THOMAS BAILLIE hopes securing a first ever final date in the Southern League Cup will be the catalyst for more history-making by Stratford Town.
Chris Cox’s last-gasp winner sealed a 3-2 win in Tuesday’s roller-coaster semi-final against Lowestoft Town to earn a final showpiece next Tuesday against Cinderford Town at the Arden Garages Stadium.
Before then, Baillie’s men will be focused on booking their first appearance in the Southern Premier Central play-offs when they meet ninth-placed Royston Town.
Despite Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Rushall Olympic, Town lie fifth with four matches to play – five points clear of Coalville Town and six ahead of AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Biggleswade Town.
“Getting into the final will be a real boost for the club. It’s great for the fans, the players and the staff and is just what we needed after the setback against Rushall,” head of football Baillie told the Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association website.
“We can now look forward to what will be another tough game against Royston on Saturday. It’s not exactly a must-win game but it’s certainly one we want to win.
“We still don’t know how many more points we need to be certain of being in the play-offs but the sooner we are definitely through then the better it will be and we will be all out to achieve another positive result at the weekend.”
Baillie felt Town deserved to progress in the cup, having peppered the Lowestoft goal with 19 goal attempts, but with five minutes left they were trailing 2-1.
Dylan Williams headed the Suffolk visitors in front on 37 minutes after keeper Ross Etheridge missed a cross but the shot-stopper redeemed himself to prevent a second goal by blocking Jake Reed’s penalty two minutes into the second half.
Instead a blunder by Lowestoft’s Elvijs Putnins allowed Cox’s 64th-minute shot to trickle through his legs, but the visitors regained the lead through Connor Deeks’ penalty four minutes later.
However, the drama continued when Wilson Carvalho made it 2-2 – firing home after Will Grocott hit the post – on 85 minutes and three minutes later Cox nodded in Grocott’s inch-perfect cross.
Town had faced a keeper in inspired form as Matt Sergeant proved an unbeatable obstacle in Saturday’s match against visitors Rushall.
The Pics had to play 35 minutes with ten men after Joe Hull was sent off for flattening Mo Sebbeh-Njie but Simeon Maye’s first half goal proved enough to seal the points.
An out of sorts Stratford battered away in search of an equaliser but James Fry’s effort was pushed away by Sargeant before he thwarted efforts from Nabil Shariff and Carvalho, while Shariff slammed his shot against the upright.
Maye’s goal came on 22 minutes when the former Redditch and Solihull Moors midfielder converted Dan Waldron’s cross from close range.