STRATFORD Town cannot afford many more repeats of their performance in defeat at Lowestoft Town, warned manager Paul Davis.
After promising signs of a revival in their previous three unbeaten games, Saturday’s 2-0 defeat in Suffolk was a step backwards.
Sitting fifth from bottom in Southern League Premier Central, Stratford’s survival fate still lies firmly in their hands, but they will have two weeks to reflect on where they need to improve before they head to table-toppers Tamworth a week on Saturday.
Davis believes another three wins will guarantee safety but last weekend’s display was nowhere near good enough.
There were mitigating circumstances, with a five-hour trek to Lowestoft hardly the ideal preparation, but Lowestoft deserved to complete a double over Town for the second season in a row.
“If we play like we have done in recent weeks we will pick up enough points to be safe by the middle of April, but if we carry on playing like we did on Saturday it will go on right to the last day of the season and given that our last match is away to Bromsgrove that’s something we definitely don’t want,” Davis told Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association.
“The only blessing we’ve got at the minute is that the other teams aren’t picking up any points either but it doesn’t get any easier for us as our next game in a fortnight’s time is away to the league leaders.”
Both Lowestoft and Town struggled with a fierce wind and chances were scarce until the hosts bagged the opening goal on 32 minutes.
Defender Kyle Rowley handled as the ball bounced up inside the penalty area and Malachi Linton dispatched the spot-kick past keeper Rhys Davies.
Marcus Wilkinson almost made it 2-0, but his effort rebound off the bar and the Lowestoft man had another glorious chance early in the second half but mis-kicked with only Davies to beat.
The keeper made a point-blank save to deny Linton on the hour before Robbie Thompson-Brown sent a free kick just wide in a rare Town foray forward.
Town were still hanging on when Dan Vann blocked a Jacek Zielonka strike and Davies parried a Louis McIntosh effort and saved at the feet of Dylan Ruffles, but Lowestoft had their second goal four minutes into stoppage time.
Davies’ scuffed clearance was picked up by Miguel Lopez and slotted home into the unguarded net.
“It’s disappointing because over the past three games I felt we were getting somewhere. I could be standing here saying we drew the game 0-0 but we haven’t because Kyle Rowley handles the ball to give away the penalty and then the keeper makes a mistake at the end.
“I just felt that from the beginning of the game we never really got started at all and there didn’t seem to be any enthusiasm.
“I know it’s hard to come off the bus and be ready to play after the horrendous five-hour journey we had to get there but that’s no excuse.
“It’s something everyone got to deal with as we’re back over here in a few weeks’ time to play Leiston.”
Town’s squad continues to evolve with three players making their bows at Lowestoft, taking the tally of players used this season to 70.
Former Atherstone, Bedworth, Nuneaton and Barwell forward Luke Barlone is back for a second spell with Town from Redditch United and ex-Redditch midfielder Declan Benjamin has joined via Kidlington. Former Redditch, Romulus and Rugby striker Luke Shearer has also signed.