BARNSTAPLE Town have done all they can to be a Southern League side come August.
Both Buckland Athletic and, more importantly, Bristol Manor Farm lost today, meaning Barnstaple’s 2-0 win against rock-bottom Welton Rovers put them eight points clear of the other teams vying for promotion, with just two games left.
Odd Down still lead the Toolstation Western League Premier Division by three points, but they withdrew their promotion bid meaning it is all but confirmed that Barum will gain the step up.
An FA meeting at the start of next month will dot the I’s and cross the T’s for those going up into non-league’s fourth tier.
Promotion will mark a wonderful two years for Barry Yeo and his side, who came up from the First Division last season – along with today’s opponents Welton.
Second-half goals from Niall Heeney and Lee Francis did the damage to extend the unbeaten run to 16 games, consign Rovers to their seventh straight defeat and almost certainly relegation.
At this stage of the season, performances go out the window and it is all about getting the points. In the first 40 minutes, certainly, Barnstaple’s performance they have shown so often this season seemed a world away.
The best news for them in the opening half-an-hour was that Brislington had taken a 1-0 lead at nearest challengers Manor Farm. By the end of the half, however, that had been flipped on its head to 2-1.
After a forgettable first 40 – in which Heeney’s slip almost presented Lewis Dunn in on goal before Steve Oliver raced off his line to gather the ball – Barum started to threaten as the half-time whistle neared.
Ryan Turner pulled the trigger from 10 yards but was denied by an excellent Nick Beaverstock challenge, Liam Gregory’s low cross from the left avoided a touch in the middle and Dave Pearse flicked a header just past the far post.
In similar fashion to the way they beat Gillingham Town last weekend, Barnstaple came out a better outfit in the second period. The deadlock was broken after 55 minutes when Jed Harper-Penman slipped Turner into the box and Beaverstock lost his head and brought the striker down.
Heeney accepted responsibility, saw his spot-kick saved but reacted quickest to squeeze the header past Tristan Westlake and into the corner.
Francis doubled the lead with 13 minutes to go as he showed composure in the box to step inside his man and fire into the corner. All eyes were now on events in Bristol. Brislington had turned the game on its head and led 3-2 with just 10 minutes to go.
With the whistle blowing at Mill Road more than five minutes before that up the M5, Town faced an anxious wait until news filtered through that Brislington had upset the odds meaning Barnstaple are uncatchable in second.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Niall Heeney, James Mayne, Scott Huxtable; Steve Holland, Jed Harper-Penman (Shaun Copp 82), Jack Jenkins, Liam Francis, Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse (Will Nicholls 80), Ryan Turner (Scott Sharp 77). Subs not used: Aaron Harper-Penman, James Thorne.
Welton Rovers (4-4-2): Tristan Westlake; Charles Cook, Joe Garland, Nick Beaverstock, Dan Scrivens; Chris Pile (Mark West 84), Chris Peck, Ben Horan, Dan Cottle (Hugo Brunsoon 86); Lewis Dunn, Charles Maddison. Subs not used: Anthony Corradi, Sam Lewis.
Referee: Phillip Eddie