Bridport 2 - 1 Shepton Mallet
Wednesday 4th October 2017
Shepton Mallet missed the chance to go joint second in the Premier Division when they went down to two Ed Butcher goals at Bridport on Wednesday evening writes Kerry Miller.
Shepton will be sick of the sight of the former Chard Town man who scored in both matches last season and who put them ahead inside two minutes at St Marys Field before netting the winner around 20 minutes from time. It was a fitting end to another cracking game watched by a home crowd which has been steadily growing all season and the assembled saw two sides who have consistently played bold attacking football without resorting to the occasional cynical ploys which blight the game at all levels.
Bridport took the field on the back of Saturday’s brave but ultimately futile display at Conference South side St Albans City in the FA Cup while Shepton played out an exciting six goal thriller with Chipping Sodbury to add to a number of other exciting matches Jon Burr and Craig Loxton’s young side have been involved with this campaign.
The home side were without Kameron Andrews who is out for a while with an injury while Cam Vere has gone travelling but welcomed dual signing Dane James, from Weymouth and Lee Sweet who has returned to the club. Shepton were without striker Tyson Pollard, who has a knock and they were looking down the barrel inside two minutes as the Bees took the lead.
Tom Hill had brought the first save out of home keeper Jason Hutchings before Bridport were quickly down the other end and Mark Salter committed Ross Padfield into a clumsy challenge inside the box and referee Brian Channing pointed to the spot. Salter had the chance to edge closer to his magic 500 from 18 yards but Tom Easterbrook kept out the shot down to his right only for Butcher to react first and crash home the rebound with less than two minutes on the clock.
It should have been 2-0 almost from the restart as Hutchings launched a huge clearance which Butcher won and his roll back left Salter eight yards out but the ex-Southend United man put it wide when free. Butcher then let fly from way out but was just wide as Bridport threatened briefly to put the game to bed inside the first quarter but Shepton have been making a habit of coming from behind and on 18 minutes were level. Ashley Willmott found room on the right and he slung over an inch-perfect curling cross which Ollie Bryant met on the volley and it flew in past Hutchings for the equaliser.
Leigh Bailey was then booked for a foul and he was possibly lucky seconds later when he went looking for an opponent but just failed to connect enough to persuade referee Channing to act, a play which brought temperatures up a notch beneath what was a full moon which may or may not have had something to do with it. Joint-player boss Loxton then hit a dipper from 25 yards which was wide before Hill joined Bailey in the book for a foul. Just before the break Butcher again let fly but Easterbrook flew across to push his effort away which was the final play of a breathless half.
Bridport’s debut man James was having a good game and looked composed at the back and he added another dimension with his long throws and soon after the restart he launched one towards Bailey and his nod on found Leighton Thomas who volleyed wide. James then tested Easterbrook himself with a drive but it was held at the second attempt before Braeden Symes was next in the book for a foul on Conrad Peck, despite the match having reduced in temperature.
Bridport were beginning to have more joy on the flanks and it seemed only a matter of time before Salter got on the end of something as Thomas slung in a cross which Shepton skipper James Billing just got to before the marauding Salter. James then crossed for Salter whose header was held by Easterbrook but Bridport could not find the killer final touch and Shepton were always likely to break and Willmott was unlucky following a by then rare break down the left.
Richard Hebditch was just blocked as he went on a jinking run in the box before Ryan Hayter was cautioned for a foul on Joe Morgan but Loxton hit the free-kick over and the home fans breathed again. Hebditch and Salter combined to set up Thomas again but he was also wide until around the 70 minute mark Butcher finally struck. Bailey launched a huge cross field pass into the left wing channel in front of the clubhouse and Butcher trusted his first touch and it flew through Easterbrook for what turned out to be the winner.
Shepton were not finished however, as goalscorer Bryant sneaked into the area and hit the far post with a fine effort but their evening ended on a sour note as Willmott reacted to not gaining a throw in by dispatching the ball and then possibly saying too much to the linesman and he was shown yellow and red with minutes left.
Despite that it did not spoil what had been a superb clash which left Bridport in a healthier 12th spot with a handful of games in hand while Shepton are still in the top six as they look to what should be a big crowd on Sunday morning as they prepare to entertain Brislington. The match kicks-off at 10.45am and is part of the league’s seven match Gound Hop week-end which ends at Bishops Lydeard on Sunday afternoon.