Exeter City’s attempt to retain the trophy they had held since it was last played for in 2019 was foiled by a brilliant display by Bideford keeper Adam Seedhouse-Evans. During a penalty shoot-out, played out in front of some 400 spectators at Coach Road, he saved all four of Exeter’s spot kicks, earned himself the Player of the Match award and his side the victory that, on balance, his team deserved.
City’s young charges kicked off and were straight on the front foot testing the Bideford defence down both flanks however, they were held at bay by some determined tackling from the Bideford back line, and it wasn’t too long before Bideford got on top. The first attempt on goal from either side came in the 14th minute when Bideford’s Joe Charles fired in a shot from the edge of the 18 yard box, that was easily dealt with by Harry Lee in the Exeter goal.
There was stalemate for the next ten minutes until City passed up what proved to be their best chance of the half. A miss-hit shot from Pedro Borges landed at the feet of Alfie Cunningham who shot straight at Seedhouse-Evans and the ball was cleared. Bideford went straight up the other end and Craig Duff should have done better when, pouncing on a loose ball in the Exeter penalty area, he pulled his shot just wide. A minute later he appeared to be fouled just outside the 18yard box, but the referee deemed it simulation and issued a yellow card. Nevertheless, Bideford were now on top and had three good chances to take the lead.
The first fell to Matt Buchan who, on 28 minutes, headed over a nod across goal from Duff. In the 36th minute Louis Jagger-Cane should have done better with his chance, getting on the end of a poor clearance but firing it straight at Lee and on 41 minutes Aaron Taylor fired over from the edge having been set up by Duff. Those misses could have proved costly as, right on half time, Borges got clear down the left but only found the side netting. So, at the half time break, the scores remained tied at nil-nil.
The second half got under way and within twenty seconds Duff got on the end of a poor clearance but couldn’t keep his shot down. It wasn’t until 53rd minute that we saw the next attempt on goal, Lee saving a drive from Alex Byrne with ease. However, a minute later the youngster was really tested, diving high to his left and getting fingertips to a fierce cross-shot from Buchan, cutting in from the left.
Lee was called upon again on the hour mark, pushing away an angled 12-yard drive from Duff. On 62 minutes Buchan had another good chance but his drive from inside the box was neatly deflected into the arms of Lee, who was, at this stage the busier of the two goalkeepers. That was until the 65th minute when Seedhouse-Evans was called into action, diving to his right to keep out a fierce shot from Borges following a good run and passing move through the left side of the Bideford defence led by Harrison King. Having survived that scare Bideford straightaway got the ball to the other end where the industrious Duff got on the end of the clearance but shot wide.
A number of half chances came and went before, in added time, Lee was once again called upon to show his prowess, twice denying Jagger-Cane, first racing out to block the initial shot, and then getting back to his line to claim the second attempt and send the game into a penalty shoot-out as the referee blew the final whistle.
First up was Kai Fisher who blasted his kick into the corner, giving Lee no chance. Lee saved the next two Bideford spot kicks from George Nancekivell and Jagger-Cane, but Alfie Cunningham, Gabe Billington, and Joe O’Connor had all failed to beat Seedhouse-Evans. Bideford’s 4th kick was converted by Ben Wood and Harvey Dorothy’s attempt to keep his team’s hopes alive was saved and the celebrations began for Bideford.
Man of the match: - Adam Seedhouse-Evans (Bideford)