There’s never a dull moment at The Creek this season and Tuesday night was no exception as Manor Farm hung on to prevail in a 7 goal thriller that had a bit of everything about it for the neutral spectator.
The sides had already met twice during the early weeks of the season when Manor Farm won an FA Cup replay 4-2 at The Creek after drawing 2-2 in North Devon in the original tie. Both teams came into Tuesday’s rearranged fixture looking to find some decent league consistency and for the home fans in particular this felt like a must-win game following Saturday’s disappointing capitulation to a poor Highworth Town side. It must have seemed like a case of déjà vu for the Farm faithful as Bideford came back late in this game – scoring three times in reply to what had looked an unassailable lead. There was palpable relief amongst the home fans as the referee blew his whistle to end 95 minutes of pure footballing theatre.
When the curtain had risen earlier it was the visitors who looked the most dangerous and Farm skipper and goalkeeper Ben John had to make a great double save to prevent Bideford from opening the scoring as early as the 5th minute.
Just three minutes after their captain’s vital intervention Manor Farm took the lead when new-signing Jamie Bird created a chance out of nothing – unleashing a fierce drive with very little back-lift from all of 25 yards that beat Steve Oliver’s despairing dive low to his left in the Bideford goal.
Two minutes later Farm’s collective spirits were elevated even higher when Jordan Metters floated a great corner-kick in from the right and from an initial shot that was well-cleared off the line via a Bideford head, Ashley Kington was on hand to hit the rebound home – shaping a sweet volley with the outside of his left foot into the opposite corner of the net.
Ten minutes played and two-nil up the confidence visibly flowed through the home side. A great one-two between Kington and Bird was thwarted by a Steve Oliver save in the 12th minute and more Farm pressure resulted in another corner kick in the 14th.
This time Metters hit a deeper corner and up rose another of Lee Lashenko’s new signings, Kai Fisher. The big centre-half, who had impressed during his debut on Saturday, towered over everyone to plant a firm header past Oliver, scoring his first goal for the club and giving Farm a 3-0 lead with 76 minutes still to play.
As on Saturday Manor Farm were in complete control of the game once more, reducing the visitors to taking long range efforts and playing some neat football through the middle of the park in service of excellent movement and interplay with striker Lewis Bamford, also recently arrived at the club in recent weeks.
In an eye-catching display leading the fronline, Bamford was extremely unlucky not to get on the score-sheet himself and no chance was better than the one which presented itself in the 41st minute when he was played in behind the Bideford back four in a one –on – one with Oliver. To his credit the keeper produced a great save to deny the Farm number nine.
Six minutes into the second half Manor Farm scored the best goal of the game to ease themselves into a comfortable-looking 4-0 lead.
Jamie Bird cut in from the left touchline before reversing play with a skillful back-heel into the path of Jordan Metters overlapping run. Metters held off his defender and advanced into the box where he gave the keeper ‘the eyes’, sending Oliver the wrong way before slotting the ball side-foot home.
Bideford, to their credit, came right back at their hosts and just two minutes after conceding a fourth the visitors almost snatched one back but for a great reaction save by Ben John – palming the ball away to safety from a close-range flick-on.
Up the other end Bamford did superbly well to rob the ball back off of a defender on the right touchline before beating another and advancing into the box with just Oliver to beat from an angle. Unfortunately the Farm strikers effort sailed clear over the angle of bar and far upright.
After 58 minutes Bideford rattled the Farm crossbar and as the ball rebounded around the area the ref blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot, allegedly for a push. Sean Downing stepped up and drilled home the penalty-kick low to John’s right hand corner.
Two minutes later and Downing was on hand again to tuck home from close-range, making the score 4-2.
Bideford looked to increase the pressure whilst the crowd held it’s collective breath…
There was a huge sigh of relief, when with ten minutes left to play Manor Farm won a clear-cut penalty of their own. Substitute (and yet another new signing!) Jordan Lam’s feet were too quick for the defender and he was duly clipped to the floor. Up stepped Ashley Kington, looking a sure-shot to net his seventh goal of the season. It was agony for the Farm faithful when Kington duly lifted his spot-kick clear of the crossbar.
Kington once again had a chance to soothe the home fans nerves in the 85th minute when another great piece of work and lay-off by Bamford sent the Farm number seven into the penalty area but this time spraying his shot wide of the far post.
In the 89th minute those Farm nerves were sent a-jangling once again when Bideford substitute Jordan Ricketts poked home from close range to make the score 4-3.
Manor Farm held out well, however, to the relief of the Farmy Army, but not before skipper Ben John had pulled off a couple of heart-stopping saves from long-range during four minutes of time added on – denying the opposition with some good positioning and a safe pair of hands both times.
An excellent three points for the Farm ahead of a potentially difficult trip to AFC Totton on Saturday and a home game the following Friday night against in-form Evesham United.
A win is a win as they say – though not many of them come as dramatically as this!
STAR MAN (Lewis Bamford, Bristol Manor Farm)