CARL Adams is confident the visit of promotion contenders Chippenham Town on Saturday will bring the best out of Stratford Town.
The manager admits Town are still searching for consistency in what is a consistently unpredictable Southern League Premier Division but, after stuttering against lowly Bideford last week, he believes Stratford have enough character and ability to raise their game when they face the fourth placed Bluebirds at the DCS Stadium.
“I’ve spoken to two other managers who have already played Chippenham and they have both said they are the hardest working team in the league,” said Adams.
“We are in for a tough game but against the tougher teams we seem to do better than we do against the teams lower down the table.
“That has been the case in the last two matches. We played really well to beat Biggleswade in midweek then three days later we put in a shoddy performance at Bideford.
“It was definitely two points dropped after we conceded an equaliser in the final five minutes, but our consistency levels haven’t been good enough. It’s an area we need to improve and if we do we will get the results and shoot up the league.”
Jamie Sheldon put Stratford ahead in Devon with his first goal of the season just before the hour mark, but Bideford sub Sean Downing made the most of a deflection to tuck home an equaliser.
It left Town in 11th place in the league, with three points separating them from fifth place, but they are also three points away from the bottom nine.
Adams, however, says Stratford are only looking towards the teams above them.
“We are definitely looking up, not down,” he said. “We are really looking to progress and I’m confident we will be in a good position come the sharp end of the season if we can be a bit more consistent.
“I do believe in these boys. They are good enough to put four or five wins together and shoot up the league, but the league is so tight that you can lose four or five and slip down the table just as quickly.”
Stratford’s longest ever away trip for a league game – a round trip of 360 miles – seemed on course to reap three points after they led Bideford.
It was hardly a classic, with chances few and far between, but Stratford’s brighter start to the second half was rewarded with the breakthrough on 59 minutes.
After Scott Hadland and Kieren Westwood combined down the left, Emmitt Delfouneso slipped the ball into the path of Sheldon, who rammed a low shot into the net.
Stratford still looked the more likely scorers but, when Richard Groves’ shot rebounded to Downing, the England C international finished comfortably past keeper Andy Kemp.
“When you are leading 1-0 with five minutes left you have got to see the game out and get over the line and we haven’t done that,” added Adams.
Hadland and Simeon Tulloch are major doubts to face Chippenham after both were injured against Bideford. Hadland has a damaged hamstring while Tulloch suffered bruised ribs.
Town turn their attention to the Birmingham Senior Cup on Wednesday when they face Coventry City at the DCS. The Sky Blues will be sending an U21s side for the first round tie.