STRATFORD Town have apologised to their fellow play-off rivals after the end-of-season plans were thrown into chaos in an ineligible player saga.
Town will now play their Southern Premier Central semi-final at King’s Lynn Town on Monday (3pm), after the game was twice called off.
After an FA and Southern League investigation, Stratford were deducted three points for fielding Dan Creaney when he was not properly registered, they say, after he joined on loan from Coalville Town in February.
Town insisted they had emailed the necessary details and their case was strengthened by the fact that, when Creaney was booked in his second game, the FA sent the booking details to Stratford as their registered player, not Coalville.
With the league calling off the other semi-final between Stourbridge and Alvechurch, twice, the saga has become farcial and the other clubs have vented their frustration over how the matter has been handled.
The semis will now be played on Monday, the final on Wednesday and then the super final against the Northern Premier League play-off winners next Saturday.
However, the Northern Premier final – South Shields v Nantwich Town – takes place on Saturday so the winners will have a clear week to prepare while the Southern Premier team wlll have to play three times in six days.
The whole epidode has put a cloud of frustration to the finale to Town’s best ever season.
In a statement, Stratford said they were sorry for all the inconvenience to all the teams
“We sincerely apologise to everyone connected to King’s Lynn, Stourbridge and Alvechurch for all of the uncertainly and inconvenience this matter has caused which emanated from us suddenly finding ourselves at the centre of an FA and Southern League inquiry,” it said.
“We also wish to apologise to our own players, staff, volunteers and supporters for all the disruption this has caused at a time when, like all of the other clubs who have worked so hard over a long season to make the play-offs, we were excitedly looking forward to the play-offs only to be overshadowed by these events.
“We now look ahead to what promises to be a great game at King’s Lynn on Monday.”
The Southern League confirmed their decision on Thursday morning in a statement: “Following the recent case of the club being charged by the FA relating to the fielding of Daniel Creaney in league matches when the loan documents had not been received by them, the case was concluded on Wednesday morning with it being proven.
“This then allowed the league to investigate the matter and, with the co-operation of Stratford Town after being charged with the fielding of an ineligible player in league matches, the league’s emergency committee considered the case referring to documentation from the club and the FA.
“The committee found the case proven and deducted the club three points due to exceptional circumstances since it felt it was not unreasonable the matter should have been highlighted at an earlier stage following a caution administered on February 19.
“Therefore, Stratford Town is able to take its place in the play-off semi-final at King’s Lynn Town on Monday.”
Town’s regular season ended with a 5-1 defeat at champions Kettering Town on Saturday. Kai Williams netted for the visitors.