Topsham Town 2-2 Beer Albion
Beer Albion and Topsham Town shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw at Coronation Fields on Saturday writes Richard Honnor. With several first team players missing through injury, suspensions or other commitments, the Fishermen were forced to field a makeshift eleven showing six changes from last Saturday’s starting line-up. Even though their Reserves did not have a fixture, Beer 1st’s travelled with just two substitutes, which was inexcusable. Beer’s solid mid-table showing last season was built to a large extent on regular player availability and therefore a settled squad. Suspensions and injuries will always occur but the Fishermen will continue to struggle this season unless player availability improves.
The game itself was a close contest and the final outcome was a fair result. Topsham will however will be regretting a couple of simple chances early on, which probably cost them victory. Firstly on 4 minutes, the Beer defence failed to clear a corner and after an ensuing scramble, the Topsham striker blasted over from 8 yards with the goal at his mercy. Two minutes later, another great chance from close range went high and wide after Beer keeper Elliot Driver failed to hang on to a cross from the right. Driver injured his finger in the process and was forced to leave the fray. Defender Liam Cox who had been drafted in from the Reserves had to take over in goal and manager Richard Walker brought himself on to plug the gap at centre back. Finding himself in an unfamiliar role, Cox showed good judgement, safe handling and made a couple of excellent saves. Walker meanwhile steadied the ship at the heart of Beer’s defence.
The Fishermen’s only early threat came on 9 minutes when Max Richardson,receiving a square pass from Jay Catley, fired a shot from 20 yards which was tipped over the bar by the Topsham keeper. For the next 30 minutes the game was an even contest with little threat on either goal but the deadlock was broken on 42 minutes when Beer made an incisive break down the right involving George Harwood, Simon Smith and Max Richardson. Richardson’s square pass fell nicely at Chris Long’s feet and the Beer striker hit a clean strike from 20 yards to put his side 1-0 ahead.
Beer’s lead was however short-lived when Topsham struck back immediately after half time. The Fishermen were punished when, after a goalmouth scramble, they failed to clear their lines and a Topsham midfielder hit a crisp low left-footer from 15 yards through a ruck of players and just inside Cox’s right hand post.
As Topsham surged forward, the Fishermen were forced to defend deep but their back line remained steadfast with wing back George Harwood in particular having a fine match with some decisive tackles and interceptions. Cox made a fine save on 69 minutes diving full-length to push a goalbound shot around the post. A minute late Beer survived another scare when a Topsham header narrowly missed the target.
The home side failed to capitalise on a period of sustained pressure and paid the price on 80 minutes when Beer took the lead. The Topsham keeper fluffed his clearance which was latched onto by Simon Smith. From 30 yards out, the quick-thinking Smith hit the ball goalwards with the stranded keeper desperately chasing back towards his line in vain to prevent the goal.
Once again, Beer’s lead was short-lived when Topsham equalised with a soft goal on 81 minutes. The Fishermen conceded a free kick 22 yards out and to the right of the penalty box. With neither side able to get any contact on the ball, the inswinging free kick squeezed first bounce inside the far post.
As the game reached its conclusion, each side had a good opportunity to clinch the victory. Firstly on 83 minutes, Richardson’s attempt from Smith’s low cross was cleared off the Topsham line and then on 85 minutes Cox made a good save with his feet to deny the home side a winner.
Next Saturday, the Fishermen have a league fixture at home to Okehampton Argyle. Kick off is at 2:15pm and match sponsor is Jean Bartlett Cottage Holidays, Beer.