THOMAS Baillie will look for a positive reaction after Stratford Town’s charge for the play-offs suffered a rare stumble.
Two goals in the final 20 minutes handed play-off rivals Coalville Town a 2-0 win in Tuesday’s Southern Premier Central contest at the Arden Garages Stadium.
To add to Baillie’s frustration, both centre-backs Jamie McAteer and Jordan Williams – the cornerstones of Town’s defence this season – were both red-carded after picking up second bookings.
Stratford remain third in the table, but five points now separate them and ninth-placed Needham Market with a third of the season to play.
Head of football Baillie says it will be important for Stratford to quickly shake off the disappointment and bounce back when they welcome visitors Halesowen Town on Saturday and then travel to AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday.
“Naturally we’re disappointed at the result but we have to bear in mind that it’s only the third league game we’ve lost since September and in football these things happen,” Bailie told the Stratford Town ISA website.
“We’ve now got to get it out of our system as fast as possible. I will be particularly interested to see the reaction of the players to this setback as it will definitely be a test of character for them.
“We will face another tough challenge against Halesowen on Saturday as they are desperate to get away from the wrong end of the table and it will be a different type of test for us at Rushden & Diamonds.
So in both of those games it will all about how quickly we can put Tuesday night behind us.”
Town included new recruit Kai Williams, signed from Coventry United, on the bench against Coalville and both sides threatened in a busy first half.
A Joe Doyle-Charles effort slammed into the Town post and Kairo Mitchell just failed to get a touch for Coalville, while Ravens’ former Stratford keeper Richard Walton kept out a cracking strike from Albi Skendi and Nabil Shariff volleyed over.
However, the opening goal fell to Coalville on 59 minutes, Steve Towers prodding home when Andrew Wright’s free kick bobbled inside the area.
Town might have sensed it was not going to be their night when Walton’s leg denied a Wilson Carvalho strike and then McAteer was sent off for a second yellow.
Coalville settled the points when Wright drilled in past keeper Ross Etheridge with five minutes left and Town ended with nine men when Williams’ foul on Kyle Perry brought his second booking.
“It all went wrong for us in the last 20 minutes,” said Baillie.
“Coalville are a good and hardworking side who are sure to be in the promotion shake-up at the end of the season. I didn’t feel there was anything in it in the first half but their keeper pulled off a great save from Albi Skendi and did so again from Wilson Carvalho in the second half.
“I can’t argue with the two sending-offs but obviously going down to ten and then to nine made it incredibly difficult for us.”