Town let slip their hold on second place following an uninspiring performance at the Viridor Stadium. Already guaranteed their place in the play-offs, the Peacocks were unable to inject the necessary creativity into their game to overcome a well-organised Bideford side which might have left with more than a point had it not been for several decent Lloyd Irish saves.
The Peacocks side showed four changes from the weekend encounter with Bridgwater as manager Leigh Robinson introduced fresh legs and it was one of those returning players that should have given his team the lead after just 27 seconds. Attacking the Invest Southwest End, Ollie Chamberlain found Ross Staley out on the left and from his cross, Jordan Rogers ran in to steer his free header wide of the post.
The visitors then threatened when Sean Downing got on the end of Ben Wood’s high cross but saw his header turned aside by Lloyd Irish, with the loose ball blasted over by Ben Watson. Clear opportunities were infrequent though until Rogers headed down to Staley whose snap shot from just inside the box hit the post on its way out. Good work by Chamberlain then gave Pierce Mitchell the chance to cut inside and drive home a 25 yard shot acrobatically caught by Robins’ keeper Joe Moore.
Bideford continued to make inroads and Lloyd Irish had to be alert to smother Watson’s cross with Downing lurking. Potential damage from a poor goal kick was then averted by brother Owen with a great tackle on Chris McPhee before Town were thwarted just before half time when a Staley corner from the right was met by a near post Rogers’ header which was hacked off the line by Ian Sampson.
Bideford did get the ball in the net during the early part of the second half when Downing forced it over the line from a Steve Reed cross but his barge on Lloyd Irish in doing so cancelled the goal out. Play became frustratingly scrappier as the ball remained aerial for a good part of proceedings, with Town launches forward mopped up by the Robins’ defence, well marshalled by former Peacock Chris McGrath.
Valid penalty claims after Matt Wright had been dragged down were waved away by referee Scriven as Town enjoyed a spell of pressure which nearly ended with a breakthrough after Wright headed goalwards and Craig Duff nipped in but nodded wide. Collectively though Town were unable to get any rhythm going on a fine surface for football, frustratingly ironic given the 114 league goals scored during the campaign, many of which had come on far inferior pitches.
A long goal kick nearly caught the Peacocks out but Watson prodded wide under close attention before Rogers was inches away from connecting with a Staley corner at the opposite end. Bideford though were having the better openings and a breakaway saw Wood feed Downing whose strike was held by Irish who made an even better save when he dived to tip away a header from Downing who had ghosted onto a Matty Bye free kick.
Wood dragged another shot wide while a late surge from the home side failed to yield a clear opportunity as the game stumbled to a stalemate, a result which took the destiny of the runners-up spot out of Town hands but given the heroics of the season so far, the pinnacle of promotion is still very much achievable.
By Andy Power
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Ben Palmer (Craig Duff 58), Owen Irish, Matt Villis, Alex Hoyle (Shane White 45), Ollie Chamberlain, Brett Trowbridge (captain), Matt Wright (Craig Veal 68), Jordan Rogers, Ross Staley. Unused subs: Ross Staley, Ed Palmer
Bideford: Joe Moore, Ian Sampson, Steve Reed, Sean Downing, Chris McGrath, Dan Harrison, Matty Bye (captain), Chris McPhee (Billy Tucker 86), Ben Watson (Dan Western 70), Ben Wood, Matty Andrew. Unused subs: Will Richards, Nick Barker, Charlie Joyce
Referee: Craig Scriven (Wedmore)
Assistants: Samuel Fudge (Bristol), James Jarad (Winscombe)
Match Sponsor: JMT Plastering & Dry Lining
Matchball Sponsors: Tony Rutland, John Simms
Mascots: St Andrews Church School and Selworthy School