Barnstaple Town claimed their first win under Aaron Harper-Penman in Evo-Stik Division One South this afternoon (Saturday).
Barum beat Paulton Rovers 3-0 at Mill Road for their first victory since November 10.
George Nancekivell gave Barnstaple a lead to defend five minutes before half time. It looked all set for a nervy finish until the final five minutes, when two quick goals made the result a little more comfortable.
The crucial second goal was an own goal from Charlie Hitchings at the end of a well-worked Barum move. Substitute Saddam Bello added a third three minutes later with a well taken finish.
There’s still plenty of work to do for Barnstaple if they’re to play Southern League football next season, but there are plenty of promising signs.
The Paulton win makes it four games unbeaten for Barum, who have also kept two consecutive clean sheets.
Fleet Town’s 3-0 defeat to Slimbridge means they’re off the foot of the table, and the gap to safety is down to five points thanks to Mangotsfield’s 3-1 defeat to Moneyfields.
The hosts had struggled to get out of their half in the opening 15 minutes as Paulton applied pressure early on.
A couple of good saves from Steve Oliver kept the match deadlocked, getting down low to stop efforts from the edge of the box from Camen Harvey and Mitch Tippins within minutes of each other.
Barum didn’t truly get going until the final 10 mintues of the first half, but from there on in it was them applying the pressure. Steve Holland and Jack Langford kept the Paulton defence on its toes, and Jed Harper-Penman saw a shot well saved by Adam Forster amid a goalmouth scramble.
Barum finally got their reward four minutes before the break. Nancekivell was first to react to a loose ball from Harper-Penman’s corner, burying it from six yards out.
Barnstaple had chances to extend their lead in the second half, but they were also forced to withstand spells of pressure from the visitors as they pressed for an equaliser.
A 4-3-3 with Langford, Holland and Sol Wheatley up front became a 4-5-1 for periods of the second half.
At times Langford cut a lonely picture, but the Barum man covered plenty of ground to hold the ball up when the hosts needed to clear their lines, and Holland and Wheatley kept running to ensure the hosts were dangerous on the break.
Wheatley had had a couple of chances to double the lead, and he can take plenty of credit for Barnstaple’s valuable second goal.
A quick free kick from Jenkins caught the Paulton defence by surprise and allowed Wheatley to spring in behind them before getting to the byline to deliver a dangerous ball across goal. There wasn’t much Hitchings could do to stop his touch going in the bottom corner of the net.
Two quickly became three when Bello, who had only been on the field for two minutes, collected a pass form Mike Humphreys and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
Barnstaple Town: Oliver, Cann, Reed, Humphreys, Nancekivell, A Harper-Penman, J Harper-Penman (Glover 90+3), Jenkins, Langford (Bello 86), Wheatley, Holland (Sharp 82). Subs not used: Stevens, Rice-Lethaby.
Paulton Rovers: Forster, Hillard, Harvey, Hitchings, Anderson (Nzembela 62), Tippins, Withey, Malpas (Mounford 79), Gay (Ball 46), Jordan, Monelle. Subs not used: Dix, Evans.