‘A point gained or two lost’ is that old football question that can be applied to the reserve’s recovery from 3 nil down to gain a 3 all draw at Chagford. On a day when the first team completed a fine comeback with an excellent 4-3 win, the reserves just fell short, hitting the bar twice in the closing five minutes.
An unbalanced outfield team made up of 3 centre backs, 5 centre midfielders and 2 centre forwards (all right footed) made hard work of the opening half hour, with a rustiness apparent from a week off combined with little football for some players this year.
Slowly Chagford got on top, and after half an hour of limited (i.e. no) opportunities to either team, a hopeful ball into the channel led to the ball getting pulled back and knocked into the net from close range.
This sparked Cullompton into life with some crisp passing and momentum finally coming into play with some incisive play from the kick off. However, this lasted about half a minute before another hopeful ball into the channel, another pull back and another finish from close range made it two nil.
When a spectacular volley made it 3 nil there was a risk of Chagford running away with it as a number of other opportunities went begging before half time. Cullompton clearly had their first test of the season.
The unbalanced team had clearly put in an unbalanced performance, which was relayed in slightly stronger terms at the half time interval. The decision was made to match Chagford’s 4-4-2 formation for the second half and Cullompton came out in the second half looking for pride as much as a result.
‘A game of two halves’ is another traditional football saying, but at the start of the second half there was certainly an improved performance but no signs of a change in momentum. However, when Dan Horler joined the field after quarter of an hour it became a match of two thirds and a third.
The improved performance and Dan’s committed running down the right combined to create the biggest transformation seen in Chagford since the last performance of Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros’, with a coherent football team emerging from the wreckage of the first half.
With Liam drawing a naïve challenge in the box to win a penalty which Riggo smashed home nonchalantly (yes, really) quickly being followed by a close range finish from Tom, Cullompton were within a goal with 25 minutes to play, and a great opportunity for three points.
A few more chances came and went before Tappy unleashed his inner left winger to finish calmly and set up a grand finish. Chagford weren’t prepared to roll over and came back with some chances for themselves, with Aaron being called into some important action.
Sam Rawlings was unfortunate to hit the bar rather than the back of the net, and when Tom get his head first to the ball in the last minute it looked like Cullompton had stolen the points. Yet the ball bounced down off the underside of the bar, and it was not to be.
So a point gained or two lost? At this stage of the season the character shown and preserving the unbeaten record were just as important. The real value will be shown over the coming weeks – if lessons are learnt and taken into next week’s match at early season pace setters Lyme Regis, then it will have been a very valuable point.