NORTH Devon’s Southern and Western League clubs kicked off their pre-season campaigns with local derby clashes.
Western League Ilfracombe hosted Evo-Stik Southern Division One South and West champions Bideford, while Barnstaple were at home to Holsworthy from the South West Peninsula League.
It was a keenly contested game at Ilfracombe and a prime example of the old football saying ‘a game of two halves.’
Combe had the better of the first half and led 1-0 at the break as Bideford struggled to show their higher league class. But the Robins, testing a number of triallists, changed virtually their whole side at the break and went on to win 3-1.
Ilfracombe’s new striker Edd Yeo rattled Bideford’s crossbar with a powerful header before his strength again caused havoc at the back, out jumping the two centre halves to leave fellow new signing Billy Tucker with a clean run at goal. Tucker knocked the ball around the outrushing keeper, who had little choice but to bring him down. He then made no mistake from the spot to put Combe 1-0 ahead after 15 minutes.
Bideford stepped it up in the second half as manager Sean Joyce made almost a complete change, including a run-out for Matt Hockley, Aaron Harper Penman, Matt Andrew and Shaun Downing, all regular starters in last season’s championship side. With Combe’s legs starting to tire and with a number of changes made by themselves, the extra quality from Bideford started to tell.
Kev Squire went close with a lob and Downing hit the post with a strike before Matt Hockley made the break through. It came in controversial style as Kevin Darch was judged to have brought down the far larger figure of Squire on the edge of the box. A classic Hockley free kick from 18yards brought the scores level.
Fifteen minutes later a Matt Andrew ball in from the right gave James Richards - Bideford young player of the year last season - an easy tap-in. Connor Clifford, another of the half time substitutes, then smashed in the third with a volley from the edge of the box.
Barnstaple were given a good first match run-out at home to Holsworthy and the confidence of a 5-1 win.
They were 2-1 up at the break with goals by Luke Day and an own goal and stretched their advantage in the second period with two goals from Danny Jenkins and another by Craig Sandle.
The pre-season games continue with Bideford at home to Truro City this Saturday, while Ilfracombe entertain Lydney Town and Barnstaple host a travelling Army side tonight (Weds), Exeter Under-18s on Saturday (2pm) and Bideford next Wednesday.