THOMAS BAILLIE urged his Stratford Town players to ‘stand up and be counted’ as they look to bounce back from midweek disappointment.
A depleted Town went down 2-0 at fellow Southern Premier Central play-off contenders AFC Rushden & Diamonds on Tuesday to suffer a second defeat in three matches.
Stratford, in third place, remain well placed for a top-five finish but head of football Baillie wants to see a positive reaction when they head to improving Hitchin Town on Saturday.
Defensive pairing Jamie McAteer and Jordan Williams, who were both suspended at Diamonds, will be able to return for the trip to Top Field.
“I didn’t think there was a lot in the game against Diamonds,” Baillie told the Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association website.
“We more than matched them especially in the first half and I’m not sure we deserved to lose, but we have and we have to accept it.
“We knew it would be difficult with Jamie McAteer and Jordan Williams suspended and Cody Fisher ruled out after being injured on Saturday, which meant we had to change three of our back four, but we have to be better at taking our chances.
“Hopefully this result is only a bit of a blip, but the players now have to stand up and be counted.
“They have to show they are ready to battle it out and that will be taken into account in my team selection for our next game at Hitchin which will be another tough one – as are all games in this league.”
With Albi Skendi and Lewis Wilson having to occupy the central defensive roles, Town kept Rushden at bay in the first half, with keeper Ross Etheridge gathering a Tom Lorraine header.
Stratford striker Nabil Shariff’s shot was blocked by home keeper Ben Heath but Diamonds’ growing second half pressure was rewarded with the breakthrough goal just before the hour mark.
Etheridge parried a Ben Diamond header and Liam Dolman smacked the loose ball into the net. Sam Johnson made it 2-0 ten minutes later after a racing on to a long punt.
Last weekend, new signing Dan Creaney enjoyed a memorable debut, scoring one goal and creating another as Town defeated Halesowen Town 2-1 at the Arden Garages Stadium.
The striker, signed on loan from Coalville Town, slotted home from Kynan Isaac’s cross to give Baillie’s men an 18th-minute lead.
Although Callum Mendez-Laing levelled for the Yeltz on 64 minutes from a corner, Chris Cox bagged the winner for the hosts 13 minutes from time when he nodded home a cross from Creaney.
Baillie was full of praise for newcomer Creaney.
“He was absolutely superb, he led the line well, held the ball up well and finished well,” said the boss.
“People can see now what a good player he is and I’m delighted to have him.”
Town host their monthly quiz night tonight (Friday) at the clubhouse at the Arden Garages Stadium, starting at 8pm. Entry is £1 per person.