When Goethe inferred that the beautiful is higher than the good (as the beautiful includes within it the good), he clearly hadn’t experienced a 1-0 away win at Axmouth. The Reserve team’s victory may well have lacked any obvious beauty, but could surely have not felt any better against a physical Axmouth team who will undoubtably start picking up more points as the season progresses.
The score echoed the first team’s excellent mascot inspired (sorry, I’m slightly biased!) win in the Vase, and finished the week strongly after the under 18’s tough Thursday night win.
Although Axmouth have struggled so far this season, they were a well prepared, organised and physical team who tested Cullompton right from the start of the game. Cullompton struggled to get the ball down and play, although Billy Greene and Jamie Cottrell looked dangerous whenever they had the ball at the feet, terrorising Axmouth’s back four.
While struggling to generate much quality the work rate remained, and when good pressure from Dan Horler led to him winning the ball, he squared selflessly for Billy to finish well and put Cullompton ahead 15 minutes before half time.
Axmouth had been far from outclassed and pushed hard for an equaliser before the interval. The closest they came was a goal so clearly offside that even those watching the first team back in Cullompton could see it.
The other highlight of the first half was Ryan Clarke dealing not just with everything Axmouth could throw at him, but also a random dog on the pitch. The Reserve team have not seen someone deal with a random dog so naturally since a certain younger brother left for Budleigh.
The second half was always going to be a challenge, but Cullompton’s effort to add any class was not helped by a referee who was struggling to meet the high standards of refereeing set so far this season. Once Axmouth realised that the referee didn’t see the ball as something that should hinder one or two of their players attempts to maim, maul or injure, they decided to throw their (in some cases considerable) weight around.
However, not for the first time this season Cullompton showed discipline and attitude to limit Axmouth to a ‘penalty’ appeal that was not remotely a foul or in the general vicinity of the area. Down the other end, Sam was being shoved to the floor in the area, an incident which the referee missed presumably as he was (for once) too close to the action.
After being told to shorten the passes up, Tom Broome escaped a berating from the sidelines for attempting a near impossible pass by executing it perfectly. The ball arrived at Mark Webber’s feet, who was off the bench after a delayed arrival due to tractor issues, who struck a ferocious shot against the inside of the upright – almost two in two for the (near) prolific Webber.
After demonstrating his considerable left foot skills, Mark switched back to centre back and spent the last twenty minutes illustrating how to head the ball alongside Clarky. Everything Axmouth could throw at Cullompton was resolutely repelled, including some excellent takes by Aaron Marks who was treating the attempts to intimidate him (including one horrific ‘challenge’) with disdain.
Gaps remained at the back for Axmouth, and Billy was unfortunate to see an excellent save from a blistering shot near the end. While Axmouth have struggled to pick up points during their first time in the second division, they’re clearly a well set-up club that will surely see their results pick up before long.
All in all an important result and a resolute display across the pitch, to keep top spot and complete a fine day for the club. While Clarky consistently winning header after header in the last ten minutes may not have been particularly eye catching for many neutrals, fewer things have looked more beautiful from the Cullompton bench, particularly as the referee finally blew up at the end of seven minutes of injury time.
FINAL SCORE: Axmouth 0 – 1 Cullompton Rangers
Match Report by Dave Hawes