The Peacocks remain in second spot and in pole position to stake a play-off place despite going down to an unexpectedly conclusive defeat at lower mid-table Larkhall. All the goals came in the second half which Town had to play a man short after Owen Irish was sent off moments before the interval but overall the vibe was rarely there for Town as they never really got to grips with either the conditions or a Larks team hungry to erase the memory of the League encounter two months previously when they had conceded double figures at the Viridor Stadium.
With top scorer Jordan Rogers suspended, there was a recall for Craig Duff who had been regaining fitness at Western League Buckland Athletic following a hamstring injury. This was the only team change from the previous fixture against Shortwood but it soon became apparent that the weather would play a part and whilst neither side mastered the elements, the hosts adapted better to the strong wind and heavy playing conditions throughout, forcing three early corners whilst Lloyd Irish punched clear a Jamie Lyons’ cross.
Town eventually threatened when Ollie Chamberlain muscled through into the left side of the area but overran the ball and the opening had gone. The best chance came midway through the half when a Larkhall free kick was worked clear, Chamberlain finding Pierce Mitchell whose overhead pass put Craig Veal in on goal but home keeper Shaun Semmens blocked with his legs.
The home side’s best two chances fell to Joe Tumelty who firstly fired narrowly past the post after being picked out by Lyons’ long ball and with another sight of goal had his sidefoot deflected wide from Greg Peel’s cross. Ross Staley was proving Town’s main threat and a peach of a cross from the left flashed across the face of goal but scoring opportunities were scarce in a rather mundane first half, the complexion of which altered a minute from the whistle when Peel held back Owen Irish after he had won possession and the Peacocks centre half raised his hand in retaliation which referee Hubbard adjudged worthy of a red card.
From still being very much in the game at the break albeit with reduced manpower, Town were hit with a double whammy inside the first three minutes when play resumed. Larkhall quickly won a corner and from Egan’s delivery, the ball fell to Joe Raynes who directed his half volley past the dive of Lloyd Irish into the bottom left corner. There was barely time to write the details down for the match report before the hosts added a second, a break down the right ending with Egan’s cross being drilled home by Raynes from close range and providing the visitors with a second mountain to climb after their trek up the lane to Plain Ham.
All three substitutes were introduced within the next ten minutes in the hope of instigating a turnaround but things were still not falling into place. Veal volleyed well off target from Staley’s cross while Alex Hoyle won a corner which Ben Palmer headed wide. The sense that it wasn’t going to be Town’s day was confirmed when a corner was cleared as far as Staley who curled a left footer off the bar from the edge of the box.
Peel fired the ball straight at Irish following another breakaway before Semmens pulled off a fine save, tipping Veal’s header wide after the Peacocks striker had met Shane White’s cross at the near post. The Larks embarrassed Town further with a third eight minutes from time, Alex Lambert getting free down the left before squaring to Peel who steered home past the exposed Irish. Egan fired a shot just wide while Semmens again denied Town a consolation, his clearance deflecting off White to Veal who saw his cross-shot touched over to conclude a cheerless afternoon and only Town’s second defeat in 25 matches.
By Andy Power
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Ross Staley, Owen Irish, Ed Palmer, Alex Hoyle, Shane White, Brett Trowbridge (captain) (Matt Buse 57), Craig Duff (Ben Palmer 54), Craig Veal, Ollie Chamberlain (Josh Searle 65). Unused subs: Matt Wright, Michael Meaker
Larkhall: Shaun Semmens, Stuart Tovey, Jamie Lyons, Matt Guy (captain), Ed Dryden, Geraint Bater (Dan Restorick 82), Josh Egan, Joe Raynes, Greg Peel, Joe Tumelty (Ben Brooks 72), Tom Knighton (Alex Lambert 65). Unused subs: Jack Allward, Neil Arndale
Referee: Colin Hubbard (Wimborne)
Assistants: Adam Baker (Poole), Takeshi Fujikara (Poole)