On the day after Barnstaple Town proved they were ready for the Southern League off the pitch, their result on it against Gillingham Town moved them closer to making the step up.
It was far from a vintage display from the side that had gone 13 games unbeaten before today, but a goal in each half from Shaun Copp and 30-goal hitman Ryan Turner secured a 2-1 victory.
Promotion hopes looked dead and buried earlier this month when Mill Road failed a ground-grading assessment, but the FA reversed their decision earlier this week – putting second-placed Town in the drivers seat for promotion.
They may have fallen behind to an early Harry Baker goal but Barum turned the game on its head, and with both Bristol Manor Farm and Buckland Athletic – the only two other teams in the promotion race – losing, it worked out as a perfect day for Barry Yeo.
After an uncharacteristic start by Barnstaple – in which they gifted possession back to the visitors on numerous occasions – they found themselves behind with a quarter of an hour gone. James Mayne was beaten in the air 20 yards from goal, Niall Heeney didn’t get enough on his header and Baker nipped in to round Steve Oliver and tap into an empty net.
Oliver had earlier been called into action when he tipped the lively Baker’s drive around the post, but there nothing he could do the second time the pair came face to face.
The tide was starting to turn as Barnstaple grew into the game and, after Lee Francis had dragged one wide, the equaliser arrived nine minutes before the break.
Jack Jenkins picked the ball up 25 yards from goal, slipped a perfect pass between Jamie Filkins and Nick Hewlett for the onrushing Steve Holland in the box. His cross was half cleared to Copp who made no mistake.
Holland had the ball in the back of the net five minutes later but the linesman’s flag curtailed any joy after he reacted quickest to tap home once Jenkins’ low drive had been parried out by Sam Filkins.
The turnaround was complete five minutes after the restart, though, and there was no surprise who it came from. Francis headed forward and as Dave Pearse and Ben Cochrane had their own duel, Turner stole the ball and fired home into the bottom corner.
Barnstaple had stepped it up a gear, they looked every bit a Southern League side in the second half, although Copp’s miss from six yards is one he will want to forget and Turner would have backed himself for a 31st of the campaign when he curled just past the far post from eight yards.
Even substitute Scott Sharp’s miss when one-on-one didn’t come back to haunt them as Barnstaple ground out what could prove to be a vital three points.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Niall Heeney, Aaron Harper-Penman, James Mayne; Steve Holland, Shaun Copp (Jed Harper-Penman 82), Lee Francis, Jack Jenkins, Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse (Will Nicholls 86), Ryan Turner (Scott Sharp 75). Subs not used: Scott Huxtable
Gillingham Town (4-3-3): Sam Filkins; Joe Smeeton, Ben Cochrane (Max Edginton 72), Nick Hewlett, Jamie Filkins; Haydn Hodges, Ashley Clarke, John Vance; Aaron Rodrigues, Steve Smith (Phil Ormrod 80), Harry Baker. Subs not used: Steve Graham
Referee: Mark Whaley