Stoke Close Gap as Brixham Lose Battle of the Fishermen
A win at home to Axminster saw Stoke Gabriel narrow the gap between themselves and SWPL Division One East leaders Brixham AFC as the latter lost out to Appledore in North Devon.
Stoke started quickly, Ollie Critchlow heading just wide after four minutes from Sean Finch’s cross. Finch then opened the scoring after 12 minutes, following up Critchlow’s saved strike, and things were looking good by the half hour mark as Finch netted his second on 24 minutes, moving in from the left to curl one past Scott Wells-Burr and into the top of the net. Seven minutes later, Tom Kelly’s header, from a Dean Stevens left-sided corner, made it three at half-time although Stevens and Jordan Hopkins forced good saves from Wells-Burr to limit the damage. The second half was a tighter affair, Critchlow’s shot on the hour mark and a Scott Corderoy tip-over the only events of note until midfielder Nathan Warren’s almost broke the net with a long-range consolation strike. Critchlow added icing to the cake with a stoppage time fourth for the Railwaymen, Ollie Booth with a superb run to tee him up.
Appledore were the first team to beat Brixham AFC this season and the rematch went the way of the North Devon side again at Marshford. The appropriately named Sam Fishwick got the 10th minute opener for the home side, finishing off a one-two with Kobe Bryant after good hold-up play by last year’s Premier Cup winning goalscorer Tom Marsh. Brian Levien netted the other in the second half, heading home a Marsh cross at the far post. It was a classic counter-attacking strategy that worked wonders for Appledore who had conceded plenty of possession to the South Devon side but defended well.
Teignmouth stayed just ahead of Torridgeside and Newton Abbot Spurs in third as all three sides enjoyed wins, Teigns overcoming Alphington 3-1 at The Chronicles in a game which saw a player sent off from either side.
Torridgeside stayed ahead of Spurs on goal difference after hammering Liverton United 7-0, Harry Stevens with a hat-trick and George Nance and Jamie Bright with doubles.
Given their recent downturn in form, Spurs would have been forgiven for fearing the worst when they went one down to bottom side Exwick Villa within the first five minutes, Jordan Ewings heading home a Chris Clarke free-kick from the right. Spurs were not playing well but came close to an equaliser in the eleventh minute. Centre-back Kevin Dadd, returning from suspension. combined well with George Dandridge to set right-back Joe Andrews away. Andrews cut in from the right but just missed Levi Edwardson’s far post with his curled effort. Exwick came close to increasing their lead when Ed Plackett’s low shot from long-range tested Matt Bojar but the home ‘keeper was on his toes and made the save.
Spurs knew they needed to up their game and nearly found an equaliser two minutes after the restart, Chris Metters, another centre-back returning from suspension, missing with a volley after Adam Dyson had headed Andrews’ right-side cross into his path. Next it was Andrews’ turn to fluff his lines as he sent a tame header into Edwardson’s arms from a decent Liam Jones cross. With just over 20 minutes remaining, Spurs introduced Jake Chisholm who made an immediate impact, lobbing Edwardson with a first-time return after a half-clearance from Villa. With 15 minutes left, Spurs were finally level and immediately took their opportunity to turn the game around, Joe Molloy, Andrews and Dandridge involved in a move which culminated in a low shot from distance for Jones. Edwardson got a glove to the ball but the spin took it over the line for a second Spurs goal. The home side pressed for a pressure-relieving third and Metters almost obliged, hitting the bar from Jones’ corner. The third goal did eventually come though, deep into stoppage time, Dyson and Jones combining from a free-kick for the latter to curl one in – his tenth of the campaign.
After two consecutive wins on the road, Bovey Tracey returned to the Recreation Ground where they played host to Sidmouth Town. What followed was a bizarre game littered with goals and red cards. Things looked promising for the Moorlanders after 12 minutes when Mark Perring rose unchallenged to head home the opener from a corner. But within a minute Sidmouth were level, Bovey failing to clear their lines and presenting the visiting side with the chance to shoot home from the edge of the box. About ten minutes later Ben Head seemed to lose his head, booked twice in quick succession for apparent dissent to reduce Bovey to ten men. With tempers flaring, Callum Leech soon followed Head to the changing room, dismissed for retaliation. With a mountain to climb to stay in the game, Bovey conceded ten minutes from half-time but were relieved to see the goal ruled out. Soon after, Joe Bushin got on the end of Gav Collins’ cross as the home side pursued an unlikely half-time lead.
The second half started with the Moorlanders understandably on the defensive and Bryant pulling off save after save. However, when the next goal did come it unbelievably went to Bovey, Hatherly directing a goal-kick into Collins’ path for the latter to race away and find the net. By the 75th minute the Vikings were well and truly perplexed as Bushin set up Taylor to fire home from close range and give the nine men a two goal cushion. When Sidmouth were awarded and scored a penalty in the 85th minute, it still looked plausible that Bovey would scrape three points but a last minute equaliser denied the hosts who would have to settle for a draw. Unfortunately, the fired up visitors were not going to let Bovey off that easily and hit a stoppage time winner despite a raised flag for a foul throw in the build-up. That was still not the end of the drama as, moments later, Taylor and Hatherly were given their marching orders to see Bovey end the strangest of games with just seven players.
The remaining games featuring South Devon teams saw Galmpton beaten 2-1 at home to St Martins and Totnes and Dartington doing well to earn a 1-1 home draw with Crediton United.