Beer sink Heavies as Rooke serves up another goalkeepeing master class

Ref mhsp 14 17TI 0258. Picture: Terry Ife

Ref mhsp 14 17TI 0258. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Beer Albion put in another massive performance to beat Heavitree United 2-1 at The Furzebrake, writes Richard Honnor.

After their 13 goals against strugglers Bow the previous Saturday, Heavies were brought down to the earth by the Fishermen who gave everything for the cause to secure three points.

Since losing their first fivematches, Beer have won 10, drawn four and lost only fourin a run which has taken them from the bottom to seventh place in the Macron League Premier table. Their run of success has been built on excellent defence and teamwork.

Experienced player-boss Richard Walker has been quick to recognise those qualities in the current group of players by regularly employing a defensive formation with two banks of four and relying on swift counter-attacks from himself and strike partner Chris Long, supported by breaking midfielders to produce the goals.

Indeed, this is how Saturday’s game panned out with Beer’s defensive wall soaking up wave after wave of Heavitree attacks and catching their opponents with quick counters.

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From the outset the fans were treated to free-flowing end-to-end football.

Heavitree made the early showing, but they spurned a great chance to go ahead on five minutes heading inches wide from three yards out.

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Then Beer’s Luke Bartlett shot at the keeper after a sweeping counter-attack. The Fishermen’s keeper Mark Rooke had to be alert to save at close range as the Heavies piled forward forcing two more corners before the Fishermen forced one of their own with Chris Long heading Simon Smith’s delivery wide at the far post on 14 minutes.

After early Heavies pressure, Beer settled into their best spell of the game. On 20 minutes, Walker latched on to along pass down the left and delivered a great cross field pass to Smith but the Beer midfielder screwed his shot wide. Eleven minutes later, Smith who had a fine match found Walker again down the left. This time the striker’s tantalising cross whistled across with no one able to add the final touch.

On 33 minutes, Rooke made a stunning save; pushing a fierce close-range header around the post, to deny the Heavies the lead.

Rooke made another good stop from the ensuing corner and these two saves proved crucial as the Fishermen went in front one minute later. Striker Chris Long found himself in space down the right and delivered a low cross which Bartlett poked home first time from 10 yards. As half time approached a rare Beer defensive mix-up presented Heavitree with a good chance to draw level but their midfielder’s 20-yard effort flew narrowly wide.

The Fishermen’s formation really came into its own in the second half. Heavitree dominated the possession but Beer soaked up the pressure with centre-backs Joe Adkin and Andrew Foster in dominating form well supported by full backs George Harwood and Josh Moughton and Shaun Denslow playing the defensive midfield role. For all their dominance, Heavitree lacked composure when presented with shooting opportunities regularly hitting the ball high and wide.

They were made to pay on 53 minutes when Beer went two-up. A high clearance upfield was well controlled by Long facing his own goal and laid square to Walker who placed his shot inch perfect from 16 yards into the goal past the helpless Heavies keeper.

With the Fishermen now sitting back to hold on to their two- goal advantage, Heavitree dominated possession and despite two more fine saves from Rooke, Heavitree reduced the arrears when a long free kick on 74 minutes deceived the Beer keeper who lost sight of the ball looking into the sun.

Rooke made amends with three crucial saves in the final 15 minutes as Beer held on desperately to secure the victory and the Fishermen’s keeper deservedly picked up the Man of the Match award from match sponsors, Kenworthy and Arbourne Builders.

With five league games to go, Beer have a tough end-of-season programme including visits to championship contenders Honiton and Newtown.

On Saturday (April 15) they travel to fourth-placed Okehampton Argyle.

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