BEN Watson’s first goal in a Bideford shirt proved vital as the Robins beat local rivals Barnstaple Town 1-0 in the Edenvale Turf Devon St Luke’s Cup.
Watson’s strike 52 minutes in shaded a closely-contested derby but Bideford were made to hold their breath as Dave Pearse struck the woodwork late on and Aaron Harper-Penman’s goal, following up after Will Nicholls’s header was saved, was ruled out for offside in the dying moments.
Barnstaple started the stronger and looked lively in the opening spell with Billy Tucker a constant menace. After 26 minutes he cut inside after a great diagonal ball from Lee Francis but his effort was well saved by Bideford goalkeeper Grant Fisher at the near post.
Lloyd Gardner did similar damage on the left side of Bideford’s attack and he showed great pace throughout as the visitors looked to strike on the counter.
A series of blunders should have put Barnstaple ahead on the stroke of half-time as Fisher’s poor throw was given away cheaply before a dangerous cross was fizzed into the box and right-back Ian Sampson slipped to give Ryan Turner a glimpse of goal but somehow the Robins went unpunished.
In the second half, however, Bideford looked a different side and began to stamp their authority on the game as Craig Veal and Danny Wring saw more of the ball.
After 52 minutes the deadlock was broken. Sean Downing raced clear on goal and after his shot was parried by Jimmy Thorne, Watson was on hand to make it 1-0 as he netted his first goal since signing from Truro City.
Bideford remained on top as Town’s shape and energy began to slip and, if it wasn’t for a magnificent double save from Thorne 72 minutes in, the scoreline could have been worse. But Barnstaple regrouped for the final 15 minutes, as they have done on so many occasions this season, and the game finished in typical end-to-end cup fashion.
After 77 minutes Tucker ghosted past two men before flashing his shot wide and Pearse struck the bar in Barnstaple’s best chance of the game after good work from Jed Harper-Penman.
When Fisher saved from a Nicholls header, Harper-Penman put the loose ball away in the dying moments but the flag had gone up for offside against Nicholls and Town knew, despite a brave effort, it was not their day.
Barnstaple Town (4-4-2): Thorne; Huxtable, Mayne, A Harper-Penman, Gregory; Tucker, Jenkins (Copp 83), Francis, J Harper-Penman (Holland 60); Turner, Pearse (Nicholls 77). Subs not used: Phillips, Draper.
Bideford (4-5-1): Fisher; Sampson, Tapp, Milton, Mercieca; Gardner, Wring, Reed, Veal, Downing; Watson (Copp 84). Subs not used: Wood, Groves, Hastings.