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  • Richard Honnor

Precious 3 points

On a bright and breezy spring day, Beer Albion ended a bleak run of nine matches without a win when they defeated Topsham Town 5-2 in the Devon and Exeter Premier Division at the Furzebrake on Saturday writes Richard Honnor. In an entertaining match the Fishermen were good value for their win despite going through a rocky period early in the 2nd half when Topsham bravely got back on level terms after being 2-0 down at half time.

Buoyed by their creditable performance against league leaders Exwick Villa last Saturday, Beer started strongly with midfielder George Harwood prominent early on. Harwood went close on 8 minutes when his 25 yard effort was fumbled on to the crossbar by the Topsham keeper. Just one minute later, Beer were in front. Harwood got on the end of a Pedro Fontes cross only to see his effort hit the post but Alex Hunt was on hand to tap in the rebound from close range.

The Fishermen’s five-man man midfield continued to dominate the game and with the defence stepping up quickly Beer looked a well-organised and compact unit. However, despite good approach play, the dry, blustery conditions meant that the final ball was not always as clinical as it could have been.

Beer deservedly took a 2-0 lead on 27 minutes when tireless midfielder Hunt headed on a clearance from keeper Mark Rooke into the path of Chris Long. A neat interchange of passes with Simon Smith created the opportunity for Long to get in a strike. The Topsham keeper could only parry Long’s effort into the path of Smith who scored from close range.

Towards the end of the first half the visitors started to threaten on the counter. Keeper Rooke did well under pressure to punch out a couple of wind-assisted in-swinging corners from the right wing from their dead-ball specialist. The same player also hit a fine left foot 35 yard strike just over Rooke’s crossbar. After Beer striker Long shot straight at the Topsham keeper on 42 minutes, the visitors had the ball in the net two minutes later when Rooke dropped the ball under pressure from another dangerous set piece. Luckily for Beer, referee Cairns adjudged that the Beer keeper had been fouled.

After the break, the Fishermen inexplicably lost their shape, dropping deep to allow Topsham the space to play their way back into the contest. The visitors duly capitalised and reduced the arrears on 54 minutes when their striker, Ryan Pym took advantage with a strong finish from 6 yards after two botched attempts by Beer to clear their lines.

Topsham now had their tails up and they levelled at 2-2 on 61 minutes, when a pinpoint cross was powerfully headed home by Connor Howe giving Rooke no chance.

It looked as if another defeat might be on the cards for Beer but they were gifted a penalty on 71 minutes after a raised-foot challenge. Long converted an unstoppable penalty which settled the Fishermen’s nerves and restored their confidence to push on again. They increased their lead on 72 minutes when Long’s header set up Pedro Fontes whose back header squeezed inside the near post

But the champagne moment of the match was saved for the 85th minute when Long hit a stunning low free kick from 30 yards which bulged the back of the net before the Topsham keeper had a chance to move. It was probably the best goal seen at the Furzebrake this season.

In an exciting contest, it was midfield players who caught the eye on the day. For Topsham, young left wing back Elijah Welsh showed good composure but Les Andrew on behalf of sponsor Beer Village Store awarded man-of-the-match to Beer’s Pedro Fontes who was prominent in most of Beer’s offensive play.

Next Saturday Beer 1st’s host premier division leaders Exwick Villa in an East Devon Senior Cup semi final tie. Kick off at the Furzbrake is at 2pm and the match sponsor is P.R. Driver Ornamental Ironwork.

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