THOMAS BAILLIE believes Stratford Town have ‘as good a chance as anybody’ to turn their play-off dreams into reality.
Town’s head of football was delighted with how Stratford responded to their recent indifferent form by sinking one of their play-off rivals, AFC Rushden & Diamonds, in Saturday’s match at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Skipper Jimmy Fry was the hero, thumping home the decider from 25 yards on 75 minutes, with the 1-0 win lifting Town back into the top four in Southern Premier Central ahead of Saturday’s trip to play-off rivals Coalville Town.
Baillie described the Diamonds display as “our best performance for a number of weeks” and urged his side to build on the positives as they head into a crunch period of fixtures.
“Looking ahead, our next three fixtures are all challenging,” Baillie told Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association website.
“Coalville away will be tough after their recent win here while Leiston away in midweek is difficult because of the travelling involved and our next home fixture against King’s Lynn is another against a side fighting for a play off place.
“But, as I’ve said repeatedly, no game in this league is easy and the other teams will have testing fixtures as well.
“So it’s very much all to play for and my message to supporters is that we have as good a chance as anyone.”
Baillie added: “It was our best performance for a number of weeks.
“We needed to win against one of our play-off rivals and I thought that we were comfortably the better side, but once again we found it hard to score and when you are not scoring anything can happen.
“We couldn’t have been better prepared. We had two excellent training sessions on Tuesday and Thursday and me and my staff have been talking to players individually and in groups to get their confidence levels up.”
Having lost at Diamonds last month, Stratford were keen to prove a point and they set out their stall from the early stages. Lewis Wilson had an effort cleared off the line and Rushden keeper Ben Heath pushed aside a curling effort from Wilson Carvalho before tipping over a Mike Taylor strike.
Diamonds threatened as home keeper Laurence Bilboe saved Sam Johnson’s shot on the turn and then kept out a Ben Diamond header.
After the break, Chris Cox’s cross struck the underside of the Diamonds bar but clearcut chances were scarce.
However, midfielder Fry, who had replaced the injured Ross Oulton on 36 minutes, provided the match-winner in stunning fashion in the 75th minute after picking up a clearance and smashing into the bottom corner for Town’s first goal in four matches.
Baillie explained Fry had been left on the bench to protect him from getting a booking and facing a ban.
“It was great to see Jimmy Fry rifle in the winner after I had left him out of the starting line-up, but that was to protect him against a possible yellow card before the cut-off date of March 10 which would have led to a suspension,” he said.
“We couldn’t afford to have him missing for even one game during our run-in to the end of the season, but I had to send him on when Ross Oulton couldn’t continue and the news about Ross isn’t good.
“He has probably sustained ligament damage and may well be out for the rest of the campaign.”
Meanwhile, play-off rivals Alvechurch have filed a seven-day approach for Town playmaker Will Grocott.