IT was a mighty close thing, but a late Jacob Spence header was sufficient to give Bridgwater United a 2-1 home victory over Brixham in the FA Cup last night, writes Mark Hollidge.
The win sees them through the next round and a home tie against Ilfracombe on August 21 (3pm).
Bridgwater were lacking a host of key players and a patched upside produced a patchy performance. On the night Brixham could consider themselves a little unfortunate to not be in the next round. However, when considering that United had already “won” the game once, perhaps some sort of justice prevailed.
An early chance came Jack Taylor’s way when Jake Llewellyn swerved inside a defender and then laid the ball into his path. United’s top marksman ran through, but the six-foot six-inch keeper Dan Gillard blocked the shot.
At the other end, Josh Parry demonstrated that he was going to be a handful when beating the cover defence and smashing over the angle. Playing wide on the left, Parry benefitted from United playing three at the back. Time after time he found space on the left and his pace and skill should have produced more end results. United never really got to grips with him.
At the midway point of the first half, Harry Horton’s instant left foot half volley from 25 yards was well hit but Gillard saved well at the right-hand post.
For Brixham, Morgan Harford flashed a cross across the box with no one able to get a touch but very soon after that United were celebrating a goal. Defensive dithering conceded possession to the busy Tom Llewellyn. From a position on the right, he picked out George King. From the edge of the penalty area, he smoothly curled Llewellyn’s pass out of Gillard’s reach and into the top left corner.
Parry had the ball in the net, but the flag had been up for some time for offside and United ended the first half just about ahead on points.
The second half saw Brixham more in the ascendant, with United desperately trying to keep them out. However, both Taylor and Horton had shots high and wide from promising positions in the early second half action.
Brixham were bossing the middle of the park and they knew that they pretty much just had to feed Parry and danger would ensue. What Brixham weren’t good at was finishing.
There were several scuffed attempts from very good positions and a long-range lobbed shot by Cole Harford was never going to trouble someone as proficient as Jake Viney.
It probably came as no surprise to anyone when Parry levelled the score. Again, he broke past the defence, cut inside, and shaped a low shot inside the right post. It had been coming. It nearly came again just two minutes later. King lost possession in his own half, the ball was passed to Parry, he ran through and struck the left post.
To make things worse for United, the influential Tom Llewellyn was soon seen lying on the ground with an injury. He couldn’t continue and United had to play another one of their youngsters. Speaking of youngsters, Callum Chivers made his full debut and showed good instincts, energy, and skill.
United were only causing trouble from dead ball situations and from a free kick Tom Ellis headed a yard wide although the keeper seemed to have it covered. It was Ellis who made the crucial assist for the decisive goal. His long throw from the left was glanced in by the head of Jacob Spence. Spence played with assurance throughout.
Could United hold on? Just about. The play got a bit fractious in the final phases with yellow cards being dished out and there was much tension in the air. In a final throw of the dice Brixham relieved Gillard of his goalkeeping duties to add his considerable height in attack.
So it was, with only seconds left, that a cross came in from the right, a Brixham player turned it goalwards, but Viney pushed it away from very close to the goal line. The Brixham forwards thought that the ball had crossed the line and some wheeled away in premature celebration while the game continued on the other flank.
The referee’s whistle moments later brought an end to the game and joy to the home team. Fine margins.
Competition: Emirates FA Cup, Extra Preliminary Round (replay)
Venue: Fairfax Park
Bridgwater: Jake Viney, Dave Thorne, Jake Llewellyn, Callum Chivers, Jacob Spence, Tom Ellis, George King, Harry Horton, Jack Taylor, Adnan Hiroli, Tom Llewellyn. Subs: Nick Woodrow, Sully McKenna, Gabe Plant, Merson Ham, Dave Pearse.
Brixham: Dan Gillard, Scott Robinson, Morgan Harford, Kieran Parkin, Mark Brooke, Jake Chisholm, Shaun Bowden, Aaron Wellington, Cole Harford, Callum Leech, Josh Parry. Subs: Mark Newbold, Matt Leighton, Alex Harding, Luca Martinez, Ben Hopkins, Jacob Picavant, Luke Maxwell/
Referee: Adam Wilson
Assistant Referee: Darren Cullum
Assistant Referee: Stephen Posting
PHOTOS: Debbie Gould