THOMAS BAILLIE highlighted the versatility within the Stratford Town squad as a key factor in continuing their long-term progress.
Kynan Isaac swapped midfield for a full-back role in Tuesday’s Birmingham Senior Cup tie against Aston Villa and produced a positive display, despite Town bowing out in a penalty shoot-out after a goalless draw.
Lewis Wilson had already earned the tag of Mr Versatile, having added another string to his bow as a central striker to add to his defensive and midfield duties.
Head of football Baillie says such flexibility will help the squad develop as he turns an immediate fix into long-term success.
“Tuesday was a good opportunity to look at other options, to give players game time and to see how players perform in different positions,” said Baillie.
“From that point of view, it was a useful exercise.
“Cody Fisher got 90 minutes, (new signing) Shawn Richards started for the first time and Kynan Isaac played in a different position at right-back.
“To my mind, Kynan was man of the match against Villa. He has played right midfield, left-back and right-back and it shows we’ve got plenty of options.
“We’ve done exceptionally well but we need to keep improving. We’ve got options to change formations with the strength we’ve got in the squad, especially when the games come thick and fast.”
Despite losing their 13-match unbeaten run in a 2-1 defeat at Needham Market and then the county cup exit 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw, Town will approach the FA Trophy tie at home to South Shields on Saturday will plenty of optimism.
Baillie suggested the Needham loss was a reality check, while he used the Villa game as a chance to experiment, but the visit of South Shields, who have won six games in a row, will be the toughest test so far.
Town anticipate the biggest crowd of the season against the Northern Premier side who expect to have 400-600 fans following them from the north east. South Shields have won three league titles in a row in climbing through the pyramid.
Like South Shields, who are managed by former Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion striker Graham Fenton and Lee Proctor, Town will be making their first appearance in the third qualifying round and Baillie hopes the folk of Stratford will give their backing by packing the Arden Garages Stadium.
“They are a good side, everybody can see that,” said Baillie. “They have won six out of six but we’ve only lost once in 15 games so we’ve been in form too.
“Both teams like to play football so it’s all built up to be a really good tie.”
Richards, who signed from AFC Rushden & Diamonds, is eligible to face South Shields, but fellow newcomer Taylor Morrison is cup-tied after playing for Alvechurch.