Clinical Rowe goes to town on Stratford

Ben George swings in the cross for Ryan Rowe's opening goal.  Pictures: Tim Nunan
Ben George swings in the cross for Ryan Rowe's opening goal. Pictures: Tim Nunan
  • Southern League Premier Division
  • Stratford Town 0 Brakes 2

Leamington cruised to a 2-0 win at the DCS Stadium, with two first-half Ryan Rowe goals settling a low-key derby, writes Paul Okey.

On a warm bank holiday afternoon and coming just 48 hours after both sides had played the slow tempo was not surprising, particularly on a lush surface.

However, with so many former Brakes in the Stratford ranks, including coach Liam O’Neill, the visitors might have expected a more troublesome afternoon.

As it was, despite a second-half improvement from Town, there were few moments of alarm for Paul Holleran’s side after Rowe had bagged his fourth and fifth goals of the campaign.

There were early signs of encouragement for the home side with good interplay down the left allowing Jamie Sheldon to whip in a cross which Guy Clark headed just past the angle.

Joe Magunda picked up an early booking for an ungly lunge on Daniel Summerfield and Tony Breeden, on his return from a one-match suspension, had to be bravely off his line to deny Kieren Westwood after he had benefited from a lucky ricochet when challenging Ben George.

Ryan Rowe celebrates the first of his Stratford double.

Ryan Rowe celebrates the first of his Stratford double.

Summerfield slid a shot well wide after patient build-up play from the home side but that was to be the end of their first-half threat as Brakes took control.

Running away from goal, Rob Thompson-Brown skewed a shot well wide, while Niall Cooper made a confident claim from an inviting George cross.

George was again the source for Brakes’ 23rd-minute opener.

His right-wing cross was slightly behind Rowe who had plenty of company 12 yards out but he used the pace of the ball well, guiding his header just inside the post and past the despairing dive of Cooper.

There was little in the way of a response from Stratford as Brakes flooded the midfield and they were restricted to aimless punts forward, much to the frustration of the home fans in a crowd of 523.

Jack Edwards showed good strength to hold off Clark and get a shot away but it was always rising over the bar, while Thompson-Brown flashed an effort across the face of goal as play was confined to the Stratford half.

The killer blow was landed a minute before the break and it was again courtesy of a deadly piece of finishing from Rowe.

The striker picked up Edwards’ flick-on with his back to goal on the corner of the six-yard box and after initially struggling to get the ball out of his feet he earned himself a yard of space and turned to crash the ball into the roof of the net.

If Stratford were to get back into the game they needed an early goal after the break and there was certainly more intent about their play following the resumption.

However, the sting was taken out of the game by a series of niggly fouls and bookings.

A Summerfield cross whistled across the six-yard box with no one there to apply the finish and at the other end Ahmed Obeng injected pace into a patient Brakes move but after space opened up he could only drag his shot wide of the near post.

Will Grocott went down in the box to elicit penalty appeals from the home players but referee Robbie Dadley was unmoved and Breeden stood tall to deflect an Edwin Ahenkorah strike over the bar as Stratford tried to work up a head of steam.

Sheldon whistled a cross-shot over the heads of a crowded box from the resultant corner and was similarly off-target with a free-kick from a central position.

The points were already safely pouched by Brakes but substitute Lee Moore was unable to add the gloss in the closing stages, heading horribly over from less than six yards after being picked out by a cute ball from Obeng.

TOWN: Niall Cooper, Daniel Summerfield, Kieren Westwood, Guy Clark (Simeon Tulloch, 83), Jordan Cullinane-Liburd, Warren Brooks, Barry Fitzharris (Edji Mbunga, 54), James Fry, Edwin Ahenkorah, Will Grocutt, Jamie Sheldon. Subs not used: Richard Gregory, Liam Francis, Emmitt Defouneso.

BRAKES: Tony Breeden, Ben George, Connor Gudger, Joe Magunda (Rob Elvins, 73), Jamie Hood, James Mace, Rob Thompson-Brown, Darren Pond, Jack Edwards, Ryan Rowe (Lee Moore, 69), Ahmed Obeng (Tom James, 88). Subs not used: Ryan Quinn, Lewis Gwilliams.