Willand vs Tavistock
During the off-season, Willand manager David Steele imparted me with two pieces of wisdom.
The first was after I lamented that, once again, it was difficult to write any reports in pre-season when I didn’t know any of the Trialists names. “At Willand” he informed me, “We don’t have any trialists. Just new players people don’t know, some who may be here for a few years or some a few weeks.”
Although this didn’t help me in the slightest, it does epitomise the culture of Willand Rovers beautifully.
The manager’s first task of the pre-season was achieved early, with the majority of last year’s squad re-signing for the new campaign. Those that left, Alfie Moulden and Jack Rice who moved on to play at a higher level, and Bailey Kemspter and Ben Griffiths who were with us on loan, were quickly forgotten when Owen Howe’s signing was announced. A proven goal scorer at this level and a local boy to boot, Howe was quickly joined by Josh Webber, Charlie Wright and Ryan Keates for the new season.
The pre-season itself was a mixed affair where nothing really mattered other than letting the management team look at some of those people that I didn’t yet know, while working on formations and plans for the season ahead. And of course, in my first cliche of the year, allowing the players to get some time in the legs.
An opening and unfulfilling draw again Gillinham Town and a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Plymouth Parkway did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the Silver Street faithful, and a bumper crowd was on hand to see the highlight of the pre-season, a victory over local rival Tiverton Town in a game that couldn’t in good conscience be called all that friendly.
After a further defeat against Taunton Town, the pre-season drew to a conclusion with a mixture of draws and victories as the team began to bond and the squad began to form, gaming on confidence as the main event drew closer.
Away from Silver Street, the other major departure at the start of the season appeared to be whoever was in charge of fixtures within the Southern League.
Their geographically challenged replacement having decided that Willands prestigious Christmas fixtures, the ones where both crowds and tills can be swelled with festive spirit, should be contested against, and let me check my notes here, Paulton and Bristol Manor Farm!
The only upside of this fixture-list faux pas meant that Willands opening home opponents on an uncharacteristically balmy Tuesday in August were localish rivals Tavistock and a bumper crowd enjoyed the spectacle, including a number of fans from our neighbouring Mid-Devon clubs, along with a number of Rovers alumni.
The familiarity didn’t stop on the terraces though, with some familiar faces in the Lambs starting line-up, including Dearing in goal and striker Koita leading the line.
The home team started with David Steele resolving the pre-season left back conundrum with a right back solution with versatile Josh Searle filling in, while there were also starts for Webber, Wright, and newly appointed captain Howe in a lineup that brimmed with early season promise.
In truth the early season touches were heavy, passes were misjudged, and the early highlight was the contrast between Wright’s white shirt glimmering in the sun and his shocking pink boots as he scuttled meaningfully around the pitch.
Both teams were defensively sound in the opening salvos, with Willands first shot in anger not coming until the 23rd minute, Howe leaping above the Tavistock defence but unable to get enough power on his header to trouble Dearing in the Tavistock goal.
While it was Willand who arguably started the game better it was the visitors who walked off at half time having dominated the latter stages, and having claimed the best chance just before the whistle was blown, Macpherson powering his own header over the bar from a corner.
Half time – Willand 0 Tavistock 0
The 2nd half threatened to kick off in the red hue of the setting sun, which when coupled with clouds settling somewhere over North Devon could had led to the continuation of a gloomy game, had the switch to the new floodlights not been located at the last minute.
As it was, it was Tavistock who started brightest, the visitors forging the first chance of the half, Koita firing his shot over the bar after some good Tavistock pressure.
The same player came closer minutes later after he was struck by a teammate’s errant shot, the ricochet landing at his feet before he fired the ball onto the post.
Willand made an early substitution in an attempt to quell the Tavistock pressure, Baker replacing Wright, and the change almost paid off immediately when Bray hit a well-placed half volley the wrong side of the post after good work through the middle.
The breakthrough for Willand came in the 62nd minute, in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. A free kick floated into the box was met by Milton at the back post, whose powerful header across the goal was fired into the top corner by a misfiring Burns.
The misfortune did nothing to diminish the Tavistock torrent though, and only some desperate defending and heroic goalkeeping kept the scores level after Pritchard found himself one on one with Burton. The Willand keeper managed to pull off a brilliant double save before he was ably assisted by a retreating defender whose last ditch block saw the ball defect to relative safety.
Having weathered the Tavistock pressure, Willand extended their lead in the 77th minute following another good run from Bray down the right. The winger’s cross somehow evaded everyone in the goalmouth before falling at the feet of Guppy on the edge of the penalty area, the Willand midfielder making no mistake as he buried the ball past Dearing.
With Tavistock continuing to push, the Willand defence held firm, with no sign of previous seasons capitulations to be seen anywhere within the bounds of Silver Street.
As the final whistle blew there would have been the strange paradox with Willand considering themselves worthy of the 3 points, while Tavistock would be ruing that their perceived dominance could not be forged into at least a share of the spoils.
In the end though it matters little, and the history books, and more importantly the league table, will show that the Whites remain unbeaten in the league.
The second piece of wisdom that David Steele imparted on me pre-season was that he only read my match reports when the team won.
Other than being constantly surprised that anyone reads them at all, I can’t but hope he has to endure more of my ramblings as the season progresses, and the team builds on its exploratory start.
Full time – Willand 2 Tavistock 0
|Josh Searle||Yellow Card|
|George Burton||Yellow Card|
|Private: Adam Kelly|
|Ollie Bray||Yellow Card|
|Owen Howe||Yellow Card|
|Private: Josh Webber|
|Private: Lewis Hill||Sub|
|Private: Ryan Keates||Sub|