AN INJURY-TIME strike by substitute Scott Sharp earned Barnstaple Town their fifth win on the spin against a stubborn Hallen at Mill Road this afternoon.
Barnstaple, without top-scorer Ryan Turner, huffed and puffed throughout the 90 minutes but their efforts looked like only gaining a point until Sharp – who had missed a one-on-one 10 minutes previous – popped up at the back post to fire home the only goal of the game.
It was no more than Barum deserved for their endeavour and with Buckland Athletic losing 2-1 at home to Odd Down, the North Devon outfit climbed back up to fifth in the Toolstation Western League Premier Division.
In a cagey opening 15 minutes it was the visitors who looked more lively, full-back Ollie Butler drilled a low effort which was well held and before that Danny Webb reacted quickest to Dave Hill’s free-kick but looped his effort from the edge of the box onto the top of the bar.
Without 27-goal striker Turner (hamstring) and captain Aaron Harper-Penman (knee) on the bench, it took Barum a while to settle into the game but when they did they were in complete control.
James Mayne was unlucky not to break the deadlock when he flicked Jack Jenkins’ free-kick just wide before a carbon-copy delivery was headed marginally over by Dave Pearse.
The game needed something special to bring it to life and Liam Gregory thought he had duly obliged three minutes before the break when he latched onto a superb diagonal ball from Scott Huxtable in the box and cushioned a volley into the roof of the net – only for the linesman’s offside flag to cut short any joy.
If the first half was an even affair, the second started as anything but. Barnstaple spent most of their time camped in the visitors half but couldn’t find the breakthrough.
Substitute Sharp – who had been brought on for the injured Jed Harper-Penman less than a minute earlier – wasted the best chance with 10 minutes to go when he raced in one-on-one but hit the side netting from eight yards.
Will Nicholls – another second-half substitute – just couldn’t dig the ball out when Gregory’s low cross-cum-shot was tipped out by Sam Burgess, the Hallen keeper then somehow kept out Pearse twice inside the six-yard box before the Town striker flicked over from close range.
And just when all seemed lost, Steve Holland’s cross from the right caught a nick on its way through and fell at the feet of Sharp. He took a touch and confidently drilled home as the clock struck 90 to spark wild celebrations in home dugout.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Niall Heeney, James Mayne; Steve Holland, Jed Harper-Penman (Scott Sharp 78), Jack Jenkins, Lee Francis (C), Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse (Aaron Harper-Penman 90), Shaun Copp (Will Nicholls 69). Subs not used: Jimmy Thorne.
Hallen (4-2-3-1): Sam Burgess (C); Tom Smallman, Matt Davies, Dave Hill, Ollie Butler; Liam Planter, Richard Nelmes; Adam Snook, James Hall (Tom Collett 79), Joe Walters (James Snook 69); Danny Webb. Subs not used: None
Referee: Phillip Eddie