ON THE CLIMB: Paignton Saints Reserves (red) are up to fourth and now unbeaten in eight. (c) S P Hooton Photography
WBW (Solicitors) SDFL Premier Division leaders Ashburton started the year in positive fashion, winning 2-0 away at Dartmouth AFC in one of only four games passed fit to start.
Experienced midfield man Carl Roles and teammate Lloyd Tucker supplied the goals which saw the Ashes increase their lead over Kingsteignton Athletic to four points. The Rams were also in action, away at Brixham AFC Reserves, but could only pick up a point after a 2-2 draw. Manager Matt Hooper praised Brixham for taking their chances but admitted that he did feel that it was two points dropped after his side created enough chances to win the game.
Despite a bright start for the visitors, who looked the more likely to open the scoring, it was Brixham who took the lead and almost made it two, hitting the bar with Kingsteignton looking rattled for a while. Tom Reeves settled the nerves just before half time though with an equalising goal. Kingsteignton were again looking dangerous, after the break, when the Fishermen struck again, a deep cross ending with a looping header which evaded everyone. Kingsteignton picked themselves up again and were rewarded with 15 minutes remaining. Luke Pellowe picked up the ball after some neat interchanges before deftly flicking the ball past the Brixham’ ‘keeper off the outside of his boot. Kingsteignton continued to rack up the chances in the final ten minutes. Debutant front man Joe Clark-Farley, formerly of Newton Abbot ’66, himself created three good chances but just couldn’t supply the finishing touch. Steve Payne came close with a header and Toby Pullman’s cross was almost slid in by Ollie Kewell. Centre-back Clark Bassett also had a good chance to clinch the points but dragged his shot wide after running the whole length of the pitch. But Brixham, whose goals came from Matthew Birkett and Mark Griffiths, held on to secure another valuable point.
“Brixham didn’t play badly and I don’t want to take anything away from them,” said Hooper. “But we created probably three times as many chances so in all honesty I would probably say it’s two points dropped. But we didn’t take our chances and you don’t deserve to win if you don’t take your chances do you?”
Beesands Rovers picked up where they left off at the end of 2017, securing a fifth straight league win by beating lowly Stoke Gabriel Reserves 5-0 in Division One’s only game, Stoke now under the wing of Ted Locke. The goals were shared around the team with Fin Bullen, Jed Tucker, Tom Hansen, Joe Merchant and Jason Wilkes all opening their 2018 accounts. The Bees remain in fourth spot but are now only four points outside the top three.
Division Five side Paignton Saints Reserves started the new year with another win but it wasn’t all plain sailing as visiting Stoke Fleming and Strete played some good stuff at times and will probably feel they could have had a share of the points. Without a game in the previous four weeks, Saints were a bit cagey at first and had it not been for some last ditch defending and some good saves from Chris Stubbs, they would have fallen behind. At the other end, the Stoke ‘keeper was also keeping Saints at bay with good saves from Matt Furness, Ian Simons and Sam Winstanley. It wasn’t long though before the home side broke the deadlock. A corner from Simon Harris was flicked on by Furness for Sean Hooton to chest in. Stoke got themselves level after a mix up, their striker rounding Stubbs and finishing neatly. However, moments later Saints restored their lead, a good ball from Louis Davies setting Simons free. He coolly slotted his effort past the Stoke goalkeeper to give his side a 2-1 lead at the break. The second half was pretty much the same with chances at both ends. There was a strong claim from Stoke for a penalty but the referee waived away the protests. Both ‘keepers then made a few more good stops before Saints found their third. A nice run from Furness was halted illegally but the referee played a good advantage and the ball fell to Hooton who tried his luck and managed to find the top corner. With less than ten minutes left, another mix-up in the Saints rearguard was punished. Stubbs made a fine save but could do nothing about the rebound as his defenders failed to clear and the Stoke striker placed his shot well into the bottom corner to set up a nail-biting last few minutes. Jason Dingley and Rich Cadwallader both could have put the game to bed but missed their chances. Stoke pushed for an equaliser but this time Saints held firm and managed to see the game out, the score finishing 3-2 in their favour with Redford Hogben and Sam Quick the Stoke goalscorers. Josh Wiginton’s side are up to fourth and still unbeaten since he took over the reigns. “The lads fought hard and got the result and that’s all that matters tonight,” he said.