Hippos struggle with availability and go down to last minute free-kick

PUBLISHED: 12:28 20 November 2018

Honiton Town away at Budleigh. Ref mhsp 43 18TI 3420. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton Town away at Budleigh. Ref mhsp 43 18TI 3420. Picture: Terry Ife

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Honiton Town suffered a last minute defeat when beaten 2-1 by Newton Abbot Spurs at Mountbatten Park.

One thing sadly missing from the Town performance was a feature that has been very prominent in recent games and that is a high-tempo start from the Hippos!

Their cause was not helped by a heavy surface which meant any hope of a slick, passing game was soon dispelled.

However, the Hippo’s ‘dug in’, got a foothold in the game and took the lead thanks to a wonderful strike from Chris Long. That proved to be the only goal of the first half and the Hippos trooped off at the break with the advantage.

In the second half the visiting side stepped up a gear in a bid to get back on level terms, but they found Hippos’ glovesman Alex Bowring in superb form as he made a number of fine saves and dominated his area with real authority.

However, the visitors attack did eventually manage to break the off-side trap and level things up.

With time running out Joe Dixon went into a challenge and clearly ‘got the ball’ only for the match official to deem it a ‘foul’ and award a free-kick against the Town player – much to the consternation of then home dugout – and another large Town turnout of support! As so often happens in such situations - having got their bit of fortune with the free-kick decision, the Newton Abbot player expertly curled the set piece around the wall and beyond the diving Bowring to seal his side the points. There was barely time to restart the match before the final whistle blew!

Man of the match as selected by Joe Gamblin from Chippie Joes was Blake Freemantle, and honours for Newton Abbot Spurs went to Neale Osborne.

Town boss Kev Blackwell said: “Joe [Dixon] was adamant that he got the ball before colliding with the player and it really was the harshest of decisions, but that’s the way lady luck is treating us right now. We deserved to take something from the game, but it’s done now and we have to move on quickly to the next game.”

That next game is Saturday’s trip to South Devon to meet Waldon Athletic. Blackwell says: “An already difficult away game has been made that much tougher by a number of players announcing they were unavailable for the game. The availability issue is certainly disappointing – and very frustrating.

“When I was last I charge during our wonderful final year in the Devon and Exeter league I could literally rely on the same 13 or 14 week in and week out. I’d be fairly certain of my side from one game to the next. It really is very hard to build when we are constantly changing the side, forced into system changes and unable to plan.

“Myself and Nick (assistant boss Nick Ogden) are working hard to ensure that the knock-on effect doesn’t impact the second and third teams too greatly. We are hoping to be able to welcome back a few lads into the squad for the trip to Waldon.”

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