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On a balmy summer evening at Coach Road, Buckland Athletic enjoyed a fairly comfortable 2-0 win against Peninsula-bound Ilfracombe Town in the final of the Throgmorton Champions Cup, bringing the trophy to South Devon for the first time in its short history.
After having come back from behind to knock out Premier Cup runners-up FC Windmill in their semi-final, Ilfracombe were many people’s favourites before the game but although the North Devon side started strongly, Josh Phillips testing Paul Sharples’ gloves with a smart third minute shot, they found themselves on the back foot for much of the game.
Buckland’s first real attempt came on 7 minutes, Matt Beer sending in a dangerous free-kick from the left and Sam Dicken heading into the side netting from an offside position. They were to suffer an early blow though, prolific goalscorer Jordan Ewing leaving the field following a 9th minute challenge on the edge of the Ilfracombe box. His replacement, young James Colclough would go on to play an important part in the result. Four minutes later, a tidy turn from Shane Gill in midfield set Colclough away on the left but his low ball across the goal just evaded Beer on the far post. Beer was in the action again in the 17th minute with a bending half-volley from the right which drew applause from the crowd. Two minutes later, as Sharples punched clear an Ilfracombe free-kick, Buckland broke quickly, Beer sending in a great cross for Dicken but Nick Coupland getting an important interception to prevent another chance. Buckland’s defence held firm as Richard Watkins rose to meet a free-kick while, at the other end, Ilfracombe’s defence was beginning to look stretched, Matt Atkin going close with a low shot past the left-hand upright. Buckland’s attacking momentum eventually paid off after 27 minutes, Nick Hayman’s long legs turning defence into attack and Dicken leaping from the resultant left-side cross to head over the advancing Robert Holmes.
The goal was followed by a flat five minutes before a one-two between Will Berry and Simon Townsend ended with the latter forcing Sharples to push his low shot around the left hand post. A minute later, Cassian Blackmore took a tumble just inside the box under pressure from Laughton but Ryan Hedges waved away the Ilfracombe shouts for a penalty. At the other end, Ilfracombe managed to get Beer’s square ball into the box away before Dicken could get on the end of it. Dicken was inches away in the 37th minute too as Gill sent in a deep cross which the striker couldn’t quite get his head on to. Buckland were showing no quarter at the back as Ilfracombe tried to fashion a chance. Moments later, Laughton’s long ball from the back almost caught Danny Ball out as Beer looked to get on the score sheet. Holmes positioned himself well though and pushed Beer’s effort over the bar. The last real effort of the half went the Bluebirds’ way; Lee Chapman blocked a Berry shot but Blackmore picked up the ball, beating his man and cutting in from the right-hand side along the by-line. Unfortunately for the North Devon side, he was unable to do anything but hit the ball into the side-netting. The last action of the half saw Chapman make his way into Mr Hedges’ book after bundling his man down in the centre of the park in stoppage time.
HT: Buckland Athletic 1 – 0 Ilfracombe Town
Ilfracombe started the second half on the attack but Buckland soon started to press again and after 7 minutes, Chapman made Holmes stretch to tip over a header following a left-side corner which had been headed back into the mix. Two minutes later, a superb flighted ball from the left nestled into the corner of Sharples’ goal but only after the whistle had already been blown for offside. In the 55th minute, Colclough tested Holmes’ reactions but again the whistle brought back play, Dicken seeing yellow for an earlier foul. Colclough might have joined him on another day after a late challenge on Ilfracombe skipper Radley Watkins barely a minute later. Quarter of an hour in, it looked as if the Blues had levelled when a lapse in concentration at the back allowed Townsend to get to the by-line and pull the ball back. A Buckland player got a leg to it and the ball hit the bar before Sharples clawed it away with one arm. An Ilfracombe player went down under pressure from a Buckland defender but no penalty was given and the Yellows could breathe again.
Buckland started to ramp up the pressure again after that, attacking down both flanks but Ilfracombe defended well. After another lull in play, an Ilfracombe defender sliced a ball over the top of Holmes’ goal halfway through the half. From the resultant corner, Buckland blazed a shot over. Ilfracombe then brought on Tom Hannah for Danny Ball as Josh Phillips prepared to take a free-kick conceded by Hayman just inside the Buckland half. Phillips sent it in long towards Sharples but the Buckland ‘keeper gathered it comfortably and sent George Fice scampering away down the left. The full-back went down in the box under pressure from Brodie Montague but was only awarded the corner. Colclough then sent a low cross into the box which was half-cleared to Hayman who misdirected his shot, allowing Ilfracombe to clear. From the break, the last man Fice put his arm in the back of Blackmore who went down on the edge of the box. Fice was dealt the obligatory red card but the wall did its job and the free-kick ended up going harmlessly wide.
