In front of a large Furzebrake crowd on Saturday, Beer Albion ( main sponsor Edenvale Turf (SW) Ltd ) completed their home fixtures with a magnificent defensive display to hold Macron Devon and Exeter Premier Division front-runners Exwick Villa to a 0-0 draw writes Richard Honnor. The draw proved enough for Villa to secure the championship on superior goal difference because their closest rivals Newtown could only manage a draw with 3rd-placed Cronies.
Having been thrashed 6-1 at home just a couple of weeks ago by Exwick in an East Devon Senior cup tie, a win for the visitors seemed a formality but the Fishermen fielding four Reserves showed that they were going to be no push-over this time out. Playing against a strong wind, Exwick dominated possession from the outset. They play direct football exploiting the width of the pitch with two rapid wingers. In particular, down the right, Sam Johnson was a constant threat, regularly cutting inside on to his favoured left foot, enabling him to set up chance after chance for his forwards. Fortunately for Beer, numerous opportunities were wasted through over-anxious finishing, as the visitors strived desperately for the opening goal which never came. When Exwick did find the target they found Beer’s 17 year old keeper Elliott Driver in wonderful form. The young glovesman was quick to get down and across to make two key saves from close range in the first 10 minutes and his acrobatic 19th minute push on to the post from a point-blank header showed great athleticism.
Beer’s only relief in the first period came from long wind-assisted kicks from Driver but the Fishermen did not have the capability to hold the ball up or win headers against a dominant Exwick defence and all to often these long clearances were overhit. Midfielder Alex Hunt did manage a header on target from Foster’s right wing cross on 29 minutes but this was comfortably saved and Chris Long’s struck a fierce free kick against the defensive wall on 33 minutes. But this was all that Beer could muster in terms of attacking threat.
After the break, Exwick continued to dominate but they became increasingly frustrated at Beer’s determination to hold out for the draw. Experienced centre back Andrew Foster was at his best making some well-timed last ditch tackles to thwart the rampant visitors. He was well supported by young centre back Fraser Beamont who won a good proportion of headers and showed maturity and composure well beyond his years.
There was late drama as the game went into the final stages. Beer had a great opportunity to snatch an unlikely victory on 86 minutes, when Chris Long found a way past the Exwick defence only to see his shot somewhat luckily kept out by the keeper’s legs. Then as the game went into added time, it was that man Driver who again came to the Fishermen’s rescue yet again making a couple of very good saves to secure the Fishermen a creditable draw.
Match Sponsor Beer Head Bistro picked out winger Sam Johnson as Exwick’s best player but endorsed Beer keeper Elliot Driver as their man-of-the-match.
Beer Albion 1st’s complete their league programme on Monday 6th May with a trip to Cronies. Meanwhile, Beer 2nds finish their highly satisfactory Division 3 campaign season with a trip to title-chasing Lympstone on Wednesday 11th and a final home match against Exeter University 4th’s this coming Saturday 14th May.