Heavy defeat leaves Ilfracombe dangerously close to the dropzone

17:40 27 January 2014

Ilfracombe Town player/manager Ross Middleton

Ilfracombe Town player/manager Ross Middleton

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Bitton 6-0 Ilfracombe Town

Ilfracombe Town suffered another heavy defeat on their travels on Saturday, this time going down 6-0 to Bitton.

Combe were again missing a number of key men through injury and travelled with 16-year-old striker Harry Stevens in the squad for the first time.

The plan for the travelling defence would have no doubt been to keep it tight for as long as possible, but that was blown out of the water within two minutes. Kurtis Parkin made a sharp save which the home striker appeared to control with his arm – he initially stopped expecting a whistle - but the referee didn’t blow and he tapped home from six yards.

The Bluebirds did pick themselves up and Mark Clunie stung the keeper’s hands with a free kick, while Josh Heafield couldn’t connect with a dangerous cross from Steve Holland.

But then came another mistake as a Bitton striker strolled through a couple of challenges before finishing with ease. Things then got worse for Combe as Bitton added a third shortly afterwards.

There was a glimmer of hope that the visitors could be spared further misery when the heavens opened with a 10 minute hail shower that left puddles all over the pitch, but the sun came out just in soon enough to stop the referee abandoning the game.

Ilfracombe should have got the goal their first half endeavour deserved when Josh Heafield broke clear but he couldn’t find the target with just the keeper to beat and the score stayed 3-0.

Combe started the second half brightly when Frank Paxton, who had a fine game as the lone striker, let fly from distance but missed the target and Steve Holland would have hoped to have done better when a flick on from Paxton sent the wide man running through on goal but the keeper saved.

But as has happened too often this season, just as Combe began to apply meaningful pressure, they went and self destructed at the other as Bitton scored from a set piece.

Player/manager Ross Middleton replaced himself with young striker Stevens and he initially linked up well with a couple of Paxton flick-ons, but with Gary Skinner receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence shortly after the youngster was isolated up front for the remainder of the match.

Sure enough, Bitton went on to finish the game with two late strikes leaving a slightly harsh slant on the final score.

“Six is harsh but that simply wasn’t good enough from start to finish,” said Middleton. “We’ve got lads out and the ref’s had a shocker for the first goal but you just can’t hide away in this league and hope lady luck does you a favour, you have to be brave on the ball and make things happen.

“It was only four games ago we were comfortably beating Brislington and Bristol Manor farm - it’s the same group of lads but you’d think they’ve only just met after watching today.

“We’ve got a lot of games to get through, I need players to learn from their mistakes quickly and start proving to everyone why I believe they can play at this level consistently.”

Combe will be looking for some home comfort on Saturday as they take on sixth place Odd Down at Marlborough Park.

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