Sunday, April 19th 2015

Devon County Youth League

Willand Rovers 3 Clyst Valley 1 (HT 1-0) Bastin, Gibbins, Johnson

Someone said recently that all the best title wins go to the wire. After all the issues and logistical problems for the previous fixture at Apollo, today Willand would have their full squad of 16! It seems that everyone was keen to ensure the league should be won for the club today.

So the game kicked off with Willand (as the hosts) attacking the Tesco End, on a very firm, well prepared pitch, under the watchful eye of referee Brian Holmes.

Early exchanges were promising for Willand’s under 18s, as their shape stretched wide on the Speeds Meadow surface. Tarji Jones and Nathan Antat were prolific on the flanks while Jordan Bastion started to pull the strings in midfield

After 6 minutes, and Alex Wright throw-in from deep in the Clyst Valley half, on the left was cutely flicked behind by Reece Kingdom and then again by Jones into the path of Bastin whose run and shot was beaten out at the last minute by the ‘keeper.

The blustery wind towards the Willand goal in the first half was a constant ally to the visitors’ cause, especially from free-kicks. Most were well flighted in and goalkeeper, Jez Cross, had to be constantly alert, especially when one such kick was glanced straight into his hands from 8 yards.

By then though, Willand were 1-0. Having had one or two runs into the Clyst area, this time Bastin collected a ball from the right and went straight to the goal-line. His excellent footwork wrong-footed the defence and when he cut back inside the six-yard area and shot, the ball went in off the far post for 1-0. Well deserved.

Ben Bickle was playing exceptionally well too and his runs and link-up play from right back were a constant threat. From one of his runs, Willand got possession in the Clyst penalty area and from another shot, the ball cannoned off the cross-bar and then off the line before it was cleared to safety. Johnson had a glancing header go just wide from a good cross on the left too.

Not long before halftime, Clyst fired a reminder that there was only a single goal advantage to Willand when from a corner, a shot hit the underside of the bar and a great chance went begging before it was cleared to safety.

Into the second half, and Willand went in search of a second goal. And got it.

Fifty seconds in and Gibbins collected the ball about 25 yards out and struck a drive which took a looping deflection and went in. He says the goal was going in anyway, so we’ll credit him with the goal but it gave Willand breathing space.

Now there was lots of good play from the White Ravens. It would be important to keep the ball and not give any chances away. Hmmm.

After 60 minutes, a free-kick from Willand’s right was met at the near post by Chim for Clyst Valley and suddenly it was 2-1.

But in all honesty, that was as close as the visitors came to Willand’s goal in the second period. Ash Matthews was imperious in defence, along with Jordan Major, Alex Wright, Ben Bickle and, of course, Jez Cross.

At the other end, Johnson was coming to life as space appeared between the visitors midfield and defence. He got his reward after 72 minutes when Gibbins chased a through ball that seemed to going out of play. As he reached it, Johnson saw the opportunity. Gibbins not only stopped the ball going out on the right hand-side but also pulled it back to the penalty spot where Johnson arrived to score high in the net. 3-1.

Now Willand could once again defend a 2-goal lead AND start to introduce their substitutes. Sam Rawlings came on for Gibbins, Jake Tillet for Antat, JJ for Johnson.

Chances came for Willand, including a rasping grass shot from Tillet when a loose ball came to him twenty yards out. And a word of note about Reece Kingdom who would not let the Clyst Valley midfield rest when on the ball.

When the final whistle went, Roland Brown and Richard Hill from the Devon County Youth League were on hand to present the League Cup and Winners-medals to the Willand team. It was a fitting-end to the campaign made all the harder, strangely, by the withdrawal of two sides from the league.

The County Cup Final is in just over a weeks time at Coach Road but before that, there is a league cup match at home to Alphington this Thursday, kick-off at 7:30pm.