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Beer Albion capped an amazing season by winning the Sportslighting Devon Premier Cup, defeating North Molton Sports Club in a thrilling match at the Devon FA HQ ground in Newton Abbot writes Richard Honnor. The Fishermen became the first Devon and Exeter League side for 32 years to lift this trophy.

Yet again Beer defeated opponents from the higher-ranked Devon Football League having disposed of Exwick Villa and Watcombe Wanderers in previous rounds, not to mention wins against Lapford and Buckfastleigh Rangers, who have recently been crowned champions of the Devon and Exeter and South Devon leagues respectively. The Fishermen were cheered on by around 300 supporters from Beer village who formed the majority of the 540 crowd, a record attendance for the Coach Road Ground. With the scores level 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, the game was decided by a highly dramatic penalty shoot-out which the Fishermen won 5-4. Keeper Elliot Driver who had a faultless match gave Beer the upper hand when he made a brilliant save at full stretch to deny North Molton’s first penalty taker. The Fishermen made no mistake with their first 4 penalties and the game appeared to be won when Driver saved North Molton’s 5th spot kick. But victory celebrations were premature as Driver had moved off his goal line before the kick was taken. The re-take was despatched but then Will House coolly fired home Beer’s 5th penalty to secure his side their deserved victory. Earlier, Beer had made a very nervy start to the game. For the first 25 minutes, North Molton’s midfield were dominating the play and with their defence under constant pressure the Fishermen were unable to retain any quality possession, launching high long balls which were easily dealt with by the North Molton’s tall defenders. Unsurprisingly, the North Devon side took an early lead after Beer failed to deal with a free kick headed on from the edge of the penalty area. The ball broke loose inside the box presenting Dylan Williams with an easy chance and he made no mistake from 7 yards out. North Molton missed a great opportunity from close range to increase their lead after Beer defender Jack Harwood unluckily lost his footing. But this marked a turning point in the game and the Fishermen at last began to string some passes together and test the North Molton defence on the floor. Midfielder Charley Skilton became increasingly prominent, always encouraging his team mates and invariably at the heart of Beer’s attacking play. It was Skilton who got his side back into the match with a spectacular equaliser on 35 minutes. After a neat exchange of passes with his co-midfielder Chris Long, Skilton hit an untoppable shot from 22 yards past Stags keeper in to the top right hand corner. The goal steadied Beer’s nerves and seemed to stun North Molton. The Fishermen grew in confidence and after the break they took control of the game. However, clear-cut chances for both sides were few and far between. North Molton suffered two major blows first when their influential number 10 sustained an injury which forced him out of the action on 60 minutes. Then in the final quarter their centre-half received his marching orders after receiving two yellow cards for fouls, first on keeper Elliot Driver and then a clumsy lunge on Tony Pinder. Both fouls were borne out of the North Molton’s increasing frustration at Beer’s dominance of the game. With 20 minutes to go and sensing a victory, Manager Mark Rooke went for a more attacking formation with forward Josh French being introduced. French’s influence was immediate and Beer created two good chances to win the game, first the industrious Taylor Rooke shot wide from 15 yards and then Tony Pinder was foiled by a desperate defensive block in the six yard area when he looked certain to score. North Molton held on to force the game into the penalty shoot out. But Beer were not to be denied a richly deserved victory, arguably their greatest achievement in the Club’s 103-year history. Fisherman Charley Skilton was deservedly nominated man-of-the match by the Cup sponsors, but, more importantly, this victory was down to a magnificent team effort from all of Mark Rooke’s players and the coaching team. Beer Albion can now look forward to a new, exciting challenge in the 2022/23 season. They have been promoted to the Devon Football League and after the successes of 201/22 and with a squad of players who are still improving, the future looks very bright indeed.

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