Vikings ready to do battle

Sidmouth Town footballers are looking forward to tomorrow's clash with Bickleigh, which manager Paul Ashford believes is a massively important game for them.

Sidmouth Town footballers are looking forward to tomorrow's clash with Bickleigh, which manager Paul Ashford believes is a massively important game for them. So tight is the Premier division that Bickleigh are in fourth place, but only four points ahead of Sidmouth in eighth. Bickleigh have played the fewest fixtures of any side in the table - 14 - and may well get caught out by an end of season fixture congestion. Ashford said: "Manstone Lane is like a fortress at the moment. The lads are really playing well and progressing. I am not frightened of any side in the league and I hope the players aren't either." Ashford has nine players under the age of 21 in his team for Saturday but realises the importance of exceptional players like Anthony Griffiths and Sean Lapping, whose experience makes an invaluable contribution. For the first time this season he has 16 fit players to choose from, including Andy Thompson who returns from injury. "That is a massive boost for any team but it is up to him to perform or he won't stay on," Ashford added. He is also pleased with the progress of Tom Chaplin who has made a successful transition up from the Reserves. "Of course, everyone remembers his dad playing so that has been a lot to live up to." Sidmouth drew 0-0 at home to Heavitree Social club last weekend, a side who had beaten them 2-1 earlier in the season. ' I don't like to lose to a side twice," Ashford said. "If we had banked points earlier in the season, when we just lacked the killer instinct, we would be laughing now. "The players' attitudes have changed. I won't be bullied into who I select. They all know if they train hard I will have a look at them. If they have ability they will get their chance. I signed a couple of youngsters who were selective over when they wanted to play and I have let them go." Against Heavitree, Sidmouth had chances to take all three points. They came off the field like they had lost, but delighted Ashford with their attitude and approach. Luke Ashford pulled off an important second half save to keep a clean sheet.After some poor results in recent weeks Sidmouth seconds put in a great shift to get a valuable away point and, more importantly, they kept a clean sheet.The effort from start to finish was first class from all 13 players that took to the field and, with a little luck, they would have taken all three points.Paris Pinney and Tom Perryman worked tirelessly up front and didn't allow the Ammies back four any time on the ball.This effort was mirrored in midfield with Joe Clarke, Craig Badcock, Charlie Nicolle, Chris Warfield and 16-year-old Dan Collins out battling their opponents.The closest Sidmouth came to a goal was when Steve Edwards got on the end of a flowing move only to see his well-hit shot saved by a full-stretch keeper. Dave Pugsley had a good game at the back after recovering from a hamstring injury but, for manager Alan Rowe, the Man of the Match was Joe Clarke who covered every blade of grass and showed the energy levels that we saw at the tail end of last season.Team: Hugh Cort, Sam Hammett, Jean-Paul Staniforth, David Pugsley, Tom Perryman, Joe Clarke, Craig Badcock, Charlie Nicolle, Chris Warfield, Paris Pinney, Gary Bargery Subs: Dan Collins, Steve Edwards, Jamie Ackford.

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