Barnstaple Town v Bishops Cleeve: First half goals help Barum pick up vital three points

Barum survived a second half fightback to beat relegation candidates Bishops Cleeve 3-2 at Mill Road.

With a 3-0 lead and an extra man on the field by the break, it looked a case of job done for the hosts.

Tallan Mitchell, Harry Stevens and Chris Ibbeson had given them the commanding lead before Ben Tunnicliffe was shown a red card for an altercation with Alex Gray.

But Cleeve took advantage of a side that never got going after the break, pulling goals back through Ieuan Crowe and Harlie Price to set up the nerviest of finishes.

Barnstaple remain second from bottom after the result, but have opened up a 10-point gap over their opponents, who remain at the foot of the table.

Given the match was a must-win for both sides, it was no surprise that the opening exchanges were a little nervy.

Chris Ibbeson saw a header go over the bar from a Jed Harper-Penman corner early on, but that aside there were few chances for the hosts.

Harrison Iddles had the best opportunity to open the scoring for the visitors after being put through one on one, but Rob Holmes saved well from the winger.

Barum eventually broke the deadlock after 29 minutes through Mitchell. A well-worked goal saw Niall Heeney put Billy Hopcroft into space down the left channel with a superb reverse pass. The striker flashed a low ball across the front of the six yard box where an on-running Mitchell tapped home.

The midfielder had only been on the pitch for three minutes, replacing Harper-Penman, who was forced to depart with a shoulder injury.

Seven minutes later and Stevens had doubled Barnstaple’s lead, beating the offside trap after getting in behind the Cleeve defence with 30 yards to goal.

With only Sam Gilder to beat, the striker produced a deft chip to beat the goalkeeper, with the ball settling in the empty net.

It was to be Stevens’ last action of the game, with a hamstring injury forcing his departure.

Chris Ibbeson put the icing on the cake in a clinical first half when he met Radford’s driven effort at the back post to tap in.

An awful first half for the visitors got worse in stoppage time when Tunnicliffe was given his marching orders by referee Martin Underhay.

Looking back, the defender can have no complaints after the altercation with Gray, putting him in a headlock after attempting to get the ball back off the midfielder.

Barnstaple seemed to be stuck in the dressing room as the second half got underway, and 13 minutes after the restart the visitors had pulled one back.

Crowe’s effort from 25 yards could not be stopped by Holmes, who could only watch the ball sail into his top left corner.

Five minutes later Cleeve strengthened their fightback with another goal, which seemed all too similar to the first for the Barum defence.

Price was given too much space on the edge of the box after riding a couple of tackles, and blasted a shot into the corner from 20 yards to put the hosts on edge.

Cleeve put plenty of pressure on the Barum defence, who looked dangerous on the counter, but could not find a goal to settle it.

Barnstaple Town: Holmes, Haynes, Walton (Booth 80), Cooper, Ibbeson, Heeney, Gray, Nancekivell, Harper-Penman (Mitchell 26), Stevens (Radford 38), Hopcroft. Subs not used: Screech, Thomas.

Bishops Cleeve: Gilder, Noakes, Hassan (W Tunnicliffe 64), Ford, B Tunnicliffe (off 45), Staten, Iddles, Hands, Crowe, Price (Thomas 77), Watts. Sub not used: Jeynes

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