Stratford Town 0 Leamington 2
Southern League Premier Division
FOOTBALL is so much about timing. The clock ticks and in an instant fortunes rise or tumble.
For Stratford, there were two moments when their hopes of taking the Bank Holiday Monday derby spoils against Leamington at the DCS Stadium vanished like extinguishing a light.
It was the switching-off of concentration seconds before the half time whistle which allowed Ryan Rowe to control a free kick, shimmy one way and turn the other to smash home a stunning second goal.
The cracking finish was his second of the game, having headed home a Ben George cross midway through the first half and from such a position the Brakes had a stranglehold on victory.
It might have been different had Town striker Edwin Ahenkorah converted after a flowing passing move on 72 minutes but the fingertips of keeper Tony Breeden flipped his prodded effort over the bar.
“The second goal was a killer,” admitted Town manager Carl Adams. “They’ve knocked a free kick forward and scored.
“If Edwin had maybe scored with 20 minutes to go, they might have panicked a little bit.”
There was never any danger of that from a rock solid Brakes defence, led by the excellent Jamie Hood. They were able to see out the game without any real scares, snuffing out Town’s passing with the minimum of fuss.
Town, bouyed by successive wins against likely promotion-chasers Hitchin and Kettering, had started with a real purpose and skipper Guy Clark sent a fierce header just over after Jamie Sheldon and Will Grocott combined on the left.
Breeden raced from his line to dive at the feet of Kieren Westwood after another slicing move through the defence but it was a completely different game after Leamington took the lead on 23 minutes.
From the visitors’ first real attack, George pinged over an inviting cross from the right and Rowe got ahead of his marker to direct a looping header beyond Town keeper Niall Cooper.
Jack Edwards and former Town player Robbie Thompson-Brown threatened a second but Town were clearly in the contest as the seconds counted down to half time.
That changed though moments before the whistle when summer signing Rowe showed why he has been of the most lethal finishers in non-League in recent years to control a free kick and smash home a brilliant second.
Town needed to build up a head of steam after the break and two Dan Summerfield crosses needed just the final touch, while substitute Edji Mbunga provided some pace and trickery.
Leamington had the same in the shape of Ahmed Obeng and as the game became more stretched he cut in from the left and fired wide and then provided a cross from which Lee Moore headed a couple of feet over.
It was the third time Leamington have beaten Stratford since the latter’s promotion to the Southern Premier.
“There’s disappointment because it’s a local derby and for the third time we’ve not taken anything from them,” said Adams.
“I’ve got no complaints about our performance. Our time will come.”