A GOAL in each half secured an entertaining 2-0 home win for Stratford Town against Alvechurch and spoiled Darren Byfield’s return to the Arden Garages Stadium.
Byfield, who began last season as Town boss before departing after just six games, was back at Stratford for the first time and his side played their part in an enthralling encounter, but it was Town who prevailed on Tuesday thanks to Joe Curtis’ second-minute opener and a Nabil Shariff strike midway through the second half.
Town and Church, who met six times in various competitions last season but who both now field much-changed teams under new managers, were each keen to make their mark on the game.
Stratford drew first blood when Kurtis Revan’s strike from the edge of the box was tipped on to the bar by Church keeper Lloyd Ransome and Curtis was quickest to convert the rebound from close range.
Stratford, who drew 1-1 at Coalville Town on Saturday when Shariff’s 17th-minute effort was cancelled out by a late Alexander Dean strike, should have been pegged back soon afterwards but Javia Roberts somehow volleyed over from almost under the bar having got on the end of a cross from the right.
The lively Shariff then had a shot from a narrow angle turned behind by Ransome before the visitors’ Jordan Goddard fizzed a 20-yard strike a whisker wide.
Ten minutes before half-time Roberts almost made amends when he burst down the left and cut inside before forcing Elliott Taylor to tip his effort over the bar.
Curtis went close to making it 2-0 just before the break with a long-range strike but that would have been harsh on Alvechurch, who started the second half impressively as Jamie Willets put a free header straight at Taylor before Roberts crashed a thumping strike against Taylor’s left-hand post with the keeper well beaten.
However, Stratford bagged a decisive second goal on 68 minutes and it was in-form Shariff who netted when he rose highest to head in Curtis’ inswinging corner from the right for his seventh goal of the season and fifth in the last four games.
Curtis wasted a fine late chance to make it 3-0 when he fired against the advancing Ransome but there was no denying Stratford, whose boss Tommy Wright said: “Following on from the Coalville game it was another tremendous performance.
“We had to dig deep and defend well but we were deserving winners at the end.”
Town, who continue their Southern Premier Central season at Hitchin Town on September 28, have completed the signing of 19-year-old defender George Heaven who was released by Leicester City at the end of last season.
Heaven was a regular in the Foxes’ U18 side and also appeared twice for their U23s. He has since been on trial at West Ham United and Wright is delighted to have persuaded him to come to the Arden Garages Stadium.
Heaven is fit and available for Saturday’s FA Cup second qualifying round tie at Halesowen Town. Report courtesy of Stratford Town Independent Supporters Association.