Gardner stars as Town await Monday’s FA Cup draw

 Gardner stars as Town await Monday’s FA Cup draw

Exmouth Town will be in Mondays draw for the 1st Qualifying Round of the 2021/22 FA Cup after a splendid Saturday Southern Road success, writes John  Dibsdall.

Total commitment was the key to Town making further progress in this season’s FA Cup as they overcame Bristol Manor Farm 2-1 in a Preliminary Round tie.

Their higher League (Southern) opponents made the perfect start with less than sixty seconds played. What seemed a soft free-kick awarded against Town for an innocuous challenge, turned into a nightmare start when the strike from fully 30-yards crept into the bottom corner.

Town’s response was immediate and the equaliser came with only four minutes on the clock when fine link up play between Aarron Denny and Ben Steer ended with the former drilling the ball pass the ‘keeper at his near post.

With both sides looking to be on the front foot this was already a typical cup tie watched by another excellent Southern Road crowd of 313. A quickly taken throw in led to a Callum Shipton shot that was well held and Robbie Powell had to be at his sharpest when Manor Farm replied with an excellent snap shot.

After an enticing Max Gillard cross failed to find a Town player, Ace High saw his header  saved and as Denny pounced on the rebound the ‘keeper was again equal to the task.

On 31 minutes came the incident that turned this tie in Town’s favour. Following a previous challenge that had gone unpunished, an opposition player reacted and was shown a straight red card for an elbow to the face.

For the second consecutive game Town were playing against 10 men and scored the goal that turned out to be the winner, with six minutes played in the second half.

It came when a cross to the far post was met by Steer and, whilst his initial effort was saved, he managed to bundle the ball home for his fifth goal of the current campaign.

Was a single goal lead going to be enough? The game continued to flow with Manor Farm looking to attack whenever possible whilst not leaving themselves exposed to a quick break and created half chances but it was Town who game closest to scoring the next goal. Another piece of Denny magic with an exquisite back heel found Josh Cann and his cross was turned against the underside of the bar and eventually cleared.

With the minutes ticking down Powell was nearly deceived by a loping shot that he managed to push onto the bar and this time Town were able to hack the loose ball away.

As the visitors continued to press for the equaliser and with eight minutes of added time played there were a few anxious moments for the Southern Road faithful, with one glancing header going narrowly wide, but with Town’s defence expertly managed by Man of the Match Tom Gardner Town held on to ensure it is their name that goes into the hat for the first qualifying round to be played on September 4.

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In terms of ‘what’s next’ for Town, they are quickly back in action this coming Wednesday (August 25) with a mouth-watering encounter at home to Buckland Athletic (7.30pm). Buckland were held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Keynsham Town on Saturday in a game that drew a crowd of 102 to Homers Heath.

Town were, of course, at Homers Heath themselves, just a fortnight ago when they won the FA Cup tie meeting between the teams 2-1.

So far this league season Buckland are, like Town, unbeaten in the league and they will arrive at Southern Road sitting second in the table behind early leaders Bitton (13 points from five games). Buckland have three wins and two draws from their first five league games which have been – from first to most recent: 4-3 away at Bridgwater United (the Somerset side are, like Town, still in this season’s FA Cup), 6-1 at home to Wellington, 0-0 at Shepton Mallet, 4-0 at home to Bridport and then Saturday’s 2-2 at home to Keynsham Town.

Stephen Birley

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