Stoke Return to Top of Table as Spurs and Brixham Lose Derbies
As both leaders Brixham AFC and third-placed Newton Abbot Spurs lost at home on Boxing Day, they opened the door for Stoke Gabriel to storm back to the top of the SWPL Division One East with a Tuesday afternoon victory at St Martins.
Galmpton United nipped up the road to Wall Park for an 11am kick-off and stunned Brixham with an unexpected 3-1 success courtesy of Barkwell, who scored twice and Stuart Bowker who netted from the penalty spot. Meanwhile, over at The Rec, Newton Abbot Spurs played host to Teignmouth. Both sides had suffered a minor blip in form of late but Liam Moseley and Shaun Bowden showed Spurs what they had been missing in the Appledore game as they combined well to almost present lone striker Joe Molloy with an early opportunity within five minutes of the start, the latter’s cross just evading the front man. Jack Baxter then proceeded to stamp his authority on a scrappy game delivering two decent free-kicks that were headed over by Hayden Roe and wide by captain Scott Baxter respectively. Next, George Dandridge set up Molloy who stung the gloves of Luke Ashford with a shot from distance. Teignmouth had a couple of good chances as the first half wore on, Scott Telford heading over and Buckland Athletic’s Lloyd Gardner picking up the ball from in front of the Spurs defence and sending it narrowly over Matt Bojar’s crossbar. Kevin Daddy then sent a header over from Bowden’s cross to mark the end of a goalless first half.
The second half went on in a similar vein until after the hour mark when it opened up considerably, ignited by Chris Metter’s opener, a header from a Bowden corner. After Gardner’s mazy run ended in a Bojar save, Spurs punished Teignmouth with a second. Teigns had been probing for an equaliser when Adam Dyson spotted an opportunity to launch a breakaway, Liam Moseley and Jake Chisholm haring towards Ashford’s goal. Moseley’s shot was parried by the visiting goalkeeper but Chisholm’s efforts were rewarded as the ball landed at his feet in front of a gaping net. Two up in the 76th minute, the points looked secure – until two minutes later when sub Matt Eves benefited from good midfield play by Jack Baxter to send a low shot past Bojar. Then, in the 83rd minute, Jack Baxter and Jamie Moore combined to set up Gardner. The latter evaded his marker and hit his shot across Bojar for the equaliser. Roe then hit the side netting before playing a part in the game decider. Deep in stoppage time, the referee spotted an infringement by the Spurs defenders, Roe the injured party, and pointed to the spot. Up stepped Geoff Breslan to dispatch the winning spot-kick with a fine finish, sending Bojar the wrong way.
Elsewhere, Liverton United were entertaining a Bovey Tracey side which had won their last two games but despite a promising start it was the Lillies who went ahead with an early first-half header from a free-kick. The Moorlanders almost restored parity in the 13th minute but a goal-bound header was cleared off the line. The visitors did find the net soon though, on 24 minutes, Churchill with a close-range finish. Liverton then improved but there were few chances for rest of the half. Bovey started the second half well and went close when Stanbridge headed Leech’s cross just wide. Bushin was even closer with a header from Buckmaster’s cross but the ball went narrowly over and the same player sent Taylor away but the latter’s ball didn’t reach the intended target in Churchill due to some great Liverton defensive work. As Bushin sent another header over it looked as if Bovey were closing in for the win but suddenly Liverton produced two quality chances that should have swung the game their way, Stewart blasting the ball against the bar and Last missing an empty goal. Livingstone then tested the home goalkeeper with a shot and the resultant corner was headed wide as shared points seemed the more likely outcome. But Bovey had other ideas, substitute Lloyd Tucker helping the visitors to clinch a late winner, combining with Livingstone for the latter to set up Bushin who hit home a shot from inside the box.
On to Tuesday and Stoke Gabriel travelled to Exeter side St Martins knowing that a draw would be enough to send them into the New Year as division leaders. Jordan Hopkins gave the Railwaymen the ideal start with a 2nd minute opener but the home side hit back within a minute to level things up. In an unbelievable start, Josh Webber restored Stoke’s lead a minute after that. The game settled down until five minutes before half-time when Ollie Critchlow struck to put the visitors into a commanding position by the break. Any doubts about the win were put to bed seven minutes from time, Webber grabbing a second, and Ollie Booth added a fifth and final goal for the new leaders three minutes later.