CARL ADAMS saluted his squad’s dressing room spirit and growing maturity after Stratford Town guaranteed a record-breaking campaign for the fifth season in a row.
Friday’s 2-1 win at Hayes & Yeading United, courtesy of goals from Edwin Ahenkorah and George Forsyth, took Town to 52 points – their highest tally in the Southern Premier – beating last term’s 50 with three games to play.
The test continues on Saturday when Stratford, currently 15th in the table, welcome eighth placed Kettering Town to Knights Lane and then they visit relegated Cinderford Town on Easter Monday.
Manager Adams, who guided Town to two promotions, said he was proud of the achievement but the target remains to ensure Stratford can keep punching above their financial clout in Step Four and he believes the foundation is in place.
“From the first day I went to Stratford, the goal has been to take the club forward every year and I’m very pleased and proud of how the players have done that again this year,” said Adams.
“We are a small club at this level. There are clubs with bigger resources, bigger crowds and bigger histories in the Premier Division and above, but this season we have improved again.
“The atmosphere in the dressing room keeps getting better. I set out at the start of the season to bring together a group of players that will be good enough for the next two or three years.”
The key catalyst though, in Town’s run of three wins in four matches, has been the evergreen 37-year-old Wayne Thomas. The loan capture from Kidderminster Harriers has been a ‘terrific boost’ says Adams and the former Stoke, Burnley and Southampton’s know-how has helped nurture the youngsters in the team.
“Wayne has been a great signing and had a big impact,” said Adams. “I’d said since the turn of the year I need more experience but I needed the right player. Wayne has been that influence we’d craved.
“He has shown the likes of Guy Clark, Jimmy Fry and Emmitt Delfouneso what they need to learn. He is a talker, a general. It’s no coincidence that Guy has never played so well because Wayne is alongside him.”
Stratford will relish the challenge presented by Kettering as Adams’ men look to complete a league double over one of non-League’s biggest names. Town claimed a 3-0 win at the Poppies in August and victory was even sweeter for Adams as a former Kettering player.
“To beat Kettering again would be another feather in our cap,” he said. “They are a huge non-League club. I’ve got huge respect for them but to get the double over them would be special.”
Stratford will also be seeking a double on Monday when they head to the Forest of Dean, having beaten Cinderford 4-2 earlier in the season.
Delfouneso, however, will play no further part in Stratford’s season due to a thigh muscle injury, while top scorer Akenkorah, who hurt his knee last weekend, is a fitness doubt.
Mike Taylor will be back in attack after a bout of food poisoning last weekend to vie with the increasingly impressive Jamie Spencer.