THOMAS BAILLIE says he has seen the best – and worst – of Stratford Town in the past week.
He stressed only consistently high standards will keep Town in the thick of the Southern Premier Central play-off race.
Boss Baillie labelled the performance – certainly the first 70 minutes – in last weekend’s 3-1 win at home to Needham Market as the best since he took over, but he described the opening period in Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Alvechurch as ‘simply not good enough’.
Despite twice trailing, however, goals from Chris Cox and skipper Jimmy Fry earned a point which pushed Town into third place in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to Redditch United.
“The first half against Alvechurch was simply not good enough,” said Baillie. “I told the players at half-time that if they thought that performances was worthy of a promotion-chasing side, then they need to take a long hard look at themselves.
“I had watched the best performance I’ve seen by us, certainly for 70 minutes, and then, three days later, the worst 45 minutes. They were difficult conditions but the players have set high standards and that wasn’t good enough.
“We were lucky to come in 1-0 down at half-time but we then pretty much dominated the second half. A draw was probably a fair result but in the second half we did enough to have won the game. It left me with mixed emotions.”
Stratford travel to Redditch looking to extend their unbeaten record to six matches. Seven points separate third-placed Town to tenth-placed Banbury United and Baillie says it is time for the players to ‘step up to the plate’.
“Consistency is going to be key,” he stressed. “If we go on another run like we’ve been on then we will be in the play-offs.
“We can all talk a good game but you have to deliver. There will be tough games, difficult conditions when we will need players to stand up and be counted.”
On Tuesday in freezing conditions, Town had an early chance when Wilson Carvalho’s free kick hit the post and then rebounded off Nabil Sharrif’s shin just wide of the post.
However, Alvechurch went ahead two minutes before half-time when Rahis Nabi guided a low 25-yard free kick into the bottom corner of Ross Etheridge’s goal.
Town needed a response and got it on 68 minutes with the equaliser, Cox rising to head home a Ross Oulton free-kick.
Alvechurch regained the lead four minutes later when Lee Chilton tapped home Josh March’s cross-shot but Fry made it 2-2 with seven minutes left, placing an unerring shot into the net from the edge of the area after Kynan Isaac’s surging run created chaos.
On Saturday, Sharrif struck twice, with Jordan Williams on target, to sweep aside Needham Market at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Shariff tucked home the opener six minutes before half-time after collecting Albi Skendi’s pass and a second goal soon followed just before the break when Williams nodded home Oulton’s corner.
Sharrif made it 3-0, heading home a cross from Wilson Carvalho 11 minutes into the second half, but Needham pulled a goal back with Joseph Marsden’s penalty late on.