A 15-MINUTE purple patch was enough to give Barnstaple Town a winning start on their return to the Toolstation Western League Premier Division.
The First Division champions beat Bradford Town 2-1 at Mill Road.
Superb first-half goals from Ryan Turner and Jack Jenkins overturning Sam Jordan’s early opener for the visitors.
In a poor second half, Bradford struggled to seriously trouble Steve Oliver on his debut in the Barnstaple goal.
And the home side should have added to their lead late in the game when substitute Dave Pearse missed a golden chance.
Oliver, signed from Bideford, and former Appledore midfielder Niall Heeney made their competitive debuts for Barnstaple, while Will Nicholls was chosen ahead of Pearse to partner Ryan Turner, last season’s 34-goal top scorer, up front.
Bradford finished eighth in the Premier Division last term and are fancied to improve on that in the new campaign.
They offered evidence of their threat after only six minutes when Jordan raced in behind James Mayne and touched the ball past Oliver before scoring brilliantly from a tight angle wide to the right of the goal.
Lee Francis had Barnstaple’s first effort on goal with a blocked half-volley but it was in the 12th minute that they really clicked into gear.
Mayne fired a free-kick out to the right wing from where Jed Harper-Penman delivered a raking cross which the leaping Turner headed into the roof of the net.
Francis volleyed narrowly over on 20 minutes, after Harper-Penman dug out another cross from the right, but a minute later Barnstaple were celebrating again.
Given space 25 yards from goal, Jenkins allowed the ball to bounce before striking a left-foot volley low past goalkeeper Jamie Bartlett’s left hand.
It was a fitting winner but, at that stage, did not look as though it would be Barum’s last goal.
They went off the boil as quickly as they had got up to temperature, though, and were satisfied with a 2-1 lead at half-time after Tyson Pollard and Aaron Cornwall went close with long-range efforts.
Bartlett and Oliver spread themselves to make saves early in the second half from Turner and Pollard respectively.
Ricky Scott might have done better with a header for Bradford on the hour as Barnstaple grew frustrated at their lack of fluency.
They improved with the introduction of Pearse in 65th minute. The experienced striker held the ball up well but missed an opportunity to put the result beyond doubt six minutes from time.
Turner chased the ball down the left channel and squared it for the substitute who, from a central position six yards out, sidefooted wide.
Thankfully for Barnstaple the miss went unpunished as Neikel Plummer flashed a shot through a crowd of players just wide and Jordan could not quite climb high enough to get power on a free header in the fifth minute of stoppage-time.
Barnstaple now face another of the division’s leading sides, Willand Rovers, in a double header. They travel to their Devon rivals, who beat them in last season’s Les Phillips Cup final, for a league match on Wednesday (7.30pm) before hosting them in an FA Cup tie next Saturday (3pm).
Barnstaple Town (4-1-3-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Aaron Harper-Penman, James Mayne, Liam Gregory; Niall Heeney; Jed Harper-Penman (Ross Jones 90+1), Jack Jenkins, Lee Francis (Josh Phillips 90+1); Will Nicholls (Dave Pearse 65), Ryan Turner. Subs not used: Kyle Paine, Jimmy Thorne.
Bradford Town (4-2-3-1): Jamie Bartlett; Chris Williams, Mike Jones, Mike Reaney, Ricky Scott; Aaron Cornwall, Tom Evans (Mark Wall 65); Aaron Wilson, Neikel Plummer, Tyson Pollard (Twaine Plummer 67); Sam Jordan. Subs not used: Mike Rimmer, Mark Robinson, Daniel Price.