NEW skipper Richard Gregory says Stratford Town need to become ‘tougher to beat’ – or they will face a season of Southern League Premier Division troubles.
Gregory, named captain this season, marked his 100th appearance for Town with his 67th goal but Stratford slipped to a 4-2 home defeat to Redditch United on Tuesday.
Manager Carl Adams was furious with his team’s ‘rubbish’ defending which contributed to at least three of the goals and made it clear he will be looking to draft in new players.
After an opening day 1-1 draw at St Ives Town, Stratford entertain full-timers Basingstoke Town at the DCS Stadium on Saturday and Gregory stressed they need to bounce back.
“I do believe that going forward we will score enough goals, but we’ve got to make sure we are tighter at the back and not conceding as many goals,” said the striker.
“We’ve got to make sure we are tougher to beat.
“We defended well in pre-season but in the last two games it has gone back to how it was the back end of last season when we just couldn’t win a game.
“We’ve got to make sure that changes quickly. If it doesn’t, we will find ourselves down the wrong end of the table – it’s as simple as that.”
On Saturday, a free kick from Jack Higgs was allowed to find the net, with Harry O’Malley also claiming a final touch, to give St Ives the lead a minute before half time.
Town sub Mike Taylor rescued a point on his debut with 20 minutes to go as the former Worcester forward volleyed home a Guy Clark cross.
On Tuesday, Town were culpable of woeful defending to hand Redditch a 2-0 lead after six minutes, with Danico Johnson and Reece Hewitt providing smart finishes.
Former Redditch player Jordan Cullinane-Liburd rose to head home an excellent Will Grocott cross on 25 minutes but any comeback stalled when Javia Roberts added the Reds’ third a minute before half time.
Gregory was celebrating with his goal on 76 minutes, converting from Kieren Westwood’s smart pass, but as Town pushed for an equaliser Johnson brushed aside powderpuff challenges to set up Liam Spink for an 89th fourth for the visitors.
“It was frustrating. After the start and then conceding just before half time, we left ourselves with too much to do,” said Gregory.
“I’m happy to get a goal on my 100th appearance but the result was the most important thing.
“We wanted to get a positive result to build on the draw at St Ives on Saturday. When we got it back to 3-2 I did feel we could go on and get something out of the game. It wasn’t to be.
“Now we have to dust ourselves down and go again on Saturday against Basingstoke.”
Adams is working to identify a possible new recruit before the match but he will delighted to have midfielder Barry Fitzharris available for his debut.
Fitzharris had been an impressive addition in pre-season, but he has had to miss the first two matches through a suspension carried over from last season.
Front-runner Dior Angus, whose excellent pre-season form was halted by a hamstring injury, could feature, depending on how he reacts to training last night (Thursday).
Town then visit Slough Town on Tuesday.