PENALTIES from Chris Lloyd and Tony Clarke ensured Stratford Town slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Bromsgrove Sporting at the Victoria Ground.
Stratford had taken the lead in the 32nd minute through Liam Francis before Lloyd levelled from 12 yards out in first minute of injury time in the first half. Another penalty from Clarke 15 minutes from the end made sure Sporting came away with victory.
In the opening exchanges, it was the side from Warwickshire who started the brighter of the two but Sporting limited Stratford to shots from distance as Edwin Ahenkorah, Trey Braithwaite and Jamie Sheldon tried their luck from range but all to no avail.
Again Stratford came forward against a Sporting side which had not got into gear and the woodwork came to the rescue of the Rouslers in the 19th minute when Ahenkorah smashed the crossbar from the edge of the area after breaking free of his marker.
The visitors continued to press and it wasn’t until the 26th minute when Sporting got their first opportunity of the game but after some neat play down the right from Clarke, his cross was met by Lloyd who blazed well over the bar.
However, Stratford got the breakthrough they deserved in the 32nd minute but there was hint of luck involved as from Ahenkorah’s cross, Francis headed the ball onto his own foot which diverted the ball into the back of the net – the first time Sporting had fallen behind after 572 minutes of pre-season football.
Sporting were almost 2-0 down just four minutes later but a fantastic save from Neil Leech ensured Sheldon could not double Stratford’s advantage.
Despite the setback, the Rouslers grew into the game and after Robbie Bunn saw an effort from the edge of the area saved, the home side eventually got their just rewards when Joe Haines’ cross from the left was handled in the area by Sheldon.
Lloyd took up the responsibilities and duly obliged as he sent Stratford keeper Niall Cooper the wrong way with a powerful drive.
After the interval, Sporting reshuffled their ranks as Jake Willcox, Sean Brain, Jack Wilson and Keenan Meakin-Richards came on for Haines, Will Tibbetts, Aaron Roberts and Bunn.
The substitutions proved to add an extra bit of energy to Sporting’s game and they began the second half very much like Stratford did in the first, with Brain and Lloyd providing the pace up top.
However, Stratford reminded the Rouslers of their own threat as Will Grocott managed to break free from his man on the edge of the area but could only fire over.
As the game progressed, Sporting continued to dominate the possession as Stratford began to tire. The increase in tempo and Sporting’s increased work ethic chasing the ball down proved too much for the visitors who gave away the second penalty of the afternoon in the 76th minute.
Following some neat footwork in the box, Clarke was bundled over. A dubious decision considering the minimal amount of contact but Clarke grabbed the ball and sent Cooper the wrong way to fire Sporting into a 2-1 lead.
Danny Ludlow almost put Sporting out of sight in the 82nd minute when a loose ball broke to him on the left-hand side following a misplaced pass from Brain but he could only send his effort flying over the bar.
A last ditch tackle from Wilson, which was met by rapturous applause, maintained Sporting’s one-goal advantage two minutes later when Frankie Baigent looked set to equalise after finding himself one-on-one with Leech.
Brain should have made it 3-1 five minutes from the end but after running on to a fantastic throughball by Ludlow, the young striker fluffed his lines and scuffed a shot into the grateful arms of Cooper.
And in the dying embers of the game, Stratford had the opportunity to equalise with a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the area but Sheldon could only blast his effort into the wall before Braithwaite’s rebound sailed over.