Gloucestershire 1 – 0 Devon
Played at Gloucestershire County FA Headquarters, Oaklands Park, Almondsbury 09/12/2018
A much improved second half performance from Neil Saunders charges was not enough to peg back Gloucestershire’s one goal advantage from the first half.
The proverbial game of two halves went to Gloucestershire courtesy of the only goal of match, centre back Max Wiltshire (BIC/Mangotsfield), unmarked at the far post, heading home from a corner in the 26th minute. That was the least they deserved as Devon were unable, despite their attacking intent, to play the final ball in to the strikers with any accuracy.
Following an even opening 15 minutes Gloucestershire got on top and Devon keeper James Weeks (Totnes & Dartington) had to be at his best to keep out a fierce drive from Miguel Freckleton (BIC) with the aid of a goal line clearance from Fletcher Hurrell (Elburton Villa).
Five minutes later Gloucestershire should have taken the lead when Divine Amaefule (Shirehampton) jinked through the Devon defence only to pull his shot from eight yards wide of the near post.
It was all Gloucestershire now and in the 23rd minute Freckleton hit a left foot from just inside the box which Weeks dealt with comfortably.
Gloucestershire were well ahead on the corner count and it was from one such set piece that they took the lead with Wiltshire’s header. Up until then Devon had defended the set pieces well but that one lapse of concentration ultimately cost them the match. It could have been worse as, in the 32nd minute, Freckleton fired in a fierce left foot shot that Weeks save well with his feet.
Throughout the half Devon had not threatened the Gloucestershire goal once and were fortunate to be going in at half time only one goal down.
When the second half got under way it looked as if we were going to get much of the same as, within three minutes, Andrew Williams (Mangotsfield) put a shot on the turn just wide from 10 yards. Devon got the message and from then on took the game to Gloucestershire pressing high and forcing errors.
In the 50th minute, from a free kick they should have got the equaliser. The kick was swung in with accuracy from the right and headed on by Ryan White (Heavitree Youth) to Luke Pkhakadze (Elburton Villa) whose header from three yards landed safely in the hands of Tyler Hopkins in goal for Gloucestershire for the second half. Four minutes later Billy Vicary (Alphington Youth), who had just come on to the field for Devon, blazed his first touch over the bar from 6 yards out.
Devon were on top now and with Finn Pearse driving forward from the back Gloucestershire were having to defend more deeply as the half went on. In the sixty third minute another good chance went begging, a cross-field ball from White finding Vicary whose shot from the edge of the box was well dealt with by Hopkins.
Pearse was becoming a threat at corners and twice in a five-minute period he was able to use his height to flick the ball on at the near post. The first was met by the head of Toby Martin (Barnstable Colts) and well saved by Hopkins positioned at the far post. The second went across the goal with no one attacking it.
In the last minute Devon were denied the equaliser they fully deserved as White fired in a close range effort, which Hopkins did well to keep out with a brave save down at the near post. And so, despite Devon’s best efforts Gloucestershire’s resolute defence held on to their clean sheet to take the three points from what was their first competitive match in this seasons competition.
Player of the Match, Finn Pearse (Devon)