Spurred on by the man advantage, Ilfracombe pushed again, Berry sending in a nice ball from the left but Radley Watkins heading wide of the mark. Moments later, Blackmore surged between two Buckland players but was rightly pulled up for handling the ball. Allsworth became the next player booked, after a crunching challenge on Berry, and manager Neil Snell brought on Charlie Harding in place of Dicken as Buckland prepared for what could have been a tough last 15 minutes. It was certainly tough for skipper Nick Hayman who damaged knee ligaments in the period following the free-kick and had to be replaced by Max Hammett. With 7 minutes of normal time left, Holmes just about beat the onrushing Beer to the ball on the edge of his box. Moments later, Chapman disrupted a Montague and Berry break and Allsworth picked out a runner on the right, played onside by Richard Watkins. The Buckland man fired well over the crossbar to let Ilfracombe off the hook. Shaun Brown came on for Coupland for the final 6 minutes which saw chances at both ends. In the 40th minute, Colclough created some space for Beer who beat Berry for pace but was caught offside. His effort, curled towards the top corner, was well saved by Holmes anyway. After Sharples had come out well to get rid of a hopeful route one attack down the right, the following Ilfracombe sortie was rewarded with a free-kick. The ball was delivered in well but hit an Ilfracombe head as it flashed past the goal before going behind.
As the game headed towards full-time, Ilfracombe’s Simon Townsend became the first player from his side to be booked after a foul on the right-hand side. Chapman then did well to dispossess Josh Phillips down the left but Ilfracombe snuffed out the danger and won a quickly-taken throw. Charlie Prentice then robbed Allsworth and sent Montague away. Sharples came out to meet him but was outside the box and needed to use his feet. Montague took the ball past the ‘keeper but the returning Hammett got in his way with a block. The resultant corner came to naught and as the game went into a lengthy period of stoppage time, Buckland looked to kill the game off once and for all. Beer switched the ball to Allsworth on the right who won a corner. Ilfracombe headed the ball away but only as far as Gill who cleared the ground with his strike. Next it was Beer’s turn to go for glory. The referee played advantage after a foul in midfield and Beer brought the ball to the end of the box before blasting over. His decision-making moments later proved far more effective. Through on goal again, this time he played the ball across the box to Colclough who composed himself before calmly stroking a left-footed shot past Robert Holmes, three minutes into stoppage time.
From the restart, Ilfracombe tried again to get something from the game, Laughton sliding in expertly to take the ball away from Prentice. Buckland then went close when a cheeky back-heel by Beer set Gill up, his shot wide of the post. The final chance of the game, after 7 minutes of stoppage time, came from an Ilfracombe corner after a blocked Montague free-kick. The corner once again flashed across the face of goal but was deflected wide of the mark.
FT: Buckland Athletic 2 – 0 Ilfracombe Town
Goals: Sam Dicken (27); James Colclough (90+3)
Buckland: 1. Paul Sharples; 2. Matt Atkin; 3. George Fice; 4. Lee Chapman; 5. Nick Hayman (c) (17. Max Hammett); 6. Si Laughton; 7. Matt Beer; 8. Shane Gill; 9. Jordan Ewing (18. James Colclough); 10. Dexter Allsworth; 16. Sam Dicken (14. Charlie Harding)
Unused subs: 12. Stewart Sparkes; 13. Adam Seedhouse Evans;
Booked: Chapman (45+1), Dicken (55), Allsworth (77)
Sent Off: Fice (71)
Ilfracombe: 1. Robert Holmes; 2. Radley Watkins (c); 3. Richard Watkins; 6. Danny Ball (10. Tom Hannah); 7. Brodie Montague; 8. Charlie Prentice; 9. Cassian Blackmore; 11. Simon Townsend; 12. Will Berry; 13. Josh Phillips; 15. Nick Coupland (4. Shaun Brown).
Unused subs: 5. Rob Taylor; 14. Chay Isaac; 17. Joe Seldon
Booked: Townsend (89)
Official MOM: Si Laughton (Buckland)
Referee: Ryan Hedges
Assistants: Thomas Anstice-Mitchell, Matt Redmond
4th Official: Reg Cross