Clevedon Town 2 - 3 Street
Thursday 12th April 2018
With moments left of what had been a superbly gripping Premier Division match, teenage Gambian student Saikou Janneh curled a free-kick past Street keeper Tom Punchard for what would have been a dramatic late equaliser to wreck the champion elect’s long winning streak which is now well into the 20s, writes Kerry Miller. A split second earlier substitute Ben Amghar had rushed to the goalline as the visiting defensive wall was in a tangle and he was able to hack the ball off the line with the home crowd ready to celebrate what would have been a richly deserved point. It was not the final play in a stunning match which had drama a plenty with a late sending off and a clutch of bookings caused by passion rather than skulduggery and Street will not come any nearer losing their proud record.
It all seemed so different in the first half hour as Street, without Josh Wadham who failed a fitness test and playing their third game in five days, clicked into gear with Steve Murray hitting the post from way out early on then Craig Herrod picking up the pieces when Damien Freeman got into a tangle with Clayton Blackmore and rolling in the opening goal unopposed on ten minutes. Clevedon’s side, a promising mix of experience and talented youth, responded well and the excellent Liam Dempsey, who caused Street no end of grief all night, hit the bar with a header, the rebound ending on the roof of the net courtesy of Tyler Ashmead. Street roared back looking to close out the game as early as possible as happened two days earlier at Wells City, but the Seasiders were having none of that until Herrod got away again and his cross into the six yard box was about to be tucked away by Murray, when home defender Tom Baker beat him to it and the ball flew in for an own goal to double the lead just shy of the half hour mark.
For a brief period a few pessimists among the crowd were predicting a cricket score but Janneh then wriggled free from out wide and after a tricky run drew keeper Punchard and blasted home to half the deficit with 34 minutes on the clock. Five minutes later it was ‘Desmond time’ as Alex Russell’s free-kick found Dempsey’s head and he made it 2-2 to set up what was to be a memorable second half.
Home skipper Fortune conceded defeat to a thigh strain at the break to be replaced by Glen Hayer and after Dempsey’s volley brought a flying save from Punchard, Street showed they were struggling under the pressure from the home attack as well as from pure fatigue and Town went for the jugular. Janneh again tried a shot from a tight angle and after a barrage of corners and with the visiting defence having a war of words with their own Lewis Hogg, the powder keg almost went off when Hogg clashed with Ashmead and the confrontation ended with three more bookings and the very real chance that the game would not end with all 22 on the pitch, although which permutation of that was anyone’s guess at that stage. Clevedon sensed that a shock result was on the cards and Lewis Tasker was inches wide from diverting a strike into his own goal only for Street to break out of the shackles and show why they will win the championship this year and why they have won two dozen games on the trot. From a swift breakaway Herrod found room to sweep in a cross and Dave O’Hare’s touch was finished on the line by Jake Mawford on the hour which should have settled the frazzled away side’s nerves. It didn’t and from the next home attack Russell was presented with the ball 20 yards out and with Punchard AWOL, he lobbed him only to see the ball go agonisingly wide.
Street boss Richard Fey made a double change throwing on Lewis Waldy and Aiden Chainey and they were forced into a further reshuffle when Hogg went off following an accidental clash with Russell but that was not the end of their woes. On 75 minutes Matt Hurley was shown a straight red card after an off the ball incident was spotted by the linesman and Fey was confronted with his third change around in ten minutes and all of a sudden they were looking fragile and ready to be pegged back. They weren’t, but not for the want of trying as Janneh hit the side netting then Ashmead was put in and looked bound to score but Punchard was brave at his feet to protect the lead and the record. It then brought the late drama with Janneh’s free-kick but they survived that as well and after another crace of bookings and eight minutes of added time, referee Andy Shepherd of Gloucester called a halt to what was one of the most breathless matches seen at the Hand Stadium for many a season.