Both teams started well, with the hosts having the better early chances, and Lee Thomas’ shot was held by Casey Harker. In the seventh minute the visitors were stretched when Charlie Evans’ shot was parried into the path of Edwin Ahenkorah who finished precisely. Dunstable almost got immediate compensation when Peter Kioso’s header was just over the cross bar.
Taylor’s next shot was gathered safely by Harker, then Kioso had a blocked shot before Osei-Bonsu tested the home keeper. Stratford almost scored an unlikely second when a shot ricocheted off a defender and was just wide of the post. John Sonuga had a header from a corner and was then called upon to defend successfully at the other end, clearing close to the goal line.
For the hosts, Charlie Evans’ cross was met by Liam Francis whose shot hit the post. Stratford bagged their second after twenty-six minutes following a succession of corners and a free kick. A partial clearance enabled the unmarked Mike Taylor to lob beyond Harker for the third goal. With Scott Betts off the field with a split boot, his absence was felt as Taylor added his second strike and his side’s third following a corner.
A further corner enabled a shot from Eli Bako, and with the ball drifting out to the right, the ensuing cross enabled Taylor to complete his hat-trick, one minute before the end of the first half.
Characteristically, Dunstable came out for the second half with renewed vigour and were indeed the better team for most of the half. Smart play from Gedeon Okito assisted Osei-Bonsu to gain a compensatory goal just on the hour mark and the visitors maintained their momentum – with further goals looking likely and they played with a determined spirit.
But in a heart-breaking moment, teenage goalkeeper Casey Harker, attempted to dribble around an opponent. He lost possession and substitute Justin Marsden gleefully converted this unexpected gift after seventy-three minutes. Stratford needed to consolidate their play and this was ultimately managed, and some later efforts were commendably close.