Bristol Manor Farm may have only had 10 players on the pitch at full-time, but it was a five star performance from the Portwaymen who inflicted a 2-0 defeat on high-flying Plymouth Parkway at Bolitho Park, writes William Ledbury.
Since December 19, 2019, Plymouth Parkway hadn’t lost a match at Bolitho Park; an impressive statistic which spanned a remarkable 772 days, or 2 years, 1 month and 10 days. That streak, however, lasted until the in-form Farmers travelled down to Plymouth on Saturday afternoon, looking to build on their previous three victories in the Southern League Division One South.
The Portwaymen’s form since the turn of the New Year has been nothing short of remarkable, with every single player pulling together in the same forward direction. Since the Farm’s 3-0 victory away to rivals Mangotsfield, Manager Lee Lashenko expressed to his players that there’s “15 cup finals to go” as we look to cement our selves into the play-off positions. Despite missing the last two matches due to suspension, full credit must be given to Lee, his coaching staff, and of course the players who are desperately trying to achieve our goals this season.
With Dean Stamp absent, Ben Bament was restored to the starting lineup against Plymouth after he recovered from a knee injury that he picked up in training. Midfielder Lloyd Mills was also named amongst the 11 Farmers on the pitch, assisting Mike Bryant and Theo Llewellyn in the engine room.
Parkway started the match the brightest, and Farm’s defence had to be alert to block Billy Palfrey’s goal bound effort – especially after the defender was looking to add another wonder strike to his name, following his screamer against Slimbridge on Tuesday night.
Jayden Nielsen responded for the Farm in the 10th minute, breaking away inside the Parkway area, but the wide midfielder could only watch his strike fly over the crossbar.
The Farm’s defence weathered the early Parkway storm, with Josh Ford and Steve Kingdon clearing their lines and protecting Ben John’s goal at all costs. River Allen struck a dead ball from around 30 yards, but the aforementioned defenders blocked the ball behind for a corner.
On 21 minutes, Nielsen saw an opening and attempted to loft an effort past Kyle Moore from 50 yards – but the midfielder’s strike went too high and wide to trouble the home keeper.
Arguably the match’s biggest turning point came on the half hour mark. It was a dramatic three minutes for Ben Bament and the Portwaymen, as the former was shown both a yellow card and a straight red for a challenge on Ryan Lane. With the Parkway just four points behind Manor Farm, and having played five games less, the match automatically became a ‘must not lose’ game if Lashenko’s side want to achieve a play off position at the end of the season. Mike Bryant moved into the ‘False 9’ position, and had the arduous task of shadowing the Parkway’s backline.
With half-time approaching, the Portwaymen struck gold on 40 minutes when Josh Ford bundled home the opener. Gosling stepped up to take the Farm’s first corner of the match, and his whipped cross flew through the hands of Moore leaving Ford with the simple task of tapping home.
The well-known phrase, ‘the calm before the storm’, certainly could have been applied to Saturday’s second-half at Bolitho Park as everyone connected to Bristol Manor Farm knew the mammoth task at hand for Lashenko’s players. The message at half-time was simple from Grantley Dicks and Stuart Tovey: “soak up the pressure, and hit them on the counter” – and the Portwaymen certainly did that, and more.
On 64 minutes, Parkway came agonisingly close to equalising. Adam Carter’s header deflected off the crossbar, and the Farm defence managed to clear their lines.
Shea Bennington-Mannings replaced Lloyd Mills on 76 minutes, and within the first 60 seconds, the forward combined with Gosling who entered his name into the ‘goal of the season’ competition. Gosling raced clear of two Parkway defenders, leaving one for dead, and curled an exquisite strike from 18 yards into the far corner. 500 home supporters silenced as the Gibraltar international sent the travelling Manor Farm contingent into raptures. Despite the reliable John in the Farm goal, the whole squad ran towards the fantastic away support to celebrate – knowing Plymouth Parkway had a mountain to climb.
As the clock ticked on, the determined Parkway started to look jaded from their fifth match in 15 days as they were unable to break down the heroic Manor Farm backline. After the four minutes of additional time was played, a mighty roar from the visiting bench broke out – knowing full well that the Farmers pulled off their best defensive performance of the season, despite playing over an hour without the dismissed Bament.
It was mission accomplished for Bristol Manor Farm who have now collected maximum points from their last four matches. With the emotions running high, Lashenko will regroup with his players and staff on Tuesday with all eyes on Lymington next weekend…
We couldn’t award the STAR MAN award to any individual, as the whole team performed above and beyond in securing all three points! UTF