Marching on to Division One: Division Two champions Paignton Saints beat Dartmouth AFC Reserves 8-0 on Saturday. Photograph Contributed.
There were just three issues outstanding going into the final week of the South Devon Football League: the Division Three title (and runners-up), the second relegation spot from Division Two and the destiny of the Dartmouth Cup.
Division Three title favourites Torbay Police had yet to play challengers Riviera United in the league. Their crunch games took place on Tuesday and Thursday evening but with a huge goal difference advantage, the Bees knew that winning one of them would be enough to take the title. However, since beating United in the Ronald Cup final, the Police had struggled for form, especially at the back. They put that right on Tuesday night with a much improved display. Looking dangerous going forward and with Chris Bashford largely untroubled in goal, they deservedly got their noses in front before half-time. Nevertheless, they gave away a goal from a set-piece early in the second half and Riviera United were level. The Police retook the lead from a set-piece of their own before Max Prestwood sealed the game – and the title – with a penalty.
United still had second place to play for but they needed to avoid defeat in the return fixture to stay in the hunt for that. But if they thought the Police would be taking it easy they were to be disappointed. Making eight changes from their Tuesday night exploits, the Bees were determined to win the league outright and make goal difference irrelevant. Both of their centre-halves, Conor Smith and Ross Mogridge, picked up injuries in the first half and were forced to come off, but luckily they had another two centre-halves on the bench. Nevertheless, despite playing some decent football (Prestwood impressing on the left hand side of midfield) they found themselves a goal down at the break through a mistake at the back. But with Rivi down to ten men before half-time they had a chance to get back in the game. They eventually drew level and took the lead before the tides turned again and United went 3-2 up with around 10 minutes left. But Rivi’s game and guaranteed promotion hopes fell apart at the end, John Bolus joining Prestwood (3) and Samuel Jacob on the score-sheet and the game ending 5-3 to the champions. The result means that Broadmeadow STFC finish second and will join the Police in Division Two next season.
The next big game of the week saw Stoke Gabriel Reserves take on Division One champions Roselands for the Dartmouth Cup, the last of the divisional cups for 2017 (full report pending). The Red Army took the lead in the first half but Kofi Shaw levelled before the break to set up an interesting second half. But despite a spirited display, Roselands secured their fifth double in six seasons with two more goals, Mitchell McMillan, Dexter Allsworth, and Colin Brown the goalscorers. Having also come runners-up in the Herald Cup and Devon Senior Cup, Roselands can reflect on another superb season ahead of their debut as a Premier Division club next season.
Having pulled themselves back from the brink of relegation with a Nick Rushe-inspired 14-3 hammering of Bishopsteignton United last week, Dartmouth AFC Reserves needed only to avoid a six goal defeat to secure another season in Division Two. The bad news was that they were away to champions Paignton Saints who had enjoyed a few such big wins en route to the club’s first silverware since 2010. It was no surprise then to see Rushe back in the Darts line-up alongside fellow first-teamers Cameron Webb and Freddie Smith. After an opening ten minutes of few chances, the impressive Kieron Dowsing played Shaun Cotton down the left who set up Luke Johnson for a 12th minute opener. The next ten minutes saw possibilities opening up for both sides before Saints began to increase the pressure. Ten minutes before the break, Saints doubled up when Joe Jordan picked captain Dan Drury’s pocket before finding Cotton. His goalbound shot hit Lee Wadeson on the way in. Two minutes before half-time, a mistake by Rushe led to a second Johnson goal and suddenly Saints were halfway towards the dreaded six that Dartmouth feared (and Newton United hoped for). A minute into the second half and Saints were suddenly four up, Johnson capitalising from a slip at the back to wrap up his hat-trick. From then on, apart from the occasional break from Rushe and Rhys Morrallee, it was all one-way traffic, the fifth goal, on 58 minutes, delivered by substitute Cameron Jones just a minute after he had arrived on the pitch. Six minutes later, Johnson was through on goal again and hit the target to put Darts back in the relegation zone. Still Saints attacked but with two minutes remaining, Rushe almost delivered a crucial goal only to find Sean Hooton in no mood to let his clean sheet go. Saints immediately went on the offensive and Micklewright finished coolly for goal number seven. Even then, a late goal for Darts would have put them dead level with Newton United on goals and goal difference but Saints weren’t quite finished yet, substitute Aaron Underhill with another fine finish in the last minute which will have been celebrated as much by Newton United as by Saints themselves. Braces from Jon Parsons and substitute Nicholas Griffiths helped AFC Staverton to a 7-1 home win over bottom club Waldon Athletic Reserves. The win secured Stavy a top six finish but there are big changes ahead for the club as a number of key players will be stepping down over the summer. The other home goals were supplied by Jim Dyer, Dan Tucker and Nick Daw. Bishopsteignton United had already finished their last game on the Wednesday night in a physical but entertaining game at home to Kingsteignton Athletic Reserves who also signed off. The Rams managed to get the win with three goals to Bishops’ two from Dyson and Beeson. Waldon Athletic Reserves were at home to Buckfastleigh Rangers that same evening but after their heavy loss at the Duckspond were beaten by a more respectable 3-1 scoreline at Windmill Hill.
