CARL Adams has challenged his Stratford Town players to show the mental application to get the best out of their ability.
The Town manager was again frustrated by defensive errors in the last two matches – a last-gasp home defeat to Frome Town on Saturday and three blunders which led to a 3-3 draw with visitors Kettering Town before a penalty shoot-out success in the Red Insure League Cup on Tuesday.
Stratford turn their attention to the FA Trophy on Saturday when they head to Histon before Tuesday’s Southern League Premier Division trip to Paulton Rovers (Trophy replays permitting) and Adams says they cannot afford to be so sloppy.
“The last couple of performances haven’t been good enough,” said the manager.
“We need to do better and the frustrating thing is that the players have shown they can do better.
“It’s not rocket science. We are not learning from our mistakes. We have conceded in the first five minutes against Chippenham and Kettering and then conceded in the last five minutes against Bideford, Frome and Kettering.
“It’s a question of concentration. Mentally, you have to stay switched on for 90 minutes, as 85 minutes isn’t good enough, 89 minutes isn’t good enough. You will get punished at this level.”
That was certainly the case on Saturday when lacklustre Town produced their worst performance of the season so far.
The excitement of the previous Wednesday’s Birmingham Senior Cup win against Coventry City seemed a distant memory as they laboured but it seemed they had escaped with a goalless draw until the 89th minute.
Defender Marcel Simpson’s sideways pass was picked off by Frome substitute Tyler Sibbick and he raced goalwards, only to be brought down by keeper Andy Kemp. Sibbick then fired home the penalty to seal a 1-0 win for the visitors.
Spot kicks drama
Penalties also decided Tuesday’s roller-coaster Red Insure League Cup tie against a youthful Kettering.
Town could not have suffered a worse start than falling behind after just 26 seconds when Elliot Sandy rammed home a clearance.
Richard Gregory, with a close range effort, and Tyrone Fagan, with a vintage header, put Stratford 2-1 up by 28 minutes, only for Courtney Baker-Richardson to equalise with a cool finish eight minutes later.
Town had the better chances but had to wait until the 82nd minute to go ahead when Liam Francis headed home his first goal from a corner, but within 90 seconds it was 3-3 after Steve Kinniburgh bundled home a long free kick.
Into penalties, the Poppies’ Andy Gooding hit the bar and Town’s Kieren Westwood was off target to take the shoot-out into sudden-death.
However, teenage keeper James Cutts, making his home debut, was the hero when he dived to block Reubus Richard-Noel’s kick and allow Fagan to slam home the decisive penalty.
Town will now head to Hitchin Town in round two on Monday, November 9.
Emmitt Delfouneso is a major doubt for Saturday’s trip to Cambridgeshire side Histon, who lie one place below Stratford in the table, after being substituted with an ankle injury on Tuesday.
Alex Price (ankle) is also missing but Aaron Stringfellow is available after attending a wedding in America.