Town end the season with a draw at Bishop's Stortford
Ben Stephens nets again but a late equaliser steals a curtain closing victory from Town
Match Report and match stats by Rod Abrahams, photographs by Granty
Bishops Stortford 1 Stratford Town 1
Joe Robinson 90+3 Ben Stephens 26
Stratford Town made the long trip to the Prokit Stadium to take on Bishops Stortford in the final game of the season. Towns only other encounter with the Hertfordshire side was in the 2006 FA Cup that Town lost 2-0, but on this occasion it looked like Town would get all 3 points, but again conceding a goal deep into stoppage time gave the Blues a share of the spoils. Town have conceded 19 goals in the last 5 minutes, which has meant a minimum of 15 points dropped, which would have put Stratford on 70 points and 11th in the League, for which would have been their highest ever finish.
There were a number of changes in the line up from the previous game. Connor was back in goal after his one match ban, Andy Gallinagh replaced Dan Summerfield who was unavailable and Hancock’s and Recci replaced Luckie and Evans.
The early exchanges were fairly even, a Jamie Cureton header for the Blues was an easy save for Connor, and when Marsden put Taylor in on goal, he was denied by keeper Calum Kitcha, but he should have done better. Ben Stephens tried a cheeky lob that had Kitcha back peddling to save under the bar, and Mark Hughes fired a 25yd effort just over on 15 minutes, Cureton produced a great save from Connor with a close range volley from a George Casey cross.
Edwin Ahenkorah was just wide with a shot from 20yds, and Town took the lead in the 26th minute. Mike Taylor broke clear of the Blues back line with only the keeper to beat, his strike looked goal bound but came back off the bar. Bishops failed to clear the loose ball and Will Grocott crossed to the far post, where Ben Stephens volleyed home from close range at the second attempt for his 25th goal of the season to put Town in front. Just before the break Darren Foxley curled a strike just wide of the post for the Blues.
At the start of the second half it was Stratford who started brightly. Ahenkorah had two efforts, both well saved by home keeper Kitcha, and in the 55th minute Liam Francis was unlucky to see his bullet header come back off the bar from Will Grocotts corner, as the Blues cleared the loose ball. Casey headed wide from a Tom Clifford free kick, and from then on it was Bishops who did most of the attacking, as Town got deeper defending to maintain their lead. Sub Jack Thomas put a free header over from a Foxley free kick, and Connor saved a Cureton shot, the ball ran lose and Foxleys shot was deflected for a corner. Connor saved a Joe Robinson shot which he put round the post, and a deft chip from Cureton landed on top of the net, but from a good position he should have done better, as the game entered 4 minutes of added time.
Again it was Towns nemesis, as with time running down, a corner into the Town box was not cleared, the ball fell to Robinson whose close range volley was beaten out by Conner, only to hit Andy Gallinagh and bounce into the net to give Bishops Stortford a point, much to the disappointment of the Town players.
“How many times this season how we given away a goal in the dying minutes and how many points has it cost us ? “ reflected Carl Adams afterwards. “It’s all down to game management and having the guile, the knowhow and the concentration to see it through right to the final whistle.”
Well another season has come to a close, with Town finishing in 15th place, one spot lower than the last season, and one point less with 55. So it is now a case of who will Stratford be playing next season, when the makeup of the new Midland League at step 3, is announced by the FA in May.
Connor, Gallinagh, Fry, Hancocks, Francis, Recci, Marsden, (84 Evans), Ahenkorah, (75 Luckie), Taylor, Grocott, Stephens, (79 Bako)
Sub Not Used Dawson
Kitcha, Casey, Clifford, Hughes, Ekpiteta, Brassington,(55 Thomas), Crowther (55 Robinson), Westcott, Mason, Cureton, Foxley.
Subs not Used, Cruse, Bennett, Lynskyn.
Referee M Morrison.
Assistant Referees R Humphreys, and M Pond.
Town Man of the Match Liam Francis
Match Stats. GA OT BS HW CW CIB FC OS YC RC
Stratford 11 5 0 2 3 5 15 3 2 0
Banbury 16 6 2 0 5 11 8 2 1 0
Stratford Town Yellow Cards Hancocks, Marsden.
Banbury Yellow Cards Westcott