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Ten and sympathy for Town in cup tie

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: October 11, 2012

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Barnstaple Town manager Dave Griffiths has been faced with an impossible job.

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IT WAS a scoreline and a situation that would not have looked out of place in any Sunday league.

A team travelling without any substitutes were thrashed 10-3 by lively young opponents.

Except this was not Sunday League football. It was the Toolstation Western League.

And Barnstaple Town, a club with almost 65 years of history in the competition, were the victims at Bishop Sutton in the Les Phillips Cup.

Tonight, at a public meeting, the people of Barnstaple must decide whether they want the club to continue at this level.

If Saturday's embarrassment turns out to be their final game, it will have proved a pitiful farewell.

It was hard not to feel sorry for the handful of loyal supporters who made the journey to Somerset.

Even when Will Hailston walked through a non-existent defence to make it 7-1 before the hour, the cries of "Come on Barum" could still be heard.

Some sympathy for the players, too, many of whom are still young and learning the game or are simply out of their depth.

The role of England manager was once described as the impossible job but that must seem like a doddle compared to the demands on Barnstaple boss Dave Griffiths.

He had 14 players committed on Friday morning. That number had whittled down to 11 by match day and when Ethan Phillips went off with blurred vision it was down to ten for the final 40 minutes.

By that stage, Barnstaple were 6-1 down and staring at a repeat of the 9-1 thrashing suffered at Buckland Athletic in August.

Griffiths admitted he could have read the riot act with the team trailing 4-1 at half time but opted against it.

"It looked like two boys teams out there," he said. "It could have ended up 14-6 or something like that.

"I can't carry on with the situation of going with 11 players on a Saturday. It's a joke.

"I am basically running a Sunday morning side."

On the same afternoon, Boca Seniors were playing at Town's Mill Road ground and hitting 11 goals in the Devon Premier Cup.

For whatever reason, the best players in Barnstaple simply do not want to play for Barnstaple Town – and that has been the case for a long time.

"I have tried so many different people," said Griffiths. "You wouldn't believe how many I have tried.

"I have got eight or nine I can rely on through thick and thin and six of them are from outside the area.

"Some of these lads have been absolutely tremendous for me."

Young goalkeeper Darren Rose has been one of the reliable ones, having stepped up from the disbanded reserve team.

The only ever-present this season, he put in a defiant display with several saves preventing a rugby score.

Barnstaple actually made a lively start with Ollie Knowles, the Exeter City loanee, having a penalty appeal turned down after Nathan Loader appeared to climb all over him.

But as soon as Hailston skipped away from Ian Wheatley and Pete Sheppard hammered the opening goal, the writing was on the wall.

Jordan Metters drilled the second after 25 minutes despite the best efforts of Wheatley to clear off the line.

Hailston and Billy Downes added the third and fourth before Knowles gave Barnstaple brief hope with a shot from the edge of the box. Substitute Rob Smart went on to score a second-half hat-trick with Hailston, Metters and Sheppard taking their tallies to two each.

Sutton were hardly impressive in the defensive department either, allowing Kyle Bassett to pull one back with a penalty after Luke Andrews made a clumsy foul on Knowles.

Stuart Cameron, signed from Barnstaple AAC, got forward from right back to hit the visitors' third goal in the 86th minute.

Barnstaple's problems lie off the field as much as on it and there was plenty of sympathy from Bishop Sutton.

George Williams, the chairman, wished Barnstaple all the best in a make-or-break week.

"They have got some lovely people at the club and the best ground in the league," he said.

Ray Winsley, taking the money at the gate, said Western League clubs are reliant on a small number of volunteers.

"You can't get anybody to do this sort of job," he said.

"Our chairman has been here all his life and I only do it for him.

"If it wasn't for him, myself and a couple others, our club wouldn't keep going.

"I have been doing the gate for 20 years and a few years ago Barnstaple used to bring a big crowd with them. It would be sad to see them go."

Whatever the outcome of tonight's meeting, hopefully there is a future for Barnstaple Town.

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