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PHOTO: Debbie Gould

FOOTBALL: Bridgwater United hold league leaders in front of bumper crowd

Bridgwater United 1, Tavistock 1

Toolstation Western League

THESE teams have met frequently in recent times and you always know what’s coming – it will be close, it will be intense, there will be few goals, it will be fiercely competitive in a good way and it is anyone’s guess as to who comes out on top, writes Mark Hollidge.

Yesterday’s game, witnessed by a magnificent total of 567 fans, was exactly like that.

The Robins have done something that not many clubs will do this season – taken four points from the Lambs.

Tavistock went into this game as league leaders and they have been the second best team in the league in the previous two (abbreviated) seasons.

 

PHOTO: Debbie Gould

A drawn result was a just outcome as United were stronger in the first half but the Lambs came roaring back (can lambs roar?) in the second period. Both teams would have been content to avoid defeat and keep their momentum going forwards.

There was a real sense of occasion and a terrific atmosphere in Fairfax Park as United tried to impose themselves on the visitors from the off.

Tavistock’s early defending was uncharacteristically loose early on. Cory Sargent lost control of the ball in the left back slot. Jack Taylor got hold of the ball but dragged a 20 yard shot wide. The visitors’ defence again lost possession deep into their half and Mike Duffy drilled a low shot wide.

United were hurrying and harrying Tavistock and not giving them room to breathe. Morgan Williams, an energetic midfield presence, had a looping header saved by Josh Oak and a dangerous whipped free kick from Tom Llewellyn flashed across the six yard box with nobody able to tap it in the net.

Pressure rewarded

This period of sustained possession and pressure was rewarded with a goal midway through the first half. A ball to the far post was nodded back into the mix by Ross Edwards. From almost under the keeper’s nose, Jordan Greenwood rammed the ball into the net. His third of the season.

PHOTO: Debbie Gould

The visitors had done nothing upfront in the first half hour but they had a chance when Josh Grant’s flick sent Jake Miller free on the left. He cut in but his shot was feeble and Jake Viney saved easily.

Appearing for Tavistock on the left wing was Josh Parry, a player who had caused United plenty of problems in the FA Cup when he was with Brixham. The Gareth Bale lookalike was often double marked to reduce his effectiveness but he did start to influence the action.

In Callum Watson, Tavistock have one of the most accomplished midfielders in the league and he was pulling the strings effectively.

Five minutes from half time Warren Daw’s strong header from a corner kick cleared the bar by a few inches – a taste of what was to follow in the second half.

Different second half

United had looked fairly comfortable throughout the first half but the second half was very different. The urgent, quick and intricate close passing and movement was largely replaced by a longer ball approach and Tavistock lapped this up.

United weren’t able to hold the ball in the opponents’ half for any length of time and they had to rely upon ‘backs to the wall’ defending. This they did very well but it did seem likely that Tavistock would score.

Tavistock won a series of corner kicks and from one of these Lewis Daw headed just wide. The pace of Parry was now problematic and when substitute Dan Koita joined the action he supplied more speed.

Llewellyn almost got a goal out of the blue when he charged down Oak’s clearance but, inconveniently, the ball spun away from the goal.

Equaliser

The visitors’ goal arrived with about a quarter of an hour left. A diagonal ball, right to left, sent Koita careering into space. He cut inside and lifted a composed finish high to Viney’s left.

The pressure on United’s defence intensified, as four yellow cards in ten minutes would suggest. Parry aimed a sidefooted shot towards the goal and Viney pushed the ball onto the bar. The ball bounced down onto the bar again before being smuggled away.

United could have snatched all of the spoils when Jacob Spence, back after a lengthy injury spell, sent a meaty drive just a few inches wide of the left post.

We had a flurry of substitutions, we had more corners. United were resolute in defence and the draw was well-earned.

United: Jake Viney, Harry Horton, Jacob Spence, Ross Edwards, Jordan Greenwood, Mark Armstrong, Tom Llewellyn, George King, Mike Duffy, Jack Taylor, Morgan Williams. Subs: Harry Durant, Archie Sturdy, Adnan Hiroli, Nick Woodrow, Ryan Brereton.

Tavistock: Josh Oak, Ben Cross, Lewis Daw, Warren Daw, Cory Sargent, Teigan Rosenquest, Callum Watson, Jake Miller, Josh Parry, Luke Brown, Liam Prynn. Subs: Lestyn Harris, Dave Hallett, Tallan Burns, Dan Koita.

Match Officials
Referee: Brian Lee
Assistant Referee: Joe Drew
Assistant Referee: Luke Iles

United are back at Fairfax Park to face Street next Saturday (3pm).

 

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