What a difference a week makes. Following on from the youth team’s mid week win and while the first team progressed to the next round of the vase, the reserves won 3-2 away at Dawlish with a much improved performance.
Despite missing seven players, the reserves showed the depth of their squad with strong performances all around, taking the positives from a good mid week training run out with the first team, while showing character and quality despite poor recent results.
Previously unbeaten Dawlish narrowly missed out on promotion last year and have clearly strengthened their team with high expectations for the season. Despite showing their quality from the start they struggled to create any chances against a highly disciplined Cullompton side, that were comfortable and creative with the ball, noticeably passing the ball more than in recent weeks.
The first chance came 20 minutes in when Jamie Cottrell spotted the keeper off his line (a sign of things to come) and hit an ambitious shot from distance that cleared the bar.
While impressive on the ball, the most impressive element of the first half was the good shape retained and the eagerness to close down Dawlish at the right time. The pressure built on the Dawlish defence and when the keeper rushed out to meet the ball just ahead of Cotts he could only poke it out to Dan Nation who finished impressively for his first Cullompton goal on his competitive debut..
Dawlish begun to grow frustrated as they struggled to find space or opportunity while Cullompton pushed forward with another smooth, smart move finished by Tom Broome.
Two nil at half time was a fair reflection of the game, and it was clear Dawlish were going to push hard at the start of the second half to get back into the game. The first move of the half summed up their challenge as they kept the ball well but struggled to find openings before running out of space and losing the ball deep in their own half. This pattern continued throughout the half and 20 minutes in it was starting to look unlikely that they would threaten the goal. This quickly changed as their centre forward cut in from the left to smash the ball into the top corner from distance with his favoured right foot. Dawlish were clearly lifted, but Cullompton continued to compete across the pitch and create the best of the chances. When the third goal did come it was less of a chance and more of deep cross from a Clarky free kick about 40 yards out. The keeper took a long look before deciding against any attempt at a save, preferring to pick it out of his net.
Dawlish continued to push hard, committing more men forward against a Cullompton side who had several players making their first start of the season and showing some signs of fatigue. However, the chances continued to fall to Cullompton, including three one on ones, not all of which were against the keeper who had taken to random sprints out of goal.
Dawlish did pull a second goal back in a very similar circumstances to the first. As they piled forward they created a couple of late chances and threatened from set pieces, but when the final whistle did come the win was more than deserved. Kinger got over his initial disappointment of thinking the final score was two all when Lewie put him right – slightly worrying that Lewie can count higher than the coaching team!
It was a strong performance based on the senior players taking responsibility on and off the pitch, which was matched by some excellent displays from a number of youngsters, some making their first start (Audie Campbell, Callum Luke and Owen Buxton all particularly strong). There is plenty to build on for the rest of the season, with both the attitude and quality needed again for another tough trip to (the other) Dawlish next week.
FINAL SCORE: Dawlish United 2 – 3 Cullompton Rangers
Match report by D.Hawes