Bridgwater Town 1 - 2 Shepton Mallet
Tuesday 22nd August 2017Two goals right at the end of a superb match, one a controversial penalty, had both sets of supporters gnawing fingernails on Tuesday night with Shepton Mallet substitute Elliott Nicholson crashing home the winner from two yards out, four minutes into injury time writes Kerry Miller.
In the minds of the travelling support, it was justice as they watched Bridgwater equalise through a Callum Ham penalty following a clash in the area between Shepton’s joint player-manager Craig Loxton and home player-manager Dave Pearse. Referee Stuart Kane pointed to the spot after cautioning Loxton and Ham shot home via the post to seemingly rescue a point. But deep into time added on Bridgy gave away a careless free-kick in a good position and Tom Hill’s dipping effort was pushed onto the bar only for Nicholson to hook home after a scramble.
It was a breathless end to a match where both teams were committed to attack on a much-improved playing surface and with both having been under relatively new management there was plenty to optimistic about. Bridgy welcomed new signing Shaun Copp, from Barnstaple Town and they were soon into gear with Copp setting up Ham whose wicked drive was tipped over the bar by the impressive young keeper Tom Easterbrook.
Shepton were also quickly into their stride and Ashley Willmott curled an effort over before Easterbrook trumped his earlier save with an even better effort from Copp’s dipping volley. Shepton roared back and Tyson Pollard threw over a long cross which deceived the home defence but Willmott headed wide from a good position. The home reprieve was short lived as the goal which was long in coming, finally arrived in the 25th minute. Finding room through the middle, Joe Morgan exchanged passes with George Carey before crashing a low shot past Jake Viney from distance to give Shepton the lead.
Pearse then set up Steve Holland who brought another save out of Easterbrook around the half hour mark as the end to end play continued and the action ended when Easterbrook punched away a corner before Ham blazed over just before the break.
Bridgwater were determined to take control at the restart and Kyle Paine shot just wide but Shepton were just as eager to protect their lead and Jack Goodall ventured forward to bring a save out of Viney. Town put together another fine move through the midfield with skipper Kurt Robinson finding space but the former Ipswich and Northampton man’s left foot strike was just wide past the scrambling Easterbrook. Charlie White, Pearse and Ham were all looking busy but the visiting defence, with skipper James Billing marshalling at the back, were equal to everything in front of Easterbrook.
Shepton boss Jon Burr sent on Nicholson around the hour mark but it was Bridgwater who could have levelled things when Josh White nodded a long cross into the six yard box but Pearse was just crowded out. At the other end Nicholson could have made it two as he was in space with a clear run at goal but delayed and the chance was lost but he linked with Pollard seconds later only for his shot to be saved by Viney. Bridgy introduced Syd Camper and Matt Connick to look for a way back and Camper was inches away with a left foot strike from another flowing move with five minutes left.
With Shepton Mallet looking to close out the victory, Ham’s spot-kick seemingly robbed them of it before Nicholson’s winner brought the curtain down on an excellent match.
Shepton duly move up to ninth in the table with two wins and two defeats while Bridgwater rue the loss but with an FA Cup trip to former Conference South side Gosport Borough on the horizon, there is plenty to look forward to.
In truth the club should have requested demotion to the Western League 12 months earlier
Bridgwater Town vice-chairman Bob Buckingham is settling into life back in the Western League following last season’s disastrous Southern League campaign which saw just two wins and 23 goals and a relegation which looked inevitable from Christmas. “In truth the club should have requested demotion to the Western League 12 months earlier” said Buckingham, “and we had a small window when we could have done so but possibly pride got in the way and then it was too late as it would have cost a lot of money.”
Managers came and went last season but Buckingham was delighted when local man Dave Pearse left Barnstaple after a highly successful spell, to return to Fairfax Park where he was a big favourite five years ago. “Dave Pearse and Karl Baggaley were part of a very progressive Barnstaple Town set up which went from mid table Division One to promotion and then to the championship and a place in the Southern League” added Buckingham, who is delighted that the club has been able to attract some good quality players this summer. “We believe Bridgwater Town Football Club is a good place to play without there being lots of money on offer after previous regimes down the years have attracted money chasers.” The club is committed to a player pathway with the U18s in the SW Counties League on a Saturday morning and the reserves playing a good standard in the Somerset County League. "With Bridgwater College now rebranded Bridgwater and Taunton College we are looking for the best young college players to show they are keen and come on board. With Taunton Town having no youth and reserve sides we are looking to improve and our first real test is in the FA Youth Cup on Thursday September 7 when we are home to Radstock Town.”
Town have local dentist Adrian Byrne in the chairman’s hot seat with Buckingham as his deputy and Ian Barber is club secretary alongside treasurer Paul Welham and Debbie Gould, who was a woman of many parts last season and is now club photographer as well as helping out in many other areas.
With the club still adjusting to Western League life the bedding in process may take a while but support is drifting back and if Tuesday’s match is anything to go by, the entertainment value will bring more in as the season progresses.