Willand Rovers 1 Hallen 1
Willand missed the chance to put more pressure on the three other sides chasing runaway Street when they could only draw 1-1 with visiting Hallen at Silver Street on Wednesday night writes Kerry Miller.
In truth they were fortunate to not to lose as the Bristolians showed that they had not made the awkward trip down just to be bit part players and caused Rovers problems throughout, frustrating them and the home supporters who had watched their side put in a similar show last time out against Hallen’s neighbours Cribbs. Willand welcomed back Craig Veal for a rare return after he had been part of Taunton Town’s Southern League West title-winning side although the game only went ahead after a day long graft from clubmen who worked on the pitch which was under water that morning. Willand may be third in the league table but with west country TV targeting the village with a piece on flooding, it could be that they are second in the water table only to Atlantis and it was a miracle that the game was played was gripping throughout.
Hallen were playing under new boss Ray Johnston, the voluble former Odd Down man who had a running verbal battle with one linesman and most of the home supporters, and he certainly has got the side playing as once the initial home onslaught eased his side got into the game and looked dangerous on the break while keeping their shape at the back.
Karl Rickard’s long run and shot ended with a fine early save from Tyler Edmunds and Veal and Alex Faux also went close before Ric kard bundled the ball home only to be denied by referee Andrew Evans’s whistle for a foul. Jack Mills became the first to go into the book for a foul on Veal and although there were six more cautions, referee Evans kept a lid on what was never a dirty game although it was often annoyingly noisy. Luke Mortimore found the side netting before at the other end Mills found keeper Mike Searle with a free-kick from distance but the home frustration continued up to the break with Faux and Veal almost breaking the deadlock.
On the restart, former Salisbury, Eastleigh and Chippenham Town midfielder Toby Osman was just wide with a rare effort but with Hallen slowing the game down at every chance and breaking well out of defence when given the opportunity, the tension began to be ramped up. It increased more when news came through that Melksham were playing almost the whole game with a substitute keeper and ten men after an early dismissal up the road at Wellington and Hallen sensed their chance. They fashioned a fine move through the middle which ended with Dan Payne shooting straight at Searle who saved with his legs what was a real chance.
On the hour Veal again curled an effort just wide and Ryan Guppy hit the bar with a cross from down by the old changing rooms but after more profligate finishing, Hallen struck with ten minutes left. Willand were caught out by another quick break and when Darly Charman outmuscled the last defender he was able to beat Searle with a fine finish and set up a frantic finale.
Home substitute Brad Ausden went down in the area five minutes later but his, and the home supporter’s shouts for a spot kick were waved away only for them to profit from a stroke of luck moments later as Guppy’s drive dipped and crept under Edmunds before rolling agonisingly across the line to salvage a point.
Melksham’s late winner at Wellington did nothing to help the mood but with Buckland Athletic twice, Bradford Town and Melksham Town all still waiting to play them, their destiny is definitely in their hands. Hallen, meanwhile can enjoy their remaining four games with Johnston set to prepare for next season, only two years after winning the title with Odd Down.
Press and Media Officer
Toolstation Western League
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