Sidmouth Town entertaining table-topping Stoke Gabriel at Manstone Lane

Sidmouth Town at home to Ilfracombe Town. Ref shsp 03 19TI 8459. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Town at home to Ilfracombe Town. Ref shsp 03 19TI 8459. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

As long as the weather holds off then Manstone Lane, Sidmouth will play witness to a visit from South West Peninsula League Eastern Division table-toppers Stoke Gabriel tomorrow (Saturday).

To date this season, Stoke Gabriel have scored more goals than anyone else in the division and they also sport the meanest defence.

What’s more, when they entertained the Vikings in South Devon back in late October, they were 6-1 winners.

Town joint manager Kevin Tooze is well aware of the power that Stoke Gabriel arrive with, but he is also confident that the Town side are more than capable of ‘giving them a game’.

He says: “Yes, there’s no escaping that fact that they are a powerful unit that has a great blend of goals at one end of the pitch and a disciplined defence at the other end.

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“However, we are at full strength and welcome back Danny Clay - our only doubt is whether Martyn Hancock has recovered fully from his foot injury - and I fancy our lads to give anyone at this level a game.”

He continued: “Let’s face it, league games don’t come bigger than the table-toppers at home and we are a good side ourselves and have a decent home record.”

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The only doubt about the next Town game, in terms of the Tooze thinking, is the pitch!

He says: “The weather has not been kind this week and, with day upon day - and night - of rain, there’s not much respite for the pitch to drain so, if we do play, I suspect conditions will be on the heavy side.”

He continued: “We need a game, the lads keep training, but this current period of inactivity (Town have not played since January 26 and have played only two home games since the November 17, 3-1 Manstone Lane win over Teignmouth) is frustrating us all.

“On the other side of that is the fact that we are not alone in not playing, it’s the same for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Tooze confirmed that he is in the final few months of his management stint at the club.

He says: “I have loved it - and indeed, am loving it. However, this was always a short-term thing to get us over the period between the previous manager going and the end of the campaign. I can’t speak for Danny [his fellow joint manager Danny Burwood], who incidentally is a top, top football man. He’s a diamond, and, with my Town hat on, I’d love to think he might stick around beyond this stint of us working as a team.

“However, for my part, I have my own business to look after and what the club needs is a younger person than yours truly. Someone that can give to the job the time that is required. We have a fabulous club here at Manstone Lane with four senior teams and a great supportive youth section and so there is a very clear pathway for young footballers to develop. I can only see continually developing, and exciting, times ahead for a football club I have etched into my heart.”

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