Axminster Town pay the penalty at Stoke Gabriel as late spot kick sends the Tigers to defeat

PUBLISHED: 18:10 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 18:10 25 March 2019

Axminster Town goalkeeper Ashley Smith makes a brave save in the game at Stoke Gabriel. Picture SARAH MCCABE

Axminster Town goalkeeper Ashley Smith makes a brave save in the game at Stoke Gabriel. Picture SARAH MCCABE

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Axminster Town went down 3-1 to title-chasing Stoke Gabriel in a contest that saw the Tigers lead before being pegged back, but they stayed in the contest until an 85th minute penalty sent them to defeat.

Axminster Town player Reece McCabe. Picture SARAH MCCABEAxminster Town player Reece McCabe. Picture SARAH MCCABE

The game began at a frantic pace and when a 20-yard free-kick by Town joint boss Jonny Hurford looked destined for the top corner, Stoke glovesman Dom Aplin somehow kept the ball out with a wonderful fingertip save!

However, for much of the rest of the first half the action was at the other end of the pitch where Town goalkeeper Ashley Smith made a handful of eye-catching saves to confirm his reputation as one the league’s top custodians.

The Tigers began the second half well and they began to build pressure. Indeed, it was no more than they deserved when, from a terrific free-flowing attack which was started off by left back Kieran Daniels, that also involved Tony Pinder, Ash Small applied a polished finish, netting his 19th goal of the season in the process, and giving his team the lead in the 57th minute.

Stoke hit back, but were becoming increasingly frustrated at their inability to get the better of the impressive Town back line of Connor Hannaford, Dan Beer, Hurford and Daniels, and quite clearly were going to need something special to beat the inspired Smith in goal.

Axminster Town players Ashley Small and Kieran Daniels celebrate a goal in the defeat at Stoke Gabriel. Picture SARAH MCCABEAxminster Town players Ashley Small and Kieran Daniels celebrate a goal in the defeat at Stoke Gabriel. Picture SARAH MCCABE

Their moment came in the 69th minute when a powerful first-time strike whistled past the diving Smith.

Five minutes later the home side scored again; this time, though, Town were masters of their own downfall as they switched off to a quick throw that found an unmarked Adam Dyson who rifled the ball home.

Town rang the changes, introducing teenage duo Reece McCabe and Will Hellier and both gave a good account of themselves.

Unfortunately, for the Tigers, the game was effectively ended when Ben Allen gave away a needless 85th minute penalty that sealed the points for a relieved home side.

Axminster Town goalkeeper Ashley Smith. Picture SARAH MCCABEAxminster Town goalkeeper Ashley Smith. Picture SARAH MCCABE

Axminster were left to travel back to East Devon with a feeling of ‘what if’, especially as they had taken the lead. However, they effectively ‘threw it away’. That said, full credit must go to champions elect Stoke Gabriel as their experience on the day was the difference in an enthralling game which was very well managed by the match official.

Axminster Town player Ben Allen. Picture SARAH MCCABEAxminster Town player Ben Allen. Picture SARAH MCCABE

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