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North Molton Sports Club 1st’s 0-1 Beer Albion 1st’s

Devon Football League N&E leaders Beer Albion took a big step towards winning the title with a hard-fought 1-0 victory away at 2nd placed North Molton Sports Club on Saturday writes Richard Honnor.

To the delight of the 40 travelling supporters, the Fishermen caught the Stags cold with what turned out to be the only goal of the game on just 4 minutes. A Jacob Rowe corner hit low found its way through a melee of players to the far post where George Richards tucked the ball home from close range.

The Stags roared back putting the Beer defence at full stretch with some fine attacking football emanating in particular from their impressive number 9 down the right wing. On 8 minutes, an equaliser looked certain after Beer conceded possession in their own box but keeper Charlie Ledger made a fantastic save from close range to keep his side in front. It was the first of several outstanding saves made by Ledger throughout the game.

On the narrow pitch, Beer were unable to play their usual passing game but they competed strongly for every ball and worked “their socks off” across the park to frustrate their opponents.

After the break, it was more of the same. Again Ledger made a great save at the far post on 51 minutes as the Stags’ forward connected cleanly with a searching cross from just a few yards out.

Seconds later Beer striker Josh French was sin-binned for arguing with the referee and during his absence Beer had a lucky escape when North Molton struck the post twice in quick succession after uncharacteristic sloppy play in Beer’s defence. One sensed at that point that it was not going to be the Stags’ day.

As the game went into the last quarter, North Molton threw caution to the wind in search of the equaliser enabling Beer to find space and create several chances on the on the break. Josh French who had ploughed a lone furrow up front for much of the game was unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions first when he almost caught the home keeper off his line with a clever chip and then when his goal-bound effort from 18 yards was deflected just wide of the post.

In order to bolster their defences, Beer were able to introduce a strong array of substitutes to replace weary legs and they all played a significant part in enabling the Fishermen to manage out the game for a well-earned 3 points.

This was another magnificent team performance from the Fishermen in which centre backs George Richards and Liam Cox were outstanding and keeper Charley Ledger made some wonderful saves.

Whilst the victory gives the unbeaten Fishermen an eleven point cushion at the top, there is no room for complacency as North Molton and third-placed Appledore both have games in hand and still remain in the running. But the pressure will be eased considerably if the Fishermen can get a positive result at Appledore on Easter Monday.

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