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St Albans stunned by high-tempo Bideford in Calor League

By NDJMark  |  Posted: February 17, 2014

Danny Sullivan scores the crucial goal for Bideford

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The ability to learn quickly about the opposition has been a feature of Bideford's success in the Calor League.

After one season in the South and West Division, the knowledge gained saw them storm to the title and promotion at the second attempt in 2011-12. 

Now an emerging team have taken just one year to go from surviving to thriving in the Premier Division.

Adapting and learning in the short term has been a key attribute to their play-off ambitions this season.  

Just five days after their 1-1 draw against St Albans City in the away fixture, they beat the same opposition 1-0 at the Sports Ground on Saturday. 

Like Hemel Hempstead Town last month, the visitors had their promotion challenge dented by a tenacious and totally committed home side.  

Bideford chased, hustled and harried their way to one of their results of the season.  

An outstanding defence led by Rob Farkins and Ben Gerring stood strong for their sixth consecutive clean sheet at home.

And at the other end, they produced a moment of quality worthy of winning any match.

Danny Sullivan, the Torquay United loanee, applied a fine finish at the end of a flowing move to score on his home debut. 

"It was a great goal," said Sean Joyce, the manager.  "He fits in to what we are trying to do.

"I like my flair players but my flair players have got to work and graft and put a shift in. If they don't I'll send them back."

St Albans were sent back to Hertfordshire with only their second defeat in 21 matches.

It remains a difficult task but with 11 games to go, Bideford are playing with the belief they can hold on to a play-off place.
In the original meeting last Monday, they had been unable to break down a St Albans team which sat deep after being reduced to nine men.

Boosted by the availability of Ian Sampson and Craig Duff, this time they held the edge in a far more open encounter.   

"They probably underestimated us," said Joyce.  "I said 11 against 11 we should have beaten them and we backed it up.

"We have got that togetherness and that heart.

"When we squeeze and close down space, teams can't match us in this league.

"You have got to be brave to play against us, to keep passing it and get on the front foot. I think the only team that have done it to us down here are Corby Town (in the 1-1 draw). 

"After 25 minutes I thought (St Albans) started running out of ideas. At the end they just resorted to kicking long balls." 

The hard graft only came after the work of volunteers  preparing the pitch after yet more downpours. 

Sullivan's goal in the 18th minute was reward for their efforts.

A counter-attack was initiated by Richard Groves and Matt Bye in midfield before Sean Downing switched the ball to the right wing. Sullivan cut inside onto his left foot and drilled a shot beyond Paul Bastock into the roof of the net.

Another tricky run from Sullivan almost created a second goal for Gerring but the defender directed a side-foot shot straight at Bastock.

Bideford continued with their pressing game and Downing dispossessed Kerrea Gilbert to set up a chance for Owen Howe whose shot was blocked by Tom Ward.

While Downing has emerged from Appledore, it is a sign of the resources Bideford are up against that Gilbert, his direct opponent, made a number of appearances for Arsenal eight years ago. 

Relishing his first home start since Boxing Day, Howe then beat Ward with a clever turn but was unable to pick out Duff and the chance was gone.

On a rare occasion when the hosts were opened up, goalkeeper Steve Oliver did well to stand up and deny Matt Taylor. Early in the second half, Sullivan went close again when his shot was scrambled off the line by Lee Chappell.
Then came the inevitable St Albans pressure with the introduction of Jamal Lowe and Mark Nwokeji spicing up their attack.

For all their territory though, there was no way through.

A succession of corners from James Connolly were cleared by Farkins and Gerring and Bideford held out.

Clawing back a lead against the Robins is no easy task  – something Poole Town may discover as they attempt to close in on fifth place with 10 games in hand.   

"We have played more games than anybody else," said Joyce."We have got points on board.We are out there now. Let's see if they can catch us." 

Bideford (4-4-1-1): Steve Oliver; Ian Sampson, Ben Gerring, Rob Farkins, Stephen Reed; Danny Sullivan, Matt Bye, Richard Groves, Sean Downing; Craig Duff (Matt Hockley 78);  Owen Howe (Kevin Squire 76). Subs not used: Graham Mercieca, Nick Milton, Nick Barker.

Goal:  Sullivan 18.

Yellow cards:  Bye, Downing.

St Albans City (4-4-2): Paul Bastock; Kerrea Gilbert, Tom Ward, Ben Martin, Lee Chappell; James Connolly, Ram Marwa, Richard Graham (Chris Henry 73), Matt Taylor (Jamal Lowe 58); Peter Dean (Mark Nwokeji 58), John Frendo. Subs not used: Danny Green, Howard Hall.

Referee:  Savvas Yanni.

Attendance:  219.

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