FOOTBALL – Bromsgrove Sporting 0-1 Stratford Town

FORMER Bromsgrove Sporting boss Gavin Hurren returned to haunt the Rouslers as the now Stratford Town manager inspired relegation-threatened Bards to victory at the Victoria Ground.

Hurren guided Sporting to safety last season before being relieved of his duties at the end of the season and appointed Bards boss earlier this season.

And on a night when both clubs paid tribute to former player Cody Fisher, Stratford’s Paul McCone scored the only goal early in the second half as the Bards were deserved winners.

Sporting wore a special all-white jersey in memory of Fisher, who was tragically stabbed to death at a Digbeth nightclub on Boxing Day last year.

The jersey is inspired by Premier League leaders Arsenal’s ‘No More Red’ initiative to protect young people from knife crime and youth violence.

And the front of the shirt featured a “Cody 23” tribute, with the match worn shirts set to be auctioned off with all proceeds going to Fisher’s family and a charity of their choice.

The original game was due to be played on January 2 earlier this year, however the two clubs agreed to postpone the game as a show of respect for friends and teammates from Fisher’s family.

And a minute’s silence before kick-off was impeccably observed in Fisher’s memory as Sporting lined up in the aforementioned one-off all-white kit in tribute to their former player.

There was a distinct lack of goal-scoring action in the first quarter of an hour, with Ollie Taylor’s clear shot from a set piece being the most notable moment.

Sporting had the first chance of the game when Brandon Smalley’s free-kick from 25 yards out was tipped over the bar by Stratford goalkeeper Liam O’Brien.

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And Sporting missed a golden opportunity shortly after as Joe Curtis saw his attempt parried to safety by O’Brien after Mo Njie displayed a superb piece of skill to set up the shot.

The referee stopped the game in the 23rd minute as players and fans shared a minute of applause for former player Fisher.

Stratford’s first real opening came well into the first half when former Sporting man Jamie Molyneux traded passes with Kyle Bennett and circuited a shot wide from a difficult angle.

The Rouslers responded with a chance of their own as Miro Pais collected a loose ball before driving on goal and firing a long-range shot just inches over the bar.

A loose pass offered Stratford another chance just before half-time when Bennett slipped the ball through to Andre Wright, only for the striker to fire straight at Taylor from inside the box.

And the Bards started the second half in style as Bennett rolled his man before firing at the ball, hitting the post and bouncing off Taylor and behind for the corner.

From the resulting corner, Stratford’s McCone headed in in the 47th minute to put the visitors ahead while Sporting were punished for a sloppy start to the second period.

And Town had a chance to double their lead when Bennett received the ball 25 yards from goal when Taylor shoved the midfielder’s attempt around the post, which dived to his right.

The visitors were well up front as Wright failed to parry a low full-length cross before Molyneux fired wide.

Hurren’s side missed a glorious chance to seal the points when Bennett saw his attempt 15 yards out acrobaticly knocked back by Taylor.

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Sporting failed to threaten Stratford’s goal at half-time as Mike McGrath’s side suffered a disappointing home defeat.

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