Stratford Town 4 Stourbridge 0
MIKE TAYLOR marked his first start for Stratford Town with a stunning hat-trick and an assist as Carl Adams’ men maintained their unbeaten pre-season record.
Former Worcester City and Solihull Moors striker Taylor provided an extra powerful dimension to Stratford’s attack as they led 4-0 after 55 minutes.
It was Town’s defence, though, which had faced the bigger tests as Stourbridge had plenty of possession, particularly in the first half, but any cutting edge was blunted by excellent covering, tackling and interceptions by the back line.
Emmitt Delfouneso and Liam Francis dominated at the heart of the defence and keeper Niall Cooper barely had a save to make, while youth team graduate Luke Fox, playing for the last 30 minutes, showed he has a real presence.
Stourbridge will wonder how they were three goals down at half time, but that was down to a mix of smart finishing and woeful defending.
Taylor collected a punt forward on 24 minutes and, despite being 20 yards from the nearest defender, was onside. Confronted by keeper Matt Gould, Taylor skipped to his right to round him and slot home as two defenders raced towards the goalline.
Shortly afterwards, Stourbridge wide player Chris Lait scooted past three defenders down the inside left but then dragged his right-footer inches wide. But that was as close as they got.
Taylor then earned the second goal on 36 minutes, going down in a wrestling match with Stuart Pierpoint to win a penalty. Gregory was unerring from the spot with a ferocious kick straight down the middle.
A disastrous blunder between keeper Gould and centre back Jack Duggan gifted Taylor a simple third goal, guiding his shot into the unguarded net from the edge of the area just before the break.
Stratford were flattered by a 3-0 half-time lead but it was 4-0 ten minutes into the second period with a really slick move.
Left back Kieren Westwood opened up the defence down the inside left and when Simoen Tulloch flicked on his cross Taylor was steaming in to tap home unmarked at the far post.
Despite making changes, Stratford got stronger in the second period and substitute keeper Tom Hayward parried a late strike from Westwood from Frankie Baigent’s pull back.
Manager Adams was understandably delighted, but warned the real test will arrive when they kick off the Southern Premier season at St Ives Town.
“I couldn’t ask for any more from the players at the moment,” said Adams. “Everybody is performing. It’s really pleasing but we all know pre-season is very different to when the league starts.”
Stratford will face their toughest test so far in pre-season tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7.45pm) when they welcome National League newcomers Solihull Moors to the DCS Stadium.