Kevin Squire’s 100th goal for Bideford rescued a point for the Robins on the first day of the Evo-Stik Division One South season this afternoon.
The Robins drew 1-1 with Larkhall Athletic at the Sports Ground this afternoon (Saturday), with the Bideford veteran’s penalty 13 minutes from time earning the point. His milestone goal came in his 398th appearance for Bideford.
The visitors had taken the lead midway through the first half when Lewis Powell slid in to finish from close range.
Billy Tucker almost sealed all three points for Bideford in his first appearance since January, but a 30-yard free-kick was saved by Larkhall goalkeeper Shaun Semmens.
Despite a longer pre-season than most years, there were still elements of ring-rust from both sides in the first half.
Bideford’s best chance came after 17 minutes when Ben Wood’s shot from wide from 25 yards forced a back-tracking Semmens to tip the ball over the bar. It was about the only meaningful touch the goalkeeper was forced to make in the first period.
Oliver hadn’t had too much to do either, but when the visitors did properly threaten the Bideford goal, they went 1-0 up.
Mason Winter’s low ball across the box was met by a sliding Powell, who managed to steer it past Oliver and into the net with 25 minutes on the clock.
The Robins showed their intent to put more pressure on the Larkhall goal straight after half-time. Sam Haynes and Ben Carter were hooked off, replaced by Squire and Billy Tucker – back into the squad for the first time since January after returning from Australia.
Tucker’s introduction was met with cheers, but he was involved in some controversy 15 minutes into the second half. After being pulled up for a challenge Powell, the pair came together again and made contact with each other, with the Larks claiming there was a head butt. Tucker was shown a yellow card.
The Robins looked as though they were on the ropes as the half ticked away, but Larkhall handed them a reprieve after 77 minutes.
Ross Beazer brought Matt Bye’s free-kick down with his arm, with referee Steve Annis pointing to the spot. Squire took the spot-kick, and although Semmens got plenty of his leg to the ball, it bounced into the roof of the net to give Bideford the equaliser and Squire’s milestone goal.
Matt Ward and Craig Allan both had chances in the dying minutes, and Tucker nearly grabbed all three points for the Robins on his return. The latter’s drilled free-kick from 30 yards, four minutes into stoppage time, forced an excellent low save from Semmens.
Bideford: Oliver, Sampson, Gregory, Haynes (Tucker 45), Allan, Mayne, Bye, Carter (Squire 47), Turner, Heeney, Wood (Ward 67). Subs not used: Western, Hancox.
Larkhall Athletic: Semmens, Winter, Clarke, Lewis, Dauncey, Jones, Britton (Hope 85), Bater (Beazer 73), Peel, Powell, King (Ndermani 85). Subs not used: Arndale.