JAMES Blake’s recent purple patch in front of goal continued this afternoon as Barnstaple Town made it four games unbeaten.
The striker scored in victories over Paulton Rovers in the Evo-Stik League Southern Cup and Larkhall Athletic in Division One South and West. He was at it again against Wimborne Town today with the only goal of the game in an impressive 1-0 victory.
It means Barnstaple have now gone three unbeaten in the league for the first time this season and have only lost away to promotion-chasing Tiverton Town since the turn of the year.
Blake’s sixth of the season also lifted Barnstaple two places to 17th in Division One South and West and a big 14 points clear of the bottom two.
Having been on a slippery slope at the end of 2016, Barnstaple have turned it around and their 1-0 victory today somewhat flattered their mid-table opponents, who were non-existant in the first half and only marginally improved in the second 45.
Blake’s goal came after 68 minutes and it was simplicity personified. The impressive Shaun Copp’s inswinging corner from the left was glanced home by the head of the former Willand Rovers man.
In the first half in particular, Barnstaple showed their recent upturn in form was no fluke. Arguably one of the best 45 minutes they have played since becoming a Southern League club, the hosts could have been out of sight by the break.
But as it was, they went into the changing rooms goalless, and inevitably with a sense of what should have been.
Scott Sharp looked buoyed by his first league goal in last weekend’s 1-1 draw at AFC Totton, his constant press and energy caused problems for Wimborne up to the point he hobbled off with an injury.
In contrast, Wimborne’s 20-goal striker Toby Holmes was having a less than fruitful game at the other end, racking up more offsides than meaningful attempts.
In fact, in the opening half the visitors didn’t have a single shot on goal, a stark difference to that of their opponents.
James Mayne was almost the unlikely hero after just five minutes when Copp’s free-kick was headed back across goal by Craig Allan and Mayne charged on to the ball but hit the bar.
For all Sharp’s workrate and desire, he will know the two first-half chances that were presented to him should have been put away.
The first came when Blake flicked into his path, he ran in on goal but dragged wide of the far post. The resulting corner fell to Sharp in the box but, surrounded by a crowd of bodies, again shot wide.
Copp then lobbed one too high after Alan Walker-Harris, the Wimborne keeper, had rushed off his line to half-clear and then Blake suffered from the bobble of the Mill Road turf at just the wrong time to slice wide.
With a flat back four, Barnstaple looked solid. Copp, a late replacement for the ill Jed Harper-Penman, was excellent on the right and Steve Holland the same on the other flank.
Wimborne forced Steve Oliver into his first bit of work after 65 minutes as Holmes got in down the left but was denied at the near post.
Substitute Carl Preston also saw an effort from six yards clawed away by Oliver with 15 minutes remaining – but it was between those chances that Blake struck the ultimately-decisive blow.
Barnstaple Town (4-4-2): Steve Oliver; Scott Huxtable, James Mayne, Craig Allan, Liam Gregory; Shaun Copp, Lee Francis, Niall Heeney, Steve Holland; Scott Sharp (Kyle Paine 52), James Blake. Subs not used: Jed Harper-Penman, Karl Baggaley, Jack Jenkins.
Wimborne Town (4-2-3-1): Alan Walker-Harris; Stefan Penny, Connor Cocklin (James Stokoe 24), Sam Davidson, Paddy Hester; Louis Kellaway, Billy Lowes; Jack Lovell (Carl Preston 72), Jamie Davidson (Dan Cann 60), Luke Holmes; Toby Holmes. Subs not used: Gerrard Benfield, Ben Walker.
Referee: Scott Jackson.