Late Chris Shephard penalty snatches point for Weymouth
IN A dramatic finale worthy of Shakespeare himself, Weymouth rescued a point at the DCS Stadium with a penalty deep into stoppage time.
In-form Stratford seemed to be on course for a fifth successive win through Jamie Sheldon’s assured finish in the 80th minute.
This was the first ever meeting between the two sides and it had been hard going due to a howling gale blowing straight down the ground, but Sheldon’s strike looked to have clinched the points until Michael McGrath lunged in on Calvin Brooks in the 93rd minute and up stepped Chris Shephard to earn the Terras a share of the spoils.
With player-manager Jason Matthews still not fully recovered from his heel injury, Weymouth drafted in keeper Andy Dawber on loan from Fulham after Jordan Holmes had been recalled by AFC Bournemouth as a result of their own goalkeeping crisis.
Stratford had the benefit of the wind behind them from the kick-off, but it was Weymouth who threatened first when Shephard cut in from the left in the seventh minute to hit a fierce effort which was spectacularly pushed away by Andy Kemp.
Jack Roberts replied for Stratford with a low drive which fizzed narrowly wide, but they then missed a great chance to take the lead when McGrath’s cross from the right reached Anthony Charles at the far post only for the big defender to volley over.
The Terras were putting some neat passing moves together in spite of playing against the elements, with the busy Shephard catching the eye with his trickery on the ball and pinpoint distribution, but Weymouth had the debutant Dawber to thank for keeping them on level terms as the half reached its midway point.
A slick reverse pass from Sheldon sent Dior Angus clear down the left and his whipped-in cross found Simeon Tulloch in the six-yard box but his first-time shot was blocked by Dawber at point-blank range and the loose ball was cleared away to safety.
The Terras then had to make an unexpected change when Pat Baldwin limped off to be replaced by Mark Molesley, but they looked comfortable at the back as Stratford struggled to create a worthwhile opening until they twice came close to breaking through in the closing minutes of the half.
First Sheldon latched on to a long ball from Kieren Westwood only to lose out to Chris McPhee’s perfectly-timed tackle, while shortly after Angus raced on to Sheldon’s pass apparently with just Dawber to beat until Brooks got back to deflect his shot behind.
With the wind now helping them, Weymouth inevitably had more of the possession after the break but Stratford somehow survived several scrambles in their penalty area and the closest the visitors came was when Adam Kelly fired over from distance and Shephard shot straight at Kemp.
Weymouth appeared to run out of ideas from the hour mark on as Stratford began to settle down and at last try to keep the ball on the floor.
Both Angus and Tulloch started to trouble the Terras’ backline with their pace and Dawber again showed his worth in the 70th minute when Westwood released Angus down the left and the keeper did well to cut out the cross as Tulloch waited to pounce.
Then with 10 minutes to go Stratford took the lead when Angus worked space for himself on the left of the penalty area to reach the byline and pull the ball back across the six-yard box.
It went beyond Tulloch but Sheldon was following up at the far post and thumped it past Dawber for his third goal in as many games and his ninth of the season in all.
Weymouth responded by withdrawing full-back Jordan Copp in favour of striker Tim Sills as they piled forward in search of the equaliser.
Molesley had a low drive flash inches wide and McPhee shot over from a Shephard cross as the minutes ticked away.
But just as Stratford had the winning post in their sights, Brooks surged into the penalty area and was brought down by McGrath. Shephard blasted the spot-kick past Kemp.