CARL ADAMS is looking forward to nurturing Stratford Town’s future stars – with a helping hand from former colleagues across the Midlands.
The Town boss was delighted with how a clutch of homegrown youngsters helped a much-changed Stratford stage a brilliant comeback from 3-1 down to defeat Redditch United 4-3 in the Southern League Challenge Cup first round on Tuesday.
The 89th-minute winner came from substitute Ben Ellicott, who was one of six former youth-teamers involved, as well as recent additions Jean Kalenda and Donnell Benjamin, who has joined on loan from Solihull Moors.
Adams saluted the players’ spirit and quality but several will be continuing their football education elsewhere.
Several of last season’s talented youth team have followed ex-under 18s boss Clive Seeley to Knowle, while the appointment of former Town favourite Gary Moran as Rugby Town manager will open another avenue for mutual benefit.
Since Knowle, from the Midland League Division Two, and Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division One South side Rugby play in different leagues, Town players can sign for them on dual registration forms so Adams can keep tabs on their development at the right level.
“With Clive going to Knowle in the summer, several players who are too old for the under 18s have joined him,” said Adams. “It’s a great connection to have. These lads are learning and improving and playing in men’s football is another step.
“Now Gaz has got the manager’s job at Rugby there will be a connection there as well. I will do everything I can to help Gaz with players and it will be something that will benefit both clubs.”
Midfielder Yannick Gomes, who made a quietly efficient Stratford debut at the Valley Stadium Tuesday, has already linked up with Rugby, and Adams suggested youngster Charlie Faulkner could also benefit from games with the Butlin Road club who have also added former Town players Aaron Stringfellow, Aaron Moses-Garvey and Scott Hadland to their ranks.
Only two players – Edwin Ahenkorah and Kieren Westwood – from Saturday’s goalless draw at Cambridge City featured against the Reds and Ahenkorah was man of the match in a rousing second half show.
Despite taking the lead with a glorious Warren Brooks’ 25-yard sidefooter, Town then trailed 3-1 a minute into the second period after Reece Hales’ 40-yard lob, David McDermott’s slick finish and Trovarn Thompson’s tap-in.
However, Dior Angus, back in action after a stop-start season so far, rifled home and Westwood drilled in an equaliser on 77 minutes before Ellicott bundled home from Ahenkorah’s low cross.
“I didn’t think we deserved to be 3-1 down,” said Adams. “Maybe that was down to a bit of naivety to concede just before half time and then straight after it. That’s something that happens when there’s such a youthfulness in the team.
“But the response was brilliant. The team talk before the game was about going out and enjoying it and I think the players did the club proud.”
Attention, however, turns to Southern League Premier matters and Adams warns Stratford will again need to step up to the challenge against two of the top four in the next few weeks.
Town meet third placed Dunstable Town on Saturday at the DCS Stadium and then, after visiting Cirencester Town on Tuesday, they meet another promotion-chaser in Chippenham Town next Saturday.
“The fixture list doesn’t get any easier but that’s what we have been working hard for as a club in the past three years,” said Adams. “We are looking forward to every game.”
With Richard Gregory starting a three-match ban this weekend, Angus will be ready to impress after completing his own suspension.