WORCESTER City hit the ground running as they kicked off their pre-season programme with a 2-1 victory at Stratford Town.

Following two weeks of training, Carl Heeley’s men took their first steps towards their return to Blue Square Bet North action on August 14 at Knights Lane.

Matt Birley and new signing Tom Thorley struck either side of the break, the latter direct from a free-kick, before Myron Semper restored some pride for the hosts four minutes from time.

But it is the performance that matters most in these fixtures and City looked to have shaken off the cobwebs after a two-month summer break.

There were promising displays across the park, particularly in the first-half, as new recruits and trialists alike tried to prove their worth.

Lining up 4-4-2, assistant player-boss Mark Clyde partnered Rob Elvins at the heart of defence, while Thorley and Kevin O’Connor, both key additions to Heeley’s squad, were paired in central midfield with Mark Danks and Marc McGregor starting up front.

A raft of half-time changes saw Dene Whittall-Williams and Tom Evans combine at centre-half, while Montserrat midfielder Wayne Dyer got his chance as well as strikers Dan Polan and Dan Glover, the latter released by Port Vale.

Among those to particularly impress was Thorley, showing City may finally have found the answer to their set-piece conundrum.

From the off, the former Stafford Rangers player consistently sent inviting crosses into the box, avoiding last season’s common sight of failing to clear the first defender.

His effort was capped with a sweetly-struck 53rd-minute free-kick which had Stratford keeper Chris Jay grasping at thin air.

Thorley, alongside O’Connor, also looked both willing and capable of passing the ball through midfield as City assembled some attractive moves.

Ex-Mansfield keeper Tim Sandercombe did his cause no harm with several good saves, including one from a second-half penalty from Tom Warmer, one of three former Worcester players in the home ranks.

Danks was a livewire in attack but spurned a seventh-minute chance when he fired wide from six yards. Thorley played a part in City’s opener, his corner kick finding Birley in the box and the former Birmingham City player dispatched a shot into the top corner.

McGregor should have doubled the lead before the break but his weak penalty, coming after he had been fouled in the box, was easily saved by Jay.

There was a brief scare when Shabir Khan pulled up with a knock but, despite being replaced at half-time, he appeared OK.

Once Thorley had got the second, Stratford enjoyed the better of the second-half and Semper’s consolation was just reward for their efforts.

City first-half: Sandercombe, Ward, Shabir, Thorley, Clyde, Elvins, K Evans, O’Connor, Danks, McGregor, Birley; second-half: Sandercombe, Ward, Clyde, Whittall-Williams, T Evans, Thorley, Walker, O’Connor, Dyer, Polan, Danks (Pike 61). Sub not used: Heard.