of doing that.”
Town will need to improve the ground to meet the Premier DIvision grading criteria, and plans are already in place to build a new stand.
Work, however, does not need to be complete until next March.