The Cullompton Reserve team navigated their way to a second one nil victory of the season against a strong and direct Axmouth side who had won 6 of their last 7, on a playable but challenging home pitch.
After a two week Christmas break the first half hour was scrappy with Cullompton struggling to deal with some long Axmouth balls into the wettest part of the pitch. A combination of last ditch defending and strong goalkeeping kept the scores level, while Cullompton gradually created a growing number of chances for themselves as Billy Greene combined well with Jamie Cottrell at the other end.
The deadlock appeared to be broken when an Axmouth defender was dispossessed and the ball pulled back from the goal line for Luke Abrahams to finish confidently. However, a linesman’s flag saw the goal disallowed. The official decision of offside seems hard to comprehend, but it may be that the officials simply couldn’t believe Luke had scored his first goal of the season, which is understandable.
The second half started and continued in a similar way to how the first had ended – Axmouth were now struggling to get chances with Cullompton creating marginally more. It was a finely balanced game which neither team could dominate on the challenging pitch, and was likely to be decided by a moment of quality. The heavy pitch took its toll as a couple of players came off injured, but Audie Campbell came on to offer questions which Axmouth struggled to answer (despite reverting to the occasional punch and other random acts of mindless violence), and Owen Buxton slotted smoothly into the back four.
The moment of quality came with 15 minutes remaining when Cotts turned his man sharply and had sight of goal from 25 yards. Contemplating the marsh like conditions immediately ahead he decided to smash the ball towards the goal. At first the ball seemed destined for the cricket pitch or maybe the train track beyond, but then dipped viciously into the top corner. Even Garno in his prime wouldn’t have been able to save that one.
The victory was seen out relatively comfortably, although Aaron Marks was required to make one good save from a header and Owen a last ditch tackle or two, while Sam Tapp made a spirited cameo to good effect. The best chances fell to Cullompton who couldn’t quite take one, but were more than happy with the tough fought one nil.
On a more emotional note, I’d like to dedicate the victory to the memory of my 1990’s Diadora rain jacket. After 21 seasons, 3 continents and much mocking from teammates, opponents and even referees it finally met its match in the Cullompton climate and was retired this week. Fortunately the reserve team’s title hopes live on.
FINAL SCORE: Cullompton Rangers 1 – 0 Axmouth United
Match Report by Dave Hawes