Looking forward to season ahead

Pinhoe Spartans 1, Sidmouth Town U16s 4 (League)

This was a stunning away performance against a strong Pinhoe team. Sidmouth played inventive football going forward and defended convincingly, writes Mark Jackson.

In the absence of their experienced manager, Dickie Seldon, who was recovering from a knee operation, they were directed admirably on the pitch by captain Doug Still, who led by example, motivating the team from midfield and demanding 100 per cent effort from start to finish.

With the wind and a slight slope behind them in the first half, Sidmouth played simple and elegant football. They were 2-0 up within the first 20 minutes with neat headed goals from Conor Ellis and Lee Clayden. Excellent delivery into the box from Joe Blackmore, Will Jenkins and Still, and strong, intelligent running from Ellis and Isaac Thomas, continued to unsettle an unsteady Pinhoe defence.

Towards the end of the first half, Pinhoe rallied, creating opportunities from both flanks, but the Sidmouth back line, marshalled sternly by Dec Lines in goal, was resolute. A minute before the half-time whistle, Sidmouth extended their lead: a corner from Blackmore was flicked on by Clayden, headed forward by Dan Hulin, and looped effortlessly over the goalkeeper by Thomas.

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In the second half, momentum shifted as Pinhoe drove forward trying to exploit the elements. But defenders Riordan Deehan-Jackson and Hulin showed tremendous resilience and linked well with Dan Corrick and Joe Griffiths, who dealt effectively with the pace of Pinhoe’s wingers.

Against the run of play at the time, an excellent long-range free kick from Still put Sidmouth four goals clear. Rejuvenated by the goal, substitutes Will Price and Toby Seldon, and by a superb fingertip save from Lines, Sidmouth never looked in danger after that.

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Sidmouth’s impressive midfield quartet restricted Pinhoe to shots from outside the area. It was only a visceral injury to Deehan-Jackson, which left Sidmouth momentarily a man down, which allowed Pinhoe to sneak a goal back at the death.

It was a performance and a result to make the convalescing Sidmouth manager proud. The team sits at the top of the early league table and will be keen to stay there this weekend, as they take on Central Spitfires, k.o 10.30.

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