CARL ADAMS says his current crop of Stratford Town players are ‘the most frustrating I’ve ever had’.
The Town manager admitted he was “gutted” to bow out of the Southern League Challenge Cup to Bishops Cleeve on penalties on Tuesday.
Despite Edwin Ahenkorah firing Town ahead, the Gloucestershire hosts levelled through Jack Watts 12 minutes from time and then Akenkorah and Charlie Faulkner had penalties saved. Though Town keeper Niall Cooper had kept out Jack Horrell’s kick, it was left to Aaron Drake to smash home the clincher.
But after creditable performances in drawing at leaders Leamington and narrowly losing at second placed Hitchin in their previous outings, Adams was at a loss to explain such a poor display.
Adams had always accepted there would be peaks and troughs because he had opted to develop a young squad but, having seen their talent in spells, he is pained at their inability to learn.
“This is the most frustrating set of lads I’ve had,” he said. “I don’t know from one week to the next which team will turn up. One week we look like world-beaters, the next we look like a bottom of the table side. It’s doing my head in.
“I’ve told everybody that we were going down the road of having a young team and there would be ups and downs. But we’re halfway through the season and it’s still happening. It’s so frustrating.
“We were ahead on Tuesday and in six of the nine games we’ve lost in the league we’ve been in front. We need to work out how to get across the finish line.
“We need to learn from our mistakes.”
After finishing just above the Premier Division drop zone, Town are looking to push for a mid-table finish as another step in progress.
But the League Cup had been one of the priorities to make 2017 a year to remember. Defeat means Stratford now have just one trophy to chase, with a trip to Leamington in the Birmingham Senior Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday, January 31.
The battle for league points continues tomorrow (Saturday) with a trip to Weymouth, who lie one place above 16th placed Town, before another away day on Tuesday with a visit to play-off contenders Chesham.
Playmaker Will Grocott, whose creativity has been sorely missed, is pencilled in for a return on Tuesday after a hamstring injury but fellow midfielder Ben Stephens is awaiting a check on a shin injury. Simeon Tulloch can return tomorrow after suspension following his red card at Leamington.
It has been a frustrating week for Stratford after their six-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat at title-chasing Hitchin on Saturday.
Robbie Burns, left unmarked from a corner, headed home the only goal after just four minutes but Stratford were always in the contest. The closest they came to an equaliser came when Guy Clark’s header was cleared off the line in the first half.