Bridgwater Utd 2, Ashton and Backwell Utd 1
Toolstation Western League
A SAM Crumb goal three minutes from the end gave the Robins three valuable points against a battling Ashton and Backwell United yesterday when football played second fiddle to the ferociously twitching coat tails of Storm Arwen, writes Kerry Miller.
While the U18 side were beating Bath City in the morning next door, there was a real possibility there could be structural damage to Fairfax Park with the roof at the college end in danger of disappearing over the railway.
But in the nick of time the wind relented just enough for the match not to be relegated to the realms of farce.
Despite that, conditions were far from ideal for the return of Sam Crumb after a spell in the Southern League at Larkhall Athletic and the debut of the imposing Sam Hedges at the back alongside another returnee in Tom Ellis.
With Mike Duffy, Harry Durant, Jacob Spence and Nick Woodrow on the injured list and leading scorer Jack Taylor suspended for one game, Dave Pearse and Karl Baggaley went with Jake Llewellyn up front on the left with Crumb.
When the dust settled Ashton had themselves to blame as they collected two sin-binnings and saw keeper Coombes sent off right at the end to finish with nine men on a day when they could easily have brought off a shock.
Happily for the home crowd the win promoted the Robins up to third in the premier division.
Morgan Williams was involved early on, feeding Tom Llewellyn, but he was just crowded out. Then brother Jake intercepted a back pass for Tom to crash just wide of Coombes.
The visitors were lively and with Charlie Saunders and Mason Hardidge stretching the home defence it needed Ellis to time a tackle to prevent Hardidge from testing Jake Viney in the home goal.
George King and Mark Armstrong were both getting through plenty of work and on the half hour King had a shot blocked then went on a long run before being pole-axed by Tom Press who went into referee Mike O’Donovan’s book.
King then flicked on a corner which was cleared off the line as United began to dominate. Then Hardidge was cautioned for another foul on King which proved pivotal.
The soft pitch and strong wind meant passes going astray and tackles being mistimed and near the break Ashton’s temporary loss of discipline cost them dearly.
Loss of discipline
Regan Sollars was sin-binned after the award of a free-kick inches outside the area and when Jake Llewellyn’s shot was parried by Coombes, Williams headed onto the bar before Jordan Greenwood nodded home the rebound for his sixth goal of the season.
Having taken the lead late in the half, the Robins were expected to go on to a comfortable win against the Bristol side who have only won two league games, but the game remained scrappy and substitute Miles Hardidge emulated his brother to bring a fine save out of Viney low to his left.
Their determined showing paid off just past the hour when Mason Hardidge got on the end of a flick over Viney to level against the odds.
Chances continued to be few and far between and after Tom Llewellyn and Ross Edwards had gone clear Greenwood slung in a cross from the left, Tom Llewellyn returned it across the face of the goal for Crumb to turn in the winner from a yard out.
Joe Bishop was then sin-binned, leaving Ashton with ten, before keeper Coombes went up front for the final play – a corner which was sent across the area and Coombes was inches away but clattered a home defender and was shown a straight red.
It was a bizarre end to a match which never really had a chance to flourish but it leaves Bridgwater third behind Tavistock and Bitton and in good fettle for Cadbury Heath away on Saturday (December 4) followed by the big FA Vase third round tie at home to Wessex League Bashley on December 11.
Bridgwater United: Jake Viney, Ross Edwards, Jake Llewellyn, Mark Armstrong, Jordan Greenwood, Tom Ellis, Sam Hedges, Tom Llewellyn, Sam Crumb, George King, Morgan Williams.
Subs used: Harry Horton (Crumb), Cam Gauci (King), Adnan Hiroli (J Llewellyn.)
Subs unused: Dave Thorne, Ryan Brereton.
Ashton and Backwell United: Lewis Coombes, Billy Devoy, Regan Sollars, Tom Anthony, Tom Press, Joe Bishop, Charlie Saunders, Sam Thomas, Mason Hardidge, Sam Price, Aaron Price.
Subs: Reece Hedges, Paul Uppington, Miles Hardidge, Dylan Hepplethwaite, Brad Skidmore.