In the Premier, Ashburton got the point they needed to secure fourth place as they drew 3-3 with Dartmouth AFC at Longcross, Darts scoring through Jordan Frost, Scott McRoy and Josh Webber. East Allington United fell to consecutive defeats with a 2-1 reverse at Watcombe Wanderers but can be proud of their best ever season with third place in the league and their first ever Herald Cup. It was a longer game then normal due to Stephen Woodcock’s injury which required him to take an ambulance trip for the second time this season, this time with suspected tendon damage. Watcombe went a goal down early on after Casey Cooper was penalised in the first minute and Andy Davis took advantage. Cooper made amends by supplying the long ball which allowed Connor Finch to equalise. The game looked to be heading for a draw but the boys in green kept at it until the end and, with minutes left on the clock, Reuben Lim popped up in the 18-yard box to side-foot home for victory. East Allington’s previous game had been a 3-0 home defeat against Dartmouth AFC on Thursday night, Darts with two first half goals to give them the initiative. Two nights prior to that, East Allington had faced Waldon Athletic for the second time in five days following their Belli Cup defeat at Bovey Tracey FC. There were lots of changes for both teams and one of those – Brook Ward – opened the scoring for Waldon after Gary Doyle’s shot was too hot to handle. The visitors equalised just before the break and took control of the game after it, scoring three more well-taken goals. Si Hannaford managed another two to help East Allington seal third place in the league with Justin Denning and Rob Hutchings the other goalscorers. After a hectic campaign, Waldon hung up their boots on Thursday night at Upton Athletic. After a slow start, Zak Gleeson brought the game alive with a right-footed hat-trick. His first was the pick of the bunch, a scorching volley from 12 yards. After the break, Upton came storming back into the game with two quick goals but any hope they had for a result was extinguished when Tommy Holland arrowed in Waldon’s fourth from the corner of the box. Both teams scored again though, late on, with Gleeson grabbing his fourth with a trademark header.
Although it made no difference to the promotion picture, a 3-0 home win for Buckland Athletic Thirds ensured that they would receive the runners-up medals in Division One at the Presentation Evening on June 2nd. Opponents Newton Abbot ’66 were guaranteed a fourth-place finish whatever the result as they narrowly miss out on promotion for the second season in a row. They still have one game left to play: Wednesday night’s postponed game at Roselands who can wrap up a 100 per cent league home record with victory.
Champions Torbay Police ended their season with a hatful, winning 8-1 at East Allington United Reserves. There were doubles from Bobby Chancellor, Darren Munday and Max Prestwood and Zac Chancellor and Stuart Pointon scored the others. The Bees even allowed themselves the luxury of putting goalkeeper Chris Bashford up front for the second half but he was unable to add to their tally. Riviera United ended their season with a win but will have to be content with their Ronald Cup runners-up medals this season after having been pipped to second spot by Broadmeadow. Opponents Harbertonford Reserves still had a top six finish to aim for and duly started the game on the front foot, Riviera United forced into a goal-line clearance early in the match. But first blood went to Rivi as Dean Ford nipped in to score after a mistake at the back. The goal galvanised United and after Ford had cleared the ball from their goal-line, Callum Ford doubled up with a wind-assisted drive from his own half which beat visiting ‘keeper Philip Osgathorpe. Dean Ford struck the post from distance after the break and Ryan Ford forced another goal-line clearance as Rivi pressed for a third. That finally came courtesy of Alex Dart who hit a cross-cum-shot from the left which found the net. Ford’s consolation came from Jordan Baggot who composed himself before beating the advancing Brad Corderoy. A full report with photographs can be seen on Dave Roach’s site. Roselands Reserves were already assured of fourth spot as they entertained Buckfastleigh Rangers Reserves at South Devon College. The Red Army struck four times with no reply to end the season on a high note, James Beech, Liam Walton and Danny Rainbow confirmed as goalscorers and both James Sandbrook and Matt Bleakley in contention for the fourth; Roselands had won by the same scoreline the previous Monday night, Teign Village their opponents. Ollie Kewell scored a brace for Upton Athletic Reserves at Armada Park as they moved above East Allington by beating fifth-placed Meadowbrook Athletic 5-3; Rui de Graces, Jordan Bastow and Tom Gill were the other Upton goalscorers.
Division Four champions Ashburton Reserves got into the cricket mood by hitting Broadhempston United for six at Chuley Road, Broads with just the one of their own. Runners-up Barton Athletic conceded eight at Paignton Villa Reserves though as they were beaten 8-4; they did enjoy two midweek wins though, overcoming Broadhempston United 5-3 away on Tuesday and edging Newton Rovers 4-3 on Thursday, Ant Smith scoring two and Josh Parsons-Dearing the other for the visitors. The Saturday win for Villa meant that they would finish fifth above Newton Abbot ’66 Reserves despite the Sixes winning their final two fixture over Torquay Town (6-3 on Tuesday night) and Kingsbridge and Kellaton United (5-2 on Saturday), both at Osborne Park. United thus conceded third spot to Torbay Police Reserves who ended their campaign with a 6-2 win over Newton Rovers; John Bolus hit a hat-trick, Paul Christie scored twice and Wes Abercrombie dispatched a penalty for the Bees while Sirin Guloglu notched twice for Rovers.