Ilfracombe throw away two-goal lead at Longwell Green.
ILFRACOMBE threw away a 2-0 lead to crumble to a disappointing 4-2 defeat at Longwell Green in the Toolstation Western League Premier Division on Saturday.
Player manager Ross Middleton and Ryan Turner gave the visitors the perfect start against a Longwell side riding the crest of a 10-game unbeaten run.
But a trio of set-piece goals helped give the Bristol-based side all-three points and hand ‘Combe a harsh lesson in how not to defend.
The Bluebirds dominated the first half against a physical Bristol based side, whose attempts to apply pressure went wide of the mark.
James Mayne and Gary Skinner dealt with everything thrown at them at the heart of the Combe defence.
At the other end, Shaun Lewis and Ryan Turner caused the home defence all sorts of problems but lacked the final ball.
Both strikers will feel they should have given Ilfracombe the lead with the chances they created. First Lewis raced clear before lashing a strike just wide of the far post from a tight angle.
Then Turner missed the chance of the game when he fired wide from just inside the box after having time to pick his spot.
Mayne had a header saved from a corner and further shots went wide from Lewis and Turner before ‘Combe finally made the break through right on half time.
Shaun Copp delivered the corner and Middleton rose highest to head home a deserved half-time lead.
Longwell clearly had their ears ringing as they started to play at a higher intensity in the second half but it was the visitors who took a further advantage.
Mayne picked out Lewis who flicked the ball into the path of Turner and he made no mistake, rounding the keeper to make it 2-0.
Unfortunately that was the beginning of the end for ‘Combe as they started to throw away all their hard work and effort.
Longwell didn’t waver from their game plan and continued to pressure the defence with long balls.
They probed for a mistake and, on 65 minutes, ‘Combe obliged. Ryan Gardiner found himself unmarked inside the penalty area to head home a free kick with ease.
Ilfracombe lost Ben Layland through injury and seemed to lose their shape with it. Five minutes after Layland’s departure, Longwell were level, this time with a free header by Matt Tilley.
Longwell had found their second wind and turned up the heat, scoring a third from a set piece, the simple tap in falling to Ben Crew.
‘Combe almost hit back as Edd Yeo crossed for Lewis, only to see his shot blocked on the line. It was the last chance for the visitors as Longwell broke away to put number four past a helpless Steve Oliver.
Manager Middleton said he was ‘embarrassed’ by the collapse.
He said: “To concede three goals from set pieces is criminal, I’m absolutely disgusted by that. We’re not the biggest team but we’ve defended set plays brilliantly this season. We knew they’d be dangerous from set plays and to let them have three free headers is shameful.
“To be fair to Longwell they know what they’re good at and they stick to it; you can see why they get results and we could learn a lot from that.
“We showed how good we are for 60 minutes. They’d barely had a shot, but we stopped and as soon as you switch off in this league you get punished.
“We’ll bounce back though. I’m glad we’ve got two very tough teams in Melksham and Buckland at home on Saturday and Tuesday now, no one can hide and we’ll have to turn that 60-minute performance into 90.”
Ilfracombe Town are at home to Melksham Town on Saturday and will entertain Buckland Athletic at Marlborough Park on Tuesday night.