Bideford suffered a 2-1 pre-season defeat to Devon rivals Tiverton Town on Saturday (August 22) as they welcomed fans back to the Sports Ground.

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

The friendly marked the first time since February 29 that the Robins have been able to welcome fans into their ground, and 137 spectators watched on as the home side battled against their Southern League Premier South opponents. Among them was Robins forward Sean Downing, who got a rousing half-time reception from players and fans as he continues his recovery from a stroke.

A well contested first half saw Bideford take the lead five minutes before the break when Ryan Turner finished at the near post after some excellent work at the byline from Aaron Taylor.

That goal was quickly cancelled out as the Yellows equalised on the stroke of half time. Kyle Egan was able to beat Ben Wood and set up Jarred Lewington.

The winner came just shy of the hour, with Ed Butcher firing in with a superb strike from 25 yards.

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

It was Bideford’s fourth pre-season match, with the first three played behind closed doors.

Manager Sean Joyce said it was good to have a crowd back.

“It’s better to have them back and it’s great to have a bit of atmosphere in here,” said Joyce.

“It’s nice to get fans back and have a bit of normality really.

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

“I thought the last 20 was a bit of a practice match. The first 10 minutes was difficult, they had a good shape and balance and we switched ours.

“We got the goal and had some chances to get two or three really. There was a bit of naivety at times, but they’re young lads and they’re learning. We got a good hour in though.”

With fans allowed back in football grounds, the Southern League’s September 19 start date much more probable – something which is bound to help the Robins as they continue their pre-season.

Joyce added: “It gives us an idea of where we are and where we want to get to. We’re making progress, we’ve had four good competitive games.”

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Next up for Bideford is the visit of Ilfracombe Town on Tuesday (August 25) before another home match on Saturday (August 29) against a Plymouth Argyle XI.

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart

Bideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt SmartBideford v Tiverton Town in a pre-season friendly at the Sports Ground. Picture: Matt Smart