What a difference a week makes. Having been heavily beaten and eliminated from the League Cup to a team from a lower division to securing a league victory over last year’s league runners up Watchet Town.
This was a welcome first win for caretaker player manager Leigh White with a single goal enough to take the points. Due to unavailability of key players through injury and work commitments the team was changed with Andy Lilley returning in the middle or defence and Callum Briggs and Chris Holland forming a new attacking partnership up front and Chris Bradley back in his midfield role alongside Whitey and Mike Rowcliffe establishing the engine room of the team. Rowcliffe gave the opposition fair warning they were in for a tough game right from the kick off, closing down the opposition and snapping into tackles straight from the start.
The early stages were pretty even with both teams seeking to settle into rhythm and Watchet had an appeal for a penalty for a handball offence rejected by the referee as early as the second minute of play. More threats came from the visitors when Matt Hill saved from a shot from Tom Sparks with Lilley completing the clearance.
On fifteen minutes Rory Thomas went scampering down the left flank and on reaching the by-line sent a great cross over the defence which found Bradley who superbly fired the ball into the top left hand corner from just outside of the box. This spurred on Watchet but the home defence marshalled by Jason Potter and full backs Ollie Clements and Ethan Johnson kept to their duties and breaking forward whenever possible.
Just before half time following more good work on the left from Thomas and Johnson ending in his cross just headed wide by Bradley. The home side was well worth their 1-0 interval lead.
The second half saw chances falling for both sides with the front two of Callum Briggs and Chris Holland continually harassing the away defence and both deserving of goals for their work rate. Whitey and Rowcliffe were matching them in the middle of the park linking well with both defence and attacking play. Briggs earned an early rest when replaced by Jake Betts for his first team debut and he got stuck in straightawaymaking his presence felt. A great through ball from Johnson sent Thomas scampering down the left but his cross was slightly over-hit and just too high for Betts waiting at the far post. Shortly after Thomas was replaced by George Martin to see the game out.
Near the end Bradley burst through on goal and was brought down claiming a penalty but the referee adjudged that infringement was on the edge of the box to the dismay of the home supporters who were convinced it was a spot kick. The resultant free kick was cleared and soon after the sound of the final whistle was greeted with fine applause from the loyal home supporters for a good all round and whole hearted performance from the entire team.
Acknowledgment should also be made of the contribution from the bench of Mark Brown and physio and Club stalwart Phil Williams in support of Whitey with telling words of wisdom and encouragement throughout the game.
Referee Andy Murphy deserved full marks from both teams as he’d kept a firm grip on this keenly contested encounter.
The Bill Gough Man of the Match award went to Chris Bradley for his stunning goal which clinched this important victory.
GK, Matthew Hill
Defence, Ollie Clements, Andy Lilley, Jason Potter, Ethan Johnson,
Midfield, Mike Rowcliffe, Leigh White, Chris Bradley, Rory Thomas
Forwards, Chris Holland, Callum Briggs
Subs: Jake Betts (for Callum Briggs), George Martin (for Rory Thomas)