Played at Coach Road 23/10/2018
Navy too strong for young Devon side.
This annual challenge match was played at a fast pace throughout with the physical strength of the Navy proving to be the difference between the two teams.
Devon kicked off playing down the slope, but it wasn’t too long before the Navy started to show in midfield as Devon’s early probing, mostly through Lloyd Gardner and Jesse Howe, was repelled by a resolute defence.
Navy should have gone ahead in the 10th minute as number 10, Al Sneddon, raced through the right side of the Devon defence to provide an excellent pull-back into the middle. There was no one in support and the cross was cleared comfortably.
A minute later Sneddon got on the end of a cleverly worked free kick but fired over from just outside the penalty area. He must have thought his it wasn’t going to be his day as he then volleyed over a headed pass from Stu Morgan.
Having weathered the storm Devon started to get a foothold in the game with two attempts in 4 minutes.
Neither troubled the keeper however as first Gardner cut inside and hit a left foot shot just over, quickly followed by an effort from Nathan Cooper which flew just wide. Neither keeper had been troubled up to this point as both sides struggled to create clear cut opportunities, both sides being restricted to long range efforts by resolute defences.
In the 28th minute, Navy’s Matt Dawson hit a 35-yard shot just wide when a one-two with Morgan would surely have put him through. However, it was Morgan who was guilty of wasting the best opportunity of the half as, on the 37th minute, he rose unchallenged to head home a cross from the right only to direct his header back toward the corner flag.
The Navy were almost made to pay for that miss as, 4 minutes later, Jordan Bastin raced down the left wing and cut inside only to see his shot blocked for a corner.
Pressure was put on the Navy defence from then until half-time and it was a cruel blow for Devon when, from a quick breakaway in the 1st minute of added time, Ryan McKechnie was able to carry the ball into the box and shoot home with the aid of a massive deflection and give his team a one – nil half time lead.
The second half started with Devon on top and within two minutes Luke Durham was put through one on one with the Navy keeper, Ben MacIlvaney, who was able to block. In the 50th minute a long-range effort from Howe almost got through but was smothered by the Navy keeper.
Confidence was starting to grow through the Devon side as they kept the Navy penned in, Aaron Denny running through and shooting just over the bar in the 52nd minute.
With a little more control Devon should surely have equalised by now, but no, it was the Navy who, having repelled boarders in resolute fashion, started to get a foothold in the half.
On the hour McKechnie cut inside to shoot straight at Devon’s stopper, Robbie Powell, who had had really very little to do thanks to his defence, well marshalled by young Dan Cullen. Nevertheless, he was left badly exposed for the Navy’s second goal as Dawson was allowed to race into the box and slot the into the far corner.
Devon had just made a triple substitution and it took some time for things to settle.
Following a fractious spell when it looked as though tempers might boil over Devon started to pass the ball around the Navy defence and missed a good chance on 77 minutes, when Morgan Cullen was put through only to be foiled by the MacIlvaney. Four minutes later came an even better chance as a quick interchange down the right resulted in a cross from Jesse Howe being headed inches wide by Archie Reay.
Devon were doing all the pressing now and were eventually rewarded in the 87th minute as Neil Last got on the end of a through ball to ghost past the Navy defence and make no mistake in slotting home to get a goal back.
With just three minutes left on the clock Devon went all out to find an equaliser but thanks to a strong Navy defence were unable to do so and, for the second year running the Navy took the spoils.
Man of the match: - Dan Cullen