PAULTON Rovers may have had a Team GB footballer in their side for tonight’s clash with Barnstaple Town but, as in London 2012, Ibrahima Diallo finished disappointed.
Diallo featured in the seven-a-side British Paralympic team beaten 4-2 in the final by Brazil.
While an Evo-Stik League Southern Division One South and West clash at Mill Road was not quite as glamorous, it would have been the same sinking feeling for the Guinea-born midfielder.
Last season, Barnstaple and Paulton were two divisions apart and the former Premier Division side would have expected to come to North Devon and make it three wins out of four this season.
Instead, it was Barnstaple who showed the gold standard as Ryan Turner’s first-half strike was enough for them to secure a 1-0 win and leapfrog their opponents in the table.
Barnstaple seemed full of energy in the opening stages, wing-backs Liam Gregory and the excellent Kyle Paine bombing forward at every opportunity.
The early crosses and corners were astutely dealt with, though, and despite Town looking full of attacking intent, Paulton fired their warning shots on the counter. Twice in the opening five minutes Rovers turned defence into attack, slicing through the midfield to create scoring opportunities.
Scott Huxtable had his clearance blocked by Nathan Legge, whose reverse ball found Elliot Gibbons who squared for Will Hailston. The low drive was beaten away by Steve Oliver.
Oliver was called into action again a minute later from another swift Paulton break. This time he got down well to keep out Jordan Richards.
There was no doubting the commitment from both sides, even if there was a lack of goalmouth action. There were penalty appeals waved away at either end, Soloman Wheatley for the visitors and former Paulton defender Craig Allan for Barnstaple.
After being susceptible to the counter throughout the first period, Town played their opponents at their own game eight minutes before the break – yielding the opening goal.
Dave Pearse picked the ball up 35 yards out and lobbed it over Ian Parkes and Nathan Summers. Turner’s sprint was timed to perfection and, while Parkes and Summers stood with their arms aloft appealing in vain for a flag, he tucked the ball into the bottom corner.
It was much the same in the second half, both sides busting a lung for the three points without much action in and around the box.
James Blake replaced Turner after 52 minutes and twice went close to adding a second. Just after the hour his excellent turn and volley flew over, then with time running out he broke and slammed into the side-netting.
For Paulton, Will Hailston jinked past Lee Francis and Shaun Copp before firing over and Diallo went close from 25 yards, but the Paralympian was powerless to stop a Barnstaple win.
Barnstaple Town (3-5-2): Steve Oliver; Craig Allan, Aaron Harper-Penman, Scott Huxtable; Kyle Paine (Steve Holland 79), Jed Harper-Penman (Shaun Copp 72), Jack Jenkins, Lee Francis, Liam Gregory; Dave Pearse, Ryan Turner (James Blake 52). Subs not used: Josh Phillips, Scott Sharpe.
Paulton Rovers (4-2-3-1): Andrew Hannah; Alex Grimshaw (George Brimson 62), Ian Parkes, Nathan Summers, Elliot Keightley; Ibrahima Diallo, Jordan Richards; Soloman Wheatley (Kailan Gould 70), Will Hailston, Elliot Gibbons; Nathan Legge (Reeko Best 70). Subs not used: Edd Baloy, Lamar Powell.
Referee: James Durkin. Attendance: 235.