A QUICKFIRE brace poached by Dean Richards against Ludlow on Friday night deflated the hosts and fired Church Stretton to a victory that took them top.

The visitors eventually doubled their tally as Richards completed his hat-trick and a Matthew Jones strike made it 4-0 before Ludlow reduced the deficit, with the match finishing 4-1 on the 3G surface at Bromfield Road.

“We scored twice in the first quarter of an hour, both from crosses that their keeper flapped at, and Dean Richards scored both,” said Church Stretton manager Scott Peever. “They were absolutely horrible conditions and I think the two early goals on a night like that knocked the stuffing out of them.”

With three points putting Peever’s men top of Division Two of the West Midlands Regional League, a perfect weekend was completed less than 24 hours later, as title rivals FC Darlaston and Gornal Colts obliged by playing out a 2-2 draw to leave Church Stretton top, a point clear of second-placed Darlaston and with a game in hand on the two Black Country sides.

“It was ideal for them both to be dropping points,” said Peever. “We try not to look at other sides too much because you can lose focus, but by Saturday teatime we couldn’t have hoped for anything more.”

The Stretton boss is preparing for another feisty encounter on Saturday, at home to struggling Rock Rovers.

“We’ve had some battles over the years,” said Peever, “I’d say 40 percent of our squad are from Shrewsbury, so they’ve met the Rovers players down the years. They’re a strong, physical side and always seem to be up for it against us.”

The manager says he is expecting a full-strength squad for the first time this season, adding: “Obviously it helps when you’re winning. Everyone’s flying at the moment and confidence is a big thing in football.”

And Stretton will be hoping for a favour from Ludlow at the weekend, with the fifth-placed side due to visit Gornal.