Fishermen net fine point at Okehampton

Footie. Ref miscsp 43-17TI 2278. Picture: Terry Ife

Footie. Ref miscsp 43-17TI 2278. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Beer Albion earned a creditable 1-1 draw away at Okehampton last Saturday in an entertaining Macron Devon and Exeter League Premier Division fixture, writes Richard Honnor.

Okehampton sit fifth in the table, but the mid-table Fishermen were marginally the better side in a closely fought contest.

With the advantage of the sloping pitch, Beer started brightly and were soon creating good opportunities.

On 10 minutes Richard Walker headed Chris Long’s cross just wide after good link-up play by George Harwood and Simon Smith down the left and a minute later Long’s low, skidding free kick from 30 yards was gathered by the Okehampton glovesman at the second attempt.

The Fishermen were in control of the game with centre back Ashley Driver winning all the aerial battles and John Cooper in midfield at his combative best. But the chances to score came and went.

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Long almost caught the keeper off his line on 16 minutes, but his lob went just wide. Then, on 19 minutes, Walker headed Driver’s cross off target. A minute later a touch of brilliance from Walker induced a fine save from the busy Okies keeper and on 29 minutes Long was desperately unlucky when his fierce goal-bound shot was deflected against the post.

But Okehampton were starting to look dangerous on the break and the warning signs were there as they caught the Fishermen’s defence square a couple of times before taking the lead against the run of play on 30 minutes. A fast break down the right resulted in a cross drilled behind the Beer defence to the far post which was slotted home by the home side’s outstanding midfield player for a 1-0 lead.

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However, the Fishermen bounced back two minutes later with a spectacular goal. A neat exchange of passes between Simon Smith and Jack Prior down the right provided Walker with space to execute a neat reverse pass into the path of Chris Long, who shot sweet and low into the corner from 16 yards.

Okehampton had a good chance to steal the lead just before half-time as the Beer defence was again caught square by a swift counter, but their left winger missed the target with just keeper Steve Jones to beat.

After the break and playing down the slope, Okehampton looked a different proposition.

Jones, whose handling throughout was exemplary, made a good save on 51 minutes pushing over a dipping effort from long range. The Fishermen had to undergo sustained pressure and tempers flared as some determined challenges went in from both sides. Beer’s frustration with some harsh refereeing decisions over-spilled when firstly Walker was booked after an altercation and then Long was sin-binned on 58 minutes.

But under Cooper’s inspiring leadership and with Alex Hunt working non-stop to break up the home team’s midfield play, the 10 Fishermen held firm until Long returned to the fray.

Player-manager Walker then brought on substitutes Pedro Fontes and Jack Harwood and the pair injected fresh energy and pace for the final 25 minutes.

Okehampton continued to have more of the possession, but their final ball invariably let them down. As the game went into the final 15 minutes Beer had two good chances to notch the win. On 76 minutes, good work by Fontes released Long, whose quality cross was headed just wide by Jack Harwood.

Then on 84 minutes, the effervescent Harwood created an opening for Long but the Beer striker sliced his effort wide of the near post.

There were good performances across the park for the Fishermen, but midfielder John Cooper’s determination and experience stood out on the day.

Player manager Walker said: “Okehampton is always a tough place to come so I would have settled for a point before the match.

“In fact, we had several good chances to nick the win, but overall I was happy overall our performance.”

On Wednesday evening (April 11), it’s the Seaton-Beer local derby. The game at Colyton Road will no doubt attract a big crowd as there will be an extra edge with the Seasiders desperate for points in their relegation fight.

Then, on Saturday (April 14), Beer face another relegation-threatened side when they visit bottom-of-the-table Topsham Town.

Meanwhile, at the Furzebrake on Saturday, the Fishermen’s 2nd team play Feniton 2nds in another all East Devon clash. Kick off is at 3pm.

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