CARL Adams has challenged his Stratford Town squad to use their encouraging midweek performance against Solihull Moors as the catalyst for a surge up the Southern League Premier Division.
Despite suffering a second cup exit in successive weeks in a penalty shoot-out on Tuesday after a 1-1 draw, the Birmingham Senior Cup first round display against a strong Moors side proved the players were getting over their FA Cup hangover that was evident in Saturday’s dismal 4-0 drubbing at Hitchin Town.
Manager Adams felt the clash with National League Solihull showed plenty of pluses but he says the test is to show the right character to bounce back from any setback.
Such a positive outlook will be vital when they welcome lowly Dunstable Town to the MoodChimp Stadium on Saturday, looking for a first win in five league and cup clashes.
“We said to the players before Tuesday that our balloon got popped against Scarborough in the FA Cup,” said Adams. “And it is a test of character to see how we bounce back.
“We didn’t do that at Hitchin. That was the poorest performance I have had under my leadership. It was really that bad.
“But on Tuesday it was a case of stripping it back to basics and starting again. It was just a shame we couldn’t win the shoot-out because that would have been another positive for us. But it was a good performance.
“We know we now need to take that into Saturday against Dunstable. We know we need to get our game together and get some points on board.
“I do feel that at the moment sitting in 19th place in the table isn’t a true reflection of how we have done this year. I try to be honest with the fans and everybody at the club but we have probably played two bad games in 13 this season. I don’t think we’ve had that little bit of luck at times but it is up to us to go out and get the points.”
Town’s performance at Hitchin on Saturday was one to forget with the hosts scoring twice in each half in a 4-0 win. Brett Donnelly scored two in the first half and substitute Trey Charles bagged two more in the final 11 minutes.
Stratford, with their Scarborough heartache still fresh in their minds, failed to manage a shot on target.
On Tuesday, Solihull, utilising all their first team players, had the edge in controlled possession in the first half of the county cup tie but Stratford, again led by defensive rocks Andy Gallinagh and Liam Francis, were largely untroubled.
A blunder by Loyiso Recci, pushed into a right wing-back role, handed Moors the lead, however, on 43 minutes. His panicky back-pass rolled straight to Oladapo Afolayan and he picked his spot past Louis Connor.
However, Stratford took the game to their higher league opponents after the break and they thoroughly deserved to level on 82 minutes. Charlie Evans was tripped by Wes McDonald for a penalty and Edwin Ahenkorah – back in action after a five-game lay-off – coolly slotted home.
With the game going straight to penalties at the end of 90 minutes, Town striker Jazz Luckie was the only player to fail in the shoot-out, with keeper Charlie Bannister diving to flip the ball over the bar, before Dan Cleary’s successful kick sent Moors through 5-4 on penalties.
On Wednesday, Stratford head to Evesham United for their rearranged League Cup first round tie, with Adams likely to use the game to assess several of the players enjoying a wonderful start with FC Stratford. The winners will visit Redditch United in the second round on Tuesday, November 7.