STRATFORD Town completed their regular season home fixtures with an eighth successive victory on Saturday, but they were made to work hard for their 2-1 success by lowly ten-man visitors Fleet Town.
Carl Adams’ side are guaranteed a home tie in the play-off semi-finals after this success, which completed the double over the Hampshire outfit, but they know they will have to perform better if they are to hang on to second spot and eventually prevail in the end of season shoot-out.
Town now head to Clevedon Town on Saturday for their penultimate fixture of the league season before a final day trip to champions Merthyr Town, where Stratford could well need to win to finish second given the relentless form of third placed Evesham United, who have lost just one of their last 26 matches.
Saturday’s was a strangely subdued performance from Adams’ side as they made hard work of getting the better of a team reduced to ten men in the 35th minute following a bizarre incident in which Pat Cox was shown a straight red card after being involved in an off the ball incident with one of his team-mates.
Chris Sterling had given Town an early lead but the sending off seemed to have an adverse effect on Town rather than Fleet and it was hardly a surprise when Fleet skipper Simba Mlambo volleyed in a spectacular equaliser midway through the second half, only for Luke Barlone to pounce with the all-important decider shortly afterwards.
Stratford’s annual end of season awards were handed out on Saturday and for the second year running Town’s outstanding keeper Andy Kemp was voted Supporters’ Player of the Season and, as is customary, received his trophy from David Titchmarsh of main sponsors Arden Garages on the pitch before kick-off.
With Kemp in such consistent form, a feature of the current campaign has been Town’s solidity in conceding just 48 goals in 48 games.
The other awards were given out after the game and, described by boss Adams as “a truly unsung hero”, Guy Clark collected the Manager’s Player of the Season trophy and it was a double celebration for the central defender as his team-mates agreed and voted him Players’ Player as well.
Alongside Clark in the middle of Town’s defence virtually throughout has been Loyiso Recci and he was chosen as the Stratford Herald Player of the Season.