Willand Vs Bideford
Those observant amongst you may have noted that over the preceding weeks there have been three themes that have haunted my match reports.
The first of course is the ‘curse of the 90th minute goal’, a phenomenon that I’m relegating to the same drawer that holds Voldemort, Candyman and Beetlejuice. Which is to say that I hope that I won’t be mentioning it by name again (and certainly not three times consecutively) for the rest of the season.
The second theme that I’ve returned to more than once, which is somewhat at a juxtaposition to the first, is how well the team has been playing in defeat.
These aren’t necessarily just the subjective ramblings of a sycophantic fan though. If you were to look at Willand’s goal difference before today’s game, they sat at -5. Compare this to those teams immediately around us and you see an average GD of -19 giving some credence to the synopsis.
Should you require further proof, the goal difference over the last eleven games, in which I might remind you Willand have won only two, is -3. It’s not a phrase that anyone would ever claim ownership of, but Willand have been losing well.
It brings to mind the old footballing adage, ‘they look too good to go down’. It’s a myth of course, points determine relegation, not performance but it must encourage and frustrate David Steele in equal measure; He’ll be pleased with the effort and application of the players , but I’ve no doubt he’d take a couple of scrappy wins at the moment.
The final theme doesn’t need to be highlighted but equally can’t be ignored. As we see the ramping up of bunny based confectionery in our local supermarkets, it’s been since before Christmas that I’ve been able to describe a Willand league win.
The three themes are of course interlinked. If Willand can stop conceding late goals, and can keep playing well they should, in theory at least, start winning games.
It’s a simple formula right?
With this in mind David Steele made a number of changes to last week’s starting 11 with Kelly, Lilley and Hill returning to the team ro replace Searle, Guppy and Baker.
Stood in the way Rovers completing their first league win of 2024 stood local friends and rivals Bideford AFC. Our opponents traveled the short distance down the A361 and into the game in excellent form. Despite their relative league position to our own, Bideford came into the game having won four of their last five games, conceding only once in that run, form that has seen them leapfrog over several teams as they fight for league survival.
After a slow start from both teams the first chance of note fell to Willand in the 15th minute, a foul on Hill that the referee adjudged to have occurred just on the wrong side of the 18 yard line, despite the protestation of players, bench and fans alike. Once the mini melee had subdued the resulting free kick was fired into the wall and deflected away to safety.
The visitors had to wait until the 25th minute for their first opportunity, Wood breaking the Willand defensive line before striding towards goal, his eventual shot forcing a good save from Burton.
The game opened up as it headed towards the break, Willand’s best chance of the half coming in the 31st minute following good work between Bray and Kelly down the Willand right, the Willand fullback eventually placing his shot the wrong side of the Robin’s upright. Bideford then came close minutes later when the Willand defense switched off from a short corner, Wood crossing the ball to Taylor who saw his header flash past the post.
Willand had Burton to thank for parity in the 36th minutes, as Wright strode through the defensive line unhindered before the Willand stopper did well to parry his shot before pulling off another excellent save to deny the follow up from Wood.
Burton could do nothing to prevent the visitors taking the lead a few minutes later though, a long throw wasn’t cleared and Taylor placed his shot into the corner of the net past the Willand keeper.
In truth the first half was low in quality and entertainment, with Bideford deserving the lead, the better of two evils.
Half time Willand 0 – Bideford 1
David Steele made a change at the start of the half with Poole being replaced by recent signing from Buckland, Nick Milton and in fairness Willand came out playing like they had found a new gear, albeit still only 2nd.
The home team came close early when Koita hit the side netting from a tight angle and the Willand striker was again involved in the 61st minute when his overhead kick found a teammate at the far post who snatched a shot onto the base of the post and away for a goal kick.
For the remainder of the game Willand created a number of half chances but never troubled Seedhouse-Evans in the Bideford goal and the visitors continued to frustrate with some dogged defending in a stop/start game that gave neither team an extended period of play to find any kind of rhythm.
As the game petered and faltered to its inevitable conclusion, the highlight of a dour game occurred when a number of Willand’s junior supporters, never quite ready to give up hope, started chanting the team’s name, only for the lead vocalist to require a mental pause during the chant to confirm the exact number of ‘L’s required for a satisfactory conclusion.
Willand were better in the second half, but better doesn’t always equate to good and there will be no-one who attended today’s game wearing white that will want to dwell too much on either the result or the performance. The excellent traveling fans however will care not about the aesthetics of a not so beautiful game, far too busy counting the three points that they quite deservingly took back to North Devon with them.
For Willand, I’ve at least managed to break two of the three themes that have been haunting me. There was no late minute goal of which we will not speak, but nor was there the customary good performance. What we were left with, and realistically the only important statistic, was that I’m still not talking about winning games. And if that doesn’t change soon, we might have to start talking about a new, altogether less palatable theme.
Full time Willand 0 – Bideford 1
Man of the match was George Burton selected by Helen Jones from Match day sponsors 2 Right feet thank you for your support
we would also like to thank match ball sponsors WB Employment
|Private: Bailey Kempster|
|Private: Joe Wylie|
|Private: Lewis Hill|
|Private: Adam Kelly|
|Private: Dan Koita||Yellow Card|
|Private: Michael Lilley|
|Private: Ben Griffith||Sub|
|Private: Dean Stamp|