BRIDGWATER’S still-depleted squad are through to Monday’s draw for the first qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup thanks to a 3-0 victory over Ilfracome Town at Fairfax Park yesterday, writes Kerry Miller.
The visitors started brightly but were hit by a bad injury and a disputed goal in the first quarter and never looked like recovering.
Goals from George King, Jack Taylor and Adnan Hiroli were the highlights of what was in truth a scrappy and disjointed match – the 3-0 scoreline just about reflecting the difference between the sides.
Dave Pearse gave full debuts to teenager Wellington Jiménez and a new signing from Clevedon Town, Morgan Williams. Bridgy also welcomed back Mike Duffy on the bench but were without a raft of key players including Mark Armstrong, Tom Llewellyn, Ryan Brereton, Jacob Spence, Archie Sturdy, Sam Reed and Nick Woodrow.
Ilfracombe included evergreen striker Kevin Squire, who has more than 430 appearances and over a century of goals for Bideford to his name and who is some 25-years-older than Jiménez.
Squire was involved early when Charlie Prentice was given space to bring a save from Jake Viney, then moments later the veteran half-volleyed over from eight yards as the Bluebirds dominated the early play.
However that was as good as it got for them as wide-man Chris Roberts fell awkwardly when challenging for the ball with Jake Llewellyn and was helped off in some distress.
Bridgy began to take the initiative but far too many passes were going astray until Williams stretched the away defence to find Harry Horton who set up Taylor whose effort was saved by Steve Oliver. Jiménez then did well to find Williams who shot from distance and was just wide.
But it was a temporary respite as Taylor muscled his way into space and his pass found King who smashed home his third goal of the season to spark prolonged complaints from the visitors.
Five minutes later the match was effectively all over when Jake Llewellyn’s curling free kick was nodded home by Taylor who is now edging ever closer to his century of goals for the club.
Ilfracombe regrouped briefly and Brodie Montague’s header from a corner was just off target and right on the break a square home defence let in substitute Ollie Stevens, but Viney was equal to it, flying to his left to palm away what should have been a lifeline.
King hit a left foot strike just wide deep into injury time, but the home support enjoyed a two-goal cushion at half-time without seeing their side get into a steady rhythm.
The Bluebirds began well on the restart but after King had another effort go wide Jiménez and Taylor worked a space on the left and the latter’s cross was expertly chested home by Adnan Hiroli from close range and the Robins were home and hosed.
Pearse then took the opportunity to bring on fresh legs as Ross Edwards, Mike Duffy and Callum Chivers were all given some game time and Duffy went on a run but was just wide with a fine effort.
Jiménez showed why he is so highly thought of when engineering a chance for Chivers whose shot was tipped over by Oliver but by then the game had died a death and it was left to Taylor to have the last word as he was booked for a foul late on which may mean he misses the next round.
Bridgwater United: Jake Viney, Dave Thorne, Jake Llewellyn, Morgan Williams, Jordan Greenwood, Tom Ellis, George King, Harry Horton, Jack Taylor, Adnan Hiroli, Wellington Jiménez. Subs: Mike Duffy, Gabriel Plant, Callum Chivers, Ross Edwards, Dave Pearse.
Ilfracombe Town: Steve Oliver, Jamie Miron, James Dart, Jack Jenkins, Brodie Montague, Charlie Prentice, Kevin Squire, Chris Roberts, Liam Short, Cory Roach, Jack Langford. Subs: Joe Barker, Will Berry, Ollie Stevens.
Referee: Harry Chambers
Man of the match: Jack Taylor