Barnstaple Town 2 Didcot Town 1: Lee Francis seals Southern League victory

Barum were 2-1 winners over 13th-placed Didcot Town in Division One South and West.

A moment of magic from Lee Francis ensured Barnstaple shrugged off back-to-back Southern League defeats this afternoon (Saturday).

Francis’s strike from 30 yards was the difference in Barum’s 2-1 win over Didcot Town at Mill Road in Division One South and West.

James Blake had given the home side the lead from the penalty spot 10 minutes before half-time.

Didcot equalised against the run of play half-way through the second period before Francis gave his side a deserved win some 10 minutes later.

Blake opened the scoring after 36 minutes from the penalty spot. While his finish, hard and low to Harry Whitehead’s right was never in doubt, there was a bit of contention as to whether it should have been awarded.

Steve Holland, who alongside Liam Gregory troubled Sam Elkins throughout the first half, was brought down by the right-back what looked to be a foot outside the penalty area. Holland slid through the box before referee Timothy Burley pointed to the spot.

It came just a minute after Steve Oliver thwarted Didcot’s best opportunity of the half.

George Jeacock broke the offside trap and was left one-on-one with the Barnstaple keeper. While the forward’s shot could have been better, Oliver’s reaction stop with his leg was outstanding.

Blake had given Barnstaple their best chance prior to them breaking the deadlock when he attempted to send a lob over Whitehead, but the ball rolled past the post.

Barnstaple began the second half on the front foot and were inches away from doubling their lead 10 minutes after the restart.

Liam Gregory’s throw-in was flicked into the box by Craig Allan where a leaping James Mayne thundered a header against the crossbar.

They could have been awarded a second penalty minutes later when Ryan Turner was brought down in the box, but Burley waved the appeals away.

For all Barum’s pressure, Didcot levelled things up after 68 minutes from a corner.

Captain Adam Learoyd leapt above the Barnstaple defence to turn the ball in off the post.

Barnstaple kept applying pressure though, and Francis restored the home side’s lead with a moment of magic 10 minutes from time.

When a misplaced pass from Whitehead found Francis out on the left channel 30 yards from goal, the midfielder sent a left-footed strike back the way it came which bypassed everyone before nestling in the far corner.

Blake and Allan were a short distance from giving Barnstaple a third goal but the latter couldn’t quite get anything on Blake’s looping header towards goal.

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