BARNSTAPLE Town may not have been able to get the perfect 10, but they stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games this evening.
On the day Town found out their Mill Road ground had failed to meet Southern League requirements, they were dealt another blow as they drew 2-2 with Shepton Mallet, putting an end to their nine-game winning sequence.
Ryan Turner returned to the starting XI and had his side 1-0 up at the break. It was a mystery how Barnstaple had only beaten Jamie Rothwell in the Shepton goal once.
And those missed opportunities looked like they would prove costly as two quickfire goals – from Craig Loxton and a Ben Cleverley penalty – seemed to have the visitors on course for back-to-back away wins.
But captain Aaron Harper-Penman popped up 13 minutes from time with a header to take a deserved point from a game in which his side should have had three.
The contest could have been dead and buried by the break. Dave Pearse was looking to score in four consecutive games for the first time since joining the club but poked wide after three minutes and fired over on the rebound after Turner’s effort was saved by the legs of Rothwell.
The latter came after Turner marked his return to the starting XI with a goal. Pearse played his part as he won the header which set up Shaun Copp to feed a lovely ball through to Turner. The 27-goal hitman added another to that tally as he took a touch and coolly slotted home.
The goal was in the middle of a dominant spell from the hosts in which Turner was denied by the legs of Rothwell, Copp’s sublime effort from the right scraped the woodwork and Liam Gregory’s drilled effort almost fizzed through the Shepton keeper.
Again Shepton were counting their lucky stars eight minutes after the break when Jed Harper-Penman’s dangerous cross found Lee Francis. He turned the ball goalwards and a combination of Turner and Pearse could not force the ball over the line.
The theme of missed opportunities continued as Copp showed tremendous technique with a volley from the edge of the box but hit the outside of the post.
The game was flipped on its head in two second-half minutes. First, Loxton tapped home the visitors’ first shot on target after Ash Williamson had squared to him. Kailan Gould then got the wrong side of Scott Huxtable, who was adjudged to have brought the Shepton man down in the box. Cleverley slotted the penalty into the bottom-right corner with 23 minutes to play.
But Barum were not prepared to let their unbeaten run end that easily and, after a major scare when Steve Oliver deflected Jordan Townsley’s effort on to the bar, they levelled things up.
And after ending his near five-month goal drought in Saturday’s win against Longwell Green Sports, Aaron Harper-Penman made it two in two when he headed Francis’s cross into the ground and into the roof of the net.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Aaron Harper-Penman, James Mayne; Jed Harper-Penman, Shaun Copp (Will Nicholls 78), Jack Jenkins, Lee Francis, Liam Gregory; Ryan Turner, Dave Pearse. Subs not used: Scott Sharp, Jimmy Thorne, Jon Vooght.
Shepton Mallet (4-2-3-1): Jamie Rothwell; George Zahara, Dale Peckham, James Billings, Lee Davidson (Lee Sweet 28); Craig Loxton, Ben Cleverley; Ash Williamson, Alex Russell, Kailan Gould Harry Ritchie 83); Jordan Townsley (Ben Lacey 89). Subs not used: Rob Cousins, Dave Thorne.
Referee: Lee Roberts.