Calor League Div One South & West.
Cirencester Town 2.
Stratford Town 0.
CIRENCESTER were given a fierce examination by an in-form Stratford side in the first half-hour before completing a clear-cut 2-0 win which maintained their title push.
Second-half goals from Steve Davies (penalty) and James Mortimer-Jones – another to join the midfielder’s collection of world class strikes – secured the points in a thoroughly professional performance.
With Merthyr showing no sign of wilting at the top of the table, Ciren could not afford any slip-ups and their defence, with Pritchett again magnificent, had to be rock solid in the opening 45 minutes.
Stratford have been showing promotion form since Boxing Day, dropping just two points in seven games and averaging almost four goals a match. And it is not often that Ciren have to face a three-pronged attack, one of the strikers being the league’s current No.1 with 28 goals, Richard Gregory.
It was, however, Gregory’s striker partner Tyrone Fagan who was the first to test either keeper, getting on the end of a Loyiso Recci cross and forcing a good stop from Glyn Garner in the fourth minute.
Ciren rallied with two off-target efforts from Smith and Morford before they could have gone behind in the 22nd minute.
The home side were guilty of ball-watching as Gregory stole behind the backline and dinked the ball over Garner, only to see it hit the post and settle a yard from the line before Ellis Dunton cleared.
But after the half-hour mark, Ciren began to get the upper hand. Henry was only a foot away from picking out the top corner with a clever, curling strike in the 33rd minute while at the end of a patient multi-pass move the excellent Liddiard beat Andy Kemp with a diving header which unluckily crashed against the bar.
Right on the whistle a long Dunton throw broke to Smith and his firmly-hit shot prompted Kemp into another fine save.
Nonetheless, Stratford could have gone ahead two minutes into the second half when a corner was only half-cleared to Mason Rowley and Garner knew little about the shot which hit him after coming through a crowd of players.
From that point, however, Stratford were rarely able to mount a serious attack as Ciren, firing on all cylinders and with Will Morford often the focal point, squeezed the life out of them.
Rowley unwisely lunged in on Smith, who was half past him in the box, and Ciren gratefully accepted the gift with the lively Steve Davies hitting it hard and low to Kemp’s right for a 65th minute lead.
Kemp made a fine save from a sweetly-struck Liddiard shot two minutes later and the tall midfielder perhaps should have done better with a back-post header from a Morford flick-on.
Then, in the 80th minute, Ciren appeared to put the game to bed. A corner broke to Mortimer-Jones just outside the box and without hesitation he had sent an exquisitely-struck left footed volley flashing into the top corner before Kemp even saw it.
The one blot on an otherwise dominant second half display came with four minutes remaining when Henry tripped Sterling as he was heading aimlessly across goal. But Gregory, added to a number of penalty fluffs this season, tamely hitting it low and left for Garner to gather easily.
Ciren are now hitting their stride after some rusty displays following the weather-enforced break and the majority of the team seem on the top of their game.
Cirencester Town: Garner, Anson (capt), Dunton, Pritchett, Liddiard, Henry, Wood (Bennett, 88), Mortimer-Jones, Morford (Bevan, 79), Davies, Smith.
Unused subs: Prictor, Hill, Fusco.