Shepton Mallet 0 - 1 Bridgwater Town
Saturday 30th December 2017
England’s latest test match down under, at the MCG, was played on what is described as a ‘drop in pitch’, which is cultivated elsewhere and then placed in the middle of what for the rest of the time is an Aussie Rules stadium writes Kerry Miller. It was a disaster and a bowler’s nightmare but should they need a replacement the Aussie cricket authorities could do worse then take some tips from the ground staff at West Shepton Playing Fields, whose pitch looked a picture, despite the rain and cold which had engulfed the area over the holiday period. With matches going down all around the South West, a good crowd pitched up to watch two teams who have had mixed first halves of the season while playing attacking football and scoring goals.
Bridgwater arrived having gone a handful of games without a win since their fine run in the autumn while Jon Burr’s side had beaten Bridport at the start of the month but had been frustrated by a couple of losses and a postponement. Shepton had snatched a late win at Fairfax Park and when Bridgy were forced to play virtually the whole of the match with ten men, following a sending off, a league double looked on the cards. That it did not pan out that way was a testament to Dave Pearse’s side, who were without Josh White and Jake Llewellyn plus the injured striker Jack Taylor but battled well and went home with the points.
The visitor’s day looked to be going south at a rate of knots right from the start when Mark Armstrong picked up an early booking before Tyson Pollard found himself bearing down on goal a minute later, only to be tripped by Dave Thorne, who was shown a straight red by referee Phil Staynings. It was an ignominious and all too brief return for the former Shepton man but he could have no complaints and Pearse was forced to reshuffle with the travelling Bridgy contingent still stunned by the opening salvos.
In truth the sending off made little difference although Pollard went close soon after, as the home defence was dozing as the lively Ryan Burrows found space to set up Syd Camper who rifled in the opener from six yards with 14 minutes on the clock. Jake Viney was then called upon to pull off a fine stop to deny Ross Padfield before repeating it to keep out Conrad Peck and Ash Willmott. It was all Shepton at that stage and Joe Morgan went close from 25 yards late in the half but the home support was frustrated at the break as Bridgy led by the only goal.
At the restart Tom Easterbrook kept out Burrows’ early effort then saved from Shaun Copp but Shepton were still struggling to carve out clear chances although Willmott almost connected with a diving header on the hour. Pollard and Tom Hill tested Viney again unsuccessfully but Bridgwater were looking dangerous on the break and Camper found the side netting before Copp crashed one against a post for what could have been a big let off. Willmott and Peck both went close as the pressure looked as if it had to tell eventually and when Ollie Bryant connected with a fabulous volley it deserved more than to brush the bar on its way to the clubhouse door.
In the end it was Town who took the points and it may well signal a start off another good spell for Pearse’s squad who seem to have retained the feel good factor during the recent barren run.Jon Burr and Craig Loxton are still looking at a top six finish and with a side sprinkled with 18 year olds they can only improve during the second half of the season.