TEN-men Bideford showed plenty of spit and snarl as they battled for a point in a 0-0 draw against Hungerford Town at the Sports Ground on Saturday.
What the game lacked in goals, it made up for in crunching challenges, heated exchanges and red cards as the Robins were made to work hard against the fiery promotion chasers.
The Crusaders, who have lost just once in their last 10 league games, came looking for a win that would consolidate their place in the play-offs.
But any pre-match ideas about easy pickings in North Devon were soon dispelled as Bideford gave as good as the got from the off.
With possession at a premium in the first 30 minutes, Bideford were forced to sit deep as the tackles flew in.
On the rare opportunities they were able to get forward, they were kept a safe distance from James Fosterâ€™s goal, Richard Groves and Matt Bye testing the keeper with long range efforts.
As the half wore on, Bidefordâ€™s task looked even more ominous when goalkeeper Matt Armstrong-Ford was shown a straight red â€“ his second of the season â€“ for bringing down Jemel Johnson.
Nick Barker donned the gloves and Ryan Crockfordâ€™s resulting free-kick was deflected for a corner.
Crockford hit the foot of the post with a second free-kick soon after but still the Bideford goal could not be breached.
Things improved for the hosts after the break with Sean Downing playing in Matt Andrew for a good chance and Dave Pearse firing straight at Foster.
But the halfâ€™s main talking point was a 12-player melee following a foul on Diak John by Steve Orchard.
John was given his marching orders for throwing a punch while Orchard received a yellow for the initial foul.
With both teams now down to 10 men â€“ and tempers still frayed â€“ there were plenty of chances at either end, the best of which fell to Bideford.
Towards the end, the visitorsâ€™ 300-mile round trip looked to have been worthwhile when a blocked shot fell to Matthew Pedder, but the substitute sliced the ball wide to round off a difficult day for the West Berkshire side.
Bideford were set to play mid-table North Leigh last night (Tuesday) and host struggling Abingdon United on Saturday.
Next Tuesday, thereâ€™s an away game at lowly Stourport Swifts.
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