CUP competitions have provided welcome respite for Barnstaple Town in recent weeks.
Before Tuesday night’s 5-0 hammering of Bridgwater Town, they had won just two of their previous seven games – in the FA Trophy and Southern League Challenge Cup.
But any hope of keeping their cup exploits going at Dorchester Town this afternoon were put to bed as their higher-level opposition won 3-1 in an FA Trophy first round qualifying tie.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Barnstaple to repeat their surprise win at Farnborough in the previous round, but they ran their Southern Premier Division opponents close.
After first-half goals from Tom Blair and Nathan Walker had them on the back foot, Barnstaple offered plenty more in the second half and more than matched a side 17th in the league above.
They deservedly got on the scoresheet when defender James Mayne bundled in Jed Harper-Penman’s free-kick at the back post with 18 minutes to go to make it 2-1.
But Dorchester’s Mario Mateus set up Yeovil Town loanee Ollie Bassett to slam home three minutes into stoppage-time.
Barnstaple had been in the ascendancy after the introduction of Scott Sharp in attack gave them an added dimension. James Blake drew two fine saves from Shane Murphy and Jack Jenkins volleyed high.
With defender Craig Allan unavailable, the visitors reverted to a 4-4-2 formation to nullify the Dorchester threat.
Player-manager Mark Jermyn had said his Dorchester team would be “all-out attack to win the game” – and they were certainly true to his words.
Jake Smeeton had the first sight of goal after just three minutes when his free-kick was easily held by Steve Oliver.
David Jerrard then attempted an excellent lob with the outside of his right boot, to which Oliver got back well, and Lewis Morgan glanced a free header wide from six yards.
That all came in a dominant opening 10 minutes for Dorchester, who restricted Barum’s creative midfield play and always had an outlet in big No 9 Nathan Walker.
The goal their pressure had warranted finally arrived after 19 minutes. Oliver went down under a crowd of bodies from Neil Martin’s corner and, with referee Peter Cruise unmoved, Tom Blair had time to take a touch and fire home.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 as Walker, renowned for his prowess in the air, proved he could provide the spectacular as well.
Harper-Penman was robbed on halfway by Smeeton who arrowed a ball over Mayne into the path of Walker. The striker spotted Oliver off his line and sent a superb 30-yard lob into the net – mirroring Jenkins’s strike against Bridgwater in midweek.
The goal came after Barnstaple had exerted their most sustained period of pressure. Home keeper Shane Murphy was not tested but efforts from Lee Francis and Harper-Penman did have him scrambling to watch them wide.
Dorchester did pose threats in the second half, notably when Aaron Harper-Penman cleared over his own bar from a fine Blair cross, but all those on the home bench would have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Bassett sealed the win.
Dorchester Town (4-4-2): Shane Murphy; Dory Yates, Matt Oldring, Chris Dillon, Ben Wood; Tom Blair (Mark Jermyn 87), Jake Smeeton, Lewis Morgan, Neil Martin (Ollie Bassett 56); Nathan Walker, David Jerrard (Mario Mateus 56). Subs not used: Joe Lea, Billy Mitchell.
Barnstaple Town (4-4-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, Aaron Harper-Penman, James Mayne, Liam Gregory; Kyle Paine (Scott Sharp 56), Lee Francis (Niall Heeney 84), Jack Jenkins, Jed Harper-Penman; Dave Pearse, James Blake (Ryan Turner 84). Sub not used: Steve Holland.
Referee: Peter Cruise. Attendance: 344.