Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The stage is set for a cracking Good Friday derby when Ilfracombe travel to Mill Road to meet Barnstaple.
Combe have the better record this season, with eight points more than their local rivals.
But they go into the derby after four matches without a win, while battling Barnstaple have been springing some surprises of late and go into Friday’s match with the confidence of a creditable goalless draw at home to title chasing Larkhall Athletic on Saturday.
Combe had a good result away at Brislington midweek, with a 1-1 draw, and should have been full of confidence going into their Saturday game at home to Longwell Green.
But it was Longwell who had the run of the green and emerged as 2-0 winners.
Combe started slightly the better side, having more of the possession, but Longwell always looked dangerous on the counter attack.
They did have the ball in the back of the net when James Mayne finished off a goalmouth scramble from a corner, but the referee blew up for an alleged push on the visiting keeper by Shaun Lewis.
Longwell then caused trouble from a corner of their own. The ball was swung in, Ross Middleton did well to head clear, only to see the left back charge forward and smash a half volley from all of 30 yards into the top corner.
If the first goal was first class, the second was anything but. A long ball forward somehow left the home defence wide open and the visiting striker was clean through on goal. He scuffed his shot into the ground, but it wrong footed keeper Steve Oliver and bounced over his head and into the net.
Longwell took the 2-0 lead into half time and were looking more than content they had done enough to win it. They came out in the second half, sat deep and soaked up the Combe pressure.
Combe dominated much of the possession, but their lack of killer instinct in front of goal again left much to be desired.
They were limited to very few clear cut chances and struggled to open up a stubborn Longwell defence. The ball spent far too long being humped forward for the six-foot plus defenders to head clear instead of being patient and passing through the defence, although the bumpy pitch conditions were not ideal.
The few chances Combe did have were restricted to a 25 yard volley from Middleton, which was saved, and when James Mayne stepped out of defence and danced through a couple of challenges his shot looked destined for the top corner, but the visiting keeper did well to tip it on to the cross bar.
There were cries for hand ball throughout the match and on another day Combe may have had three penalties for the offence, but at the end of the day they simply did not do enough to deserve anything from the match.
They will have to find the goal scoring touch by Friday as they visit Barnstaple town who have started to pick up some great results.
Barnstaple, meanwhile, have pulled themselves out of the doldrums with some good results.
Their draw with Larkhall, who started the day at the top of the table, might even have been a win.
But late chances saw George Swain unable to put away a cross from Kevin Darch and Ricky Marinaro had his free-kick handed away by the visiting keeper.
Larkhall had the best of the early exchanges and a couple of chances to take the lead. But having missed these opportunities the game then settled into a generally even contest, although the visitors had the best of the chances.
Ryan Draper was called on to make a brace of good saves and Mark Armstrong cleared off the line.
Larkhall did once find the net, but an offside decision ruled it out.