bridgy v tavistock
ROBINS skipper Mark Armstrong shows his dominance in the air. PHOTO: Debbie Gould

Bridgwater Town reach final of Les Phillips Cup


Les Phillips Cup semi-final

WHAT a game! The 501 enthusiastic fans at Fairfax Park last night were able to observe a Robins’ performance bristling with nerve and verve which earned a deserved place in the final, writes Mark Hollidge.

Bridgwater now meet the winners of Bradford Town v Hallen next Saturday, (May 29), at The Tannery Ground, Street, kick off 3pm.

This was one of the best games seen at this ground in recent times. The Robins had learned some lessons from the Vase exit to the same opponents. In the previous game, the worthy Tavistock had grabbed the initiative early on and the Robins spent much of the time on the back foot. Not this time.

The Robins had turned canine and were like greyhounds out of the trap. From the first few seconds Tavvy showed some uncertainty in defence, conceding possession in dangerous places and the Robins soon carved out goal chances.

The willing Sam Crumb seized on a defensive mistake and his low shot was fumbled away by a nervous looking Josh Oak. The keeper’s kicking was unconvincing, but he did redeem himself with a string of good saves later on.

Duffy opener

The first goal was a big confidence boost for the Robins. Mike Duffy gave the left side of the Tavvy defence a torrid time with his wit, quick feet and industry and he struck the first telling blow. He tried his luck from 20 yards out, the ball spun up off an attempted tackle and then curled, conveniently, under the bar.

Within two minutes the Robins were grateful for the combined efforts of Dave Thorne and Tom Ellis who repelled a goalbound header by Josh Grant. Next it was Town who gave the ball away in their own half and Jack Crago should have done better than drag a weak shot wide.

The Robins then had a spell of 20 minutes when they were well on top and should have added more goals. Twice in a minute Crumb had low shots from the edge of the box which tested Oak. The Robins were very unlucky when Duffy directed a Cavaniesque chip from 35 yards towards goal. It hit the underside of the crossbar and Crumb headed in. The linesman decided he was in an offside position.

Five minutes after Duffy’s brilliant attempt the Robins were rueing their luck again. Ryan Brereton’s volley, following an Ellis long throw, smashed against the bar.

In a rare Tavvy attack Crago, who had a frustrating evening, shot a foot wide and high but the ball soon was down the other end again very quickly. Jordan Greenwood, playing one of his best games, turned defence into attack with a raking long ball alongside the left touch line. Jack Taylor was on it and cut inside but could only find Oak’s legs rather than the net.

How was it that the Robins were so dominant at this point? Maximum energy, winning the 50/50 balls and forcing their opponents into errors. It also helped that Tavistock were repeatedly being caught offside.

Balance changed

The balance of the game changed a bit as half time approached. The skilful midfielder Callum Watson got on the ball much more and he was the main source of danger. So it was that Crago was set up for a diving header which lacked enough punch to cause Liam Kingston any worry. The stand in keeper had not had to make a save to that point and he did everything that was asked of him.

The second half saw a transformed Tavistock. The Robins’ goal lived a charmed life for a ten-minute spell. Perhaps the most significant moment of the whole game was when Crago went through a gap in the defence with no one around. He had plenty of time to size up the options. He ended up drilling the ball against the well placed Kingston’s feet.

A few minutes later Jordan Annear rose to send a header against the overworked crossbar and the same player spooned an effort well over the top after the ball was cut back to him.

At this point The Robins pulled themselves together again and reminded themselves of what they had to do to see this game out. So it was that Taylor was denied a probable penalty by an offside decision and then the Robins’ top scorer headed in after the two Toms, Fry and Ellis, had created the chance. The linesman was again Tavistock’s lifeline as his flag was up for offside again.

Llewellyn to the rescue

The one goal lead was looking slender and the Robins had cause to thank Jake Llewellyn for three brave and timely pieces of defending. He didn’t mind putting his head in the way of a thunderbolt Grant free kick, he made a tackle on the same player, who would certainly have scored from a few yards out, and he threw himself in the way of another goalbound, powerful shot from Tyler Elliot. Well done, Jake.

That was it really as far as the visitors were concerned. In the last fifteen minutes the Robins took back control. Showing impressive levels of fitness, Thorne hared down the right wing and got to the ball just before it crossed the line. His cross was ideal for Taylor to sidefoot home. Oak anticipated this well and got in the way.

Taylor seals it

Taylor was not going to be denied much longer. Adnan Hiroli’s first involvement after coming on as a sub was to thread the ball through to Taylor in the right channel. No mistake this time and a low shot gave the Robins a two goal cushion.

Sam Towler and Brereton had chances to make the margin more emphatic, but two goals were enough. Superb entertainment and on to the final.

Bridgwater: Liam Kingston, Dave Thorne, Jake Llewellyn, Mark Armstrong, Jordan Greenwood, Tom Ellis, Mike Duffy (Adnan Hiroli 76), Tom Fry, Jack Taylor, Sam Crumb (Sam Towler 79), Ryan Brereton (Jamie Wilson 71). Unused subs: George Painter, Josh Williams.


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