STRATFORD Town hope to have skipper Ivor Lawton and Liam Hughes back in action as they look for a positive response to a mixed opening week to the season.
Town continued their record of never losing the first fixture of a Southern League campaign after substitutes Mitchell Glover and Chris Wreh sealed a 2-1 win against Needham Market at the Arden Garages Stadium on Saturday.
However, they were brought back to earth on Monday after title favourites Stourbridge powered to a 3-1 win, with Nabil Shariff bagging Town’s consolation goal at Amblecote.
Manager Tommy Wright had no complaints: “We weren’t good enough,” he said – but he will expect a response on Saturday when unbeaten King Langley are the visitors in Premier Central.
“We’ve got to pick up the pieces quick to be ready for Saturday,” Wright told the Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association.
“Hopefully Ivor will be back for that one and possibly Liam as well who will give us that physical presence we need up front.”
Midfielder Lawton was a late withdrawal on Monday, having take a whack on his knee against Needham, while attacking midfielder Hughes has yet to feature after being injured in pre-season and then suffering tonsilitis.
Wright was given plenty to ponder after Stourbridge raced into a 3-0 lead just after the hour mark.
Former Town favourite Will Grocott got the opening goal on 26 minutes, converting a cross from Andre Landell.
Landell finished from close-range for 2-0 four minutes into the second half after the pace of Greg Mills created space to cross and Jordaan Brown added the Glassboys’ third from a Grocott corner.
Town’s only reply came from the penalty spot, Shariff converting after Stourbridge had been penalised for handball.
To add to their woes, defender Luis Morrison was sent off 11 minutes from time after flattening Kieron Cook.
“I’m gutted that not only have we conceded three goals but we were carved open up too many times and in the end 3-1 probably flattered us,” said Wright.
“It was disappointing to see the team fold as it did. It could have been worse and there’s plenty to work on in training.
“I’ve no complaints about the sending off. The challenge was reckless and stupid and we’ve now got to deal with Luis being suspended for three games.”
Stratford’s substitutes had provided the match-winning moments on Saturday after a dramatic end to their game against Needham.
Glover and Wreh were both introduced as 63rd-minute substitutes, replacing Joel Gyasi and Callum Ball, and turned a wind-battered contest in Town’s favour
Glover broke the deadlock on 70 minutes, collecting the ball and sending it over keeper Marcus Garnham from 40 yards with the outside of his boot.
Needham thought they had grabbed a point when Joe Marsden slotted home a penalty on 89 minutes after Town defender Dan Vann tripped Luke Ingram but there was still time for Wreh to push forward in the second minute of added time and rifle home a smashing strike from 25 yards.
“As soon as we changed we got the ball down and we played our best football in the last 20 minutes and two moments of brilliance won us the match,” added Wright.
“The lads in the dressing room have voted Ivor Lawton as man of the match and I thought he was outstanding. He covered every blade of grass and it was a real captain’s performance.”
Meanwhile, holders Stratford will begin the defence of the Southern League Challenge Cup on home soil after being handed a home tie with Halesowen Town.
The preliminary round contest will be played in the week beginning September 9.