Bideford manager Sean Joyce was full of praise for Matt Ward after Bideford’s North Devon derby win over Barnstaple Town on Monday.
Ward, who signed for the Robins in the summer after being released by Plymouth Argyle, scored the game’s only goal in Bideford’s 1-0 win at the Sports Ground.
After replacing Ben Wood on the hour, Ward was wheeling away in celebrating five minutes later as he stuck the ball into the top corner from inside the penalty area – a chance that came less than 10 seconds after he struck the post with a free-kick.
“I’m still getting used to him and what he’s like, but he’s got the heart of a lion,” said Joyce.
“He comes on and the first thing he does is win a header and then smash into a tackle. He gave us legs and energy, but also thought.
“His decision making is really good, and he could have had another one today, but hit the crossbar. He’s come on again and shown us what he can do and he’s lifted us again.”
The result was Bideford’s first win of the new Evo-Stik Division One South season, and Joyce said there’s still plenty of work to do if the Robins want to be chasing the play-offs this season.
“We’ve had a good chat, there’s no singing and dancing because we know we’ve got to get better to be where we want to be,” he said.
“You’d take that result all day long though. I’m always nervous before the derbies because you never know what’s going to happen. They’re always tight games.
“It’s just about getting results, and it wasn’t pretty. We were the better team, we had the better quality.
“I can’t fault Barnstaple’s effort or work rate, they’ve got a good manager in Darchy, he sets them up well and they run and chase. They’re built to nick results.”
Barnstaple Town managers Kevin Darch and Dave Griffiths said their side was just lacking goals as they pushed another promotion-chasing side all the way.
Barum are still looking for their first points of the new season, but the performance against the Robins paired with last Tuesday’s effort against Bristol Manor Farm mean there are positives for the new-look side.
“We set up badly from the free kick and they punished us for it,” said Darch.
“In open play I didn’t think there was a lot between the two sides, they might have had slightly more of the ball but I thought we did alright.
“It was a similar game to last year but we just couldn’t get back into it this time.
“The work rate is there, we know we’re lacking goals – that’s obvious for everyone to see – but it’s not easy to get that without signing players.”
“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing, we’re just lacking that killer instinct to go and get goals.
“If that chance goes in before half-time they might not break us down then.
“They did well in the second half to shut the game off and stop us getting into any sort of rhythm again, and that’s exactly what we would have done had it been us.
Griffiths said the side is in a better position than they thought it would be going into Saturday’s game at home to Highworth Town.
He said: “We’re in a lot better position than we thought we were going to be.
“It’s probably more frustrating because we’re running these sides so close, but we’ll get there in the end if we keep on playing like we are, no question about it.”