THERE was plenty of trash-talking before the game; but it was North Molton who were left picking up the pieces of a premier division title challenge after a disappointing day on Exmoor on Saturday. With much of the weekend s programme rained off for the
THERE was plenty of trash-talking before the game; but it was North Molton who were left picking up the pieces of a premier division title challenge after a disappointing day on Exmoor on Saturday.
With much of the weekend's programme rained off for the second week running, most of the eyes were focused on the result at Rocksfield, where a chance to draw level with league leaders Boca Seniors was up for grabs.
While Boca manager Darren Todd admitted a lively pre-match debate on the club's website had done his team talk for him, Stags' boss David Peters wondered whether he'd somehow upset the footballing gods when just 11 players turned up for the game before kick-off.
While Boca lined up at full strength, the hosts were without the unavailable Dean Plummer and Simon Moore. James Tapp and Danny Bell were out with injuries, while young striker Ryan Turner was on duty for Barnstaple Town in the Western League. With the Reserves game at Dolton called off due to the weather, Peters grabbed a handful of second-teamers to bolster the bench.
And Molton's luck was just as rotten when it came to the pre-kick-off weather forecast. Captain Jon Lloyd won the toss and opted to kick up the hill and against a wind that howled straight off the moor and down the pitch. After holding their opponents to 0-0 at half-time, Lloyd's decision back-fired when the wind and rain dropped and the conditions improved for the second half.
"At that point my chin was dragging on the floor," joked Peters. "We thought if we could hold them until half-time, we'd be in with a shout in the second half, but within a minute, Richard Joslin scored a hell of a goal - a volley from about 30 yards out.
"That was it for us really and we were down in the dumps a bit after that."
Richard Shannon scored a second for Boca on the hour mark and substitute Chris Collins added a third with his first touch of the game late on.
"We out-played them without a doubt," said Boca manager Todd. "They warmed up indoors, and only came out a minute before kick-off, while we'd been out on the pitch acclimatising to the conditions for half-an-hour.
"Their keeper made three-or-four outstanding saves in the first half and in all honesty, Babbsy didn't really have anything to do all game."
But Peters felt that 3-0 "flattered" the champions. "We didn't give up and I felt we were as good as they were in the first half," he said.
"After the first goal, Boca settled down and started playing with more confidence and we seemed to go the opposite way; but then they are the champions of Devon after all."
The win saw Boca pull six points clear at the top with one extra game played. They travel to Putford on Saturday, while North Molton head to Bradworthy.
In other Premier Division action on Saturday, Georgeham & Croyde recorded their third win of the season with a 3-1 victory at home to Ilfracombe Town Reserves, while Shawmickshire Rovers and Braunton shared the points in a 0-0 draw at the Pollyfield Centre.
In the Graddon Vending Devon County Premier Cup, Combe Martin bowed out in a 6-3 home defeat against Teignmouth.
The South Devon side opened the scoring on the half hour mark, a goal that was cancelled out five minutes later by Simon Townsend. Teignmouth then added a second on 38 minutes before Ray Squire found another quick leveller.
In second half, Townsend scored his second but the visitors hit back with four without reply.
In other county cup action, Bratton Fleming crashed out 6-2 at home to Halwill in the Jail Ale Senior Cup, Jamie Cameron and Aaron Yeo scoring first half goals for Bratton.
Hallwill's opponents in the next round will be either Pilton Academicals or Staddiscombe Colts, who were unable to play their game at the third time of asking due to the weather at the weekend. Pilton made the long trip down to Plymouth after being told the game was on but had to return home disappointed when the referee postponed the game just minutes before the kick-off. The game will now be switched to Rock Park in Barnstaple this Saturday.
In the Senior Division, Chittlehampton went back to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Bude, while Barnstaple AAC Reserves' title challenge took a severe dent with a 2-0 defeat at Kilkhampton.
In Intermediate One, bottom side Buckland Brewer came close to recording their first win of the season in a 4-3 battle at home to Sporting Barum.
An early two-goal Sporting lead was eventually pegged back by Andrew Large and an excellent Simon Adams curled shot into the far corner from 20 yards.
Sporting edged ahead again before Ben Dooley latched onto a loose ball to level the scores again for Buckland.
The game looked to be heading for a draw until a bizarre own goal crashed Buckland's hopes only minutes from the end.
In Intermediate Two, Dean Shelton's bullet header from a Dave Coggin corner opened the scoring for Pilton Academicals Reserves in a 4-3 win against Barnstaple FC. Paul Soffe then played a perfectly weighted ball down the right hand side channel to Lee Ellis who crossed the ball for the first goal of a Gary Grant hat-trick.
Grant smashed the ball in off of the right hand side upright for his second, while a magnificent Aidan McCarthy sliding tackle teed the ball up nicely to enable Grant to rifle his third from 25 yards into the far bottom right corner.
Also on Saturday, Wrey Arms captain Marc Churchill surged forward from his sweeper role to put a stamp on the game against Landkey Town Reserves with brace. The other goals in the 6-0 win were scored by Simon Larcombe from the penalty spot, Kirk Lace, Dan Larcombe and Craig Smith.
Bratton Fleming Reserves secretary Sandra Gooding said she struggled to write fast enough to keep pace with the goals in fast and furious 6-6 draw against Northam Lions Thirds on Sunday.
Northam opened the scoring in the first minute but Bratton were on level terms 10 minutes later when Sam Phillips scored his first after a excellent cross from Jason Smith.
Phillips went on to score four more, while Daniel Finch was the other Bratton scorer in an action-packed afternoon.
"Both teams put everything into this match on a very windy day," said Sandra.
"It was an entertaining game for a spectator and it would perhaps have been a bit unfair for anyone to actually have scored a winner!