CAPTAIN Marvel Aaron Harper-Penman saved Barnstaple Town as their winning run was threatened by Buckland Athletic.
Two poacher’s goals by Dave Pearse gave Town a 2-1 win in today’s lunchtime kick-off.
But it was an outstanding display at centre-back by Harper-Penman which secured a seventh straight Toolstation Western League victory for his team.
His block on the line three minutes into the second half denied Liam Moseley a certain goal which would have put Buckland 2-1 up.
Then, after Pearse had restored the lead he had given Barnstaple early in the game, Harper-Penman made a superb last-ditch tackle to keep out Gavin Hammon in injury-time.
The three points keep Barnstaple third in the Premier Division and, with games to come on Thursday and Saturday, they could have moved into second place by the time Bristol Manor Farm next take the field a week tomorrow.
James Mayne, Jack Jenkins and Ryan Turner were back after missing last week’s victory at Brislington. But Turner’s return lasted only 31 minutes before he felt a potential recurrence of his hamstring injury.
By that stage, Town were leading 1-0 thanks to Pearse’s sixth-minute goal, but had come under heavy pressure from Buckland as they struggled to settle.
Pearse showed all his experience to be in the right place at the right time to turn the ball in after Steve Holland had nodded Liam Gregory’s left-wing cross back across goal.
Buckland forced a series of free-kicks but, aside from a Simon Laughton header which was ruled out for a foul, failed to create much from the opportunities.
It was Barnstaple who had the better of what few clear chances there were in the first half.
Three minutes before he went off, Turner beat Laughton on the left and had time to pick out Pearse but put the ball just too far in front of his strike partner.
Jenkins then dragged a shot wide when well placed in the area.
Barnstaple were so below par it seemed inevitable they would not make it to half-time with their lead intact and, five minutes before the break, Shane Gill’s ball from the right wing found its way to Marc Revell and his low 20-yard strike crept inside the post.
Harper-Penman kept Town level early in the second half when he threw himself at Moseley’s shot following a mix-up between goalkeeper Steve Oliver and Scott Huxtable.
Oliver’s opposite number, Tom Buckler, made a smart save from a deflection off one of his own defenders.
But, on 63 minutes, Jenkins delivered a free-kick into the box and Buckler could only push Harper-Penman’s header up into the air. When the ball came down it landed at the feet of Pearse who knocked in his 17th goal of the season.
Buckland responded by making a double substitution and one of the replacements, Simon Revell, was straight into the action, only to be denied twice in a matter of seconds by Oliver.
Buckland had Laughton harshly sent off for a 73rd-minute foul on Gregory as the wing-back flew down the left and were relieved to see substitute Scott Sharp scoop a late shot over.
The visiting 10 men were still able to trouble Barnstaple and Harper-Penman made an excellent clearing header from a right-wing free-kick.
After Sharp struck the bar, having been slipped through by Jenkins, Harper-Penman was called upon to make one final intervention as Hammon closed in on goal.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Aaron Harper-Penman, James Mayne; Steve Holland, Jed Harper-Penman (Shaun Copp 86), Niall Heeney, Jack Jenkins, Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse (Scott Sharp 82), Ryan Turner (Will Nicholls 32). Subs not used: Jimmy Thorne, Ian Cockwill.
Buckland Athletic (4-3-3): Tom Buckler; Shane Gill, Simon Laughton, Liam Head, Lewis Perring; Andy Robertson, Marc Revell (Gavin Hammon 70), Nick Rudge (Simon Revell 70); Jared Lewington, Liam Moseley (George Buckmaster 78), Lloyd Gardner. Subs not used: Charlie Johansen, Ellis Laight.
Referee: Richard Morris. Attendance: 257.