The Peacocks battled back superbly to secure victory at the Loop Meadow Stadium for the fourth season in succession and give a further boost to their play-off aspirations. Not only did Town cancel out home goals on two occasions but overcame the disappointment of failing to convert a potential match winning penalty to persevere and pouch a winner as time ticked away.
Traffic congestion on the M4 did not provide the best preparation, the Peacocks arriving later than planned but this did not deter them from enjoying a promising start, Shane White rasping a 20 yard strike the wrong side of the post. However Didcot provided an early reminder that they could not be taken lightly when a long throw was flicked on to find Stuart Cattell who blasted an effort across the face of goal and wide.
Ed Palmer, back in the side after his three game suspension, launched a throw from the right which got a touch to reach Matt Wright but his header was scooped away by Railwaymen keeper Leigh Bedwell as the game began to ebb and flow. First blood though went to the hosts who grabbed the lead after 17 minutes when a quick break from a clearance found George Reid and his reverse pass released Louis Joyce who finished with some aplomb, slanting a strike into the far corner from the right side of the six yard box.
Town responded immediately, Craig Veal shielding the ball to set up White for a shot which was turned wide by Bedwell and from the corner Owen Irish nodded over. Palmer then skimmed in a free kick from the right but again the Didcot keeper was positioned to jump and catch Wright’s header. Ollie Chamberlain, who was one of three Peacock team changes from the weekend outing to Winchester, was also in the midst of the action, and his assist helped Town restore parity on 23 minutes. Wright won another aerial battle to find Chamberlain and he picked a gap to put Veal in the clear to clip the ball past the oncoming Bedwell.
Didcot were proving a different proposition to the side which had been comfortably dispatched several weeks earlier at the Viridor Stadium, stretching play out wide and finding space rather too freely, and Lloyd Irish had to be alert to clutch a Callum McNish drive low down. However it was Town who enjoyed the lion’s share of opportunities up to the break. Wright’s astute crossfield pass found White to tee up Chamberlain but the shot was blocked and then another ball from Wright released Veal who jetted in from the right flank but pulled his attempt across goal and wide. Josh Searle met Veal’s centre but Sam Elkins got another block in to leave affairs evenly poised after a first half in which the pace hardly dropped.
Another encouraging start to the second half from Town was tempered when Joyce latched onto a poor goal kick but fired wide under pressure from Alex Hoyle before three minutes of controversy threatened to derail Peacock hopes. Brett Trowbridge evaded one tackle in the box but not a second and went down but with the away support expecting referee Simpson to point to the spot, he instead booked the Town skipper for alleged simulation. Then Trowbridge was deemed to have pulled down Reid on the right byeline at the opposite end and Ben Whitehead converted the penalty to give Didcot the advantage on 58 minutes.
Jordan Rogers entered the fray with just under half an hour to go, replacing Matt Wright who was suffering from a neck strain, and blasted a shot well wide before a header from George Jeacock flew over the bar as Town were kept busy with Didcot counters while upping the pressure on the home goal in search of a second equaliser. It paid off with 16 minutes remaining when Rogers received the ball on the left and found Veal who dinked a pass to Chamberlain to bustle through and steer home from six yards.
Didcot continued to mop up the vast majority of second balls and ricochets which never made it easy for the visitors who stood firm against another home surge, McNish seeing two shots blocked as they went for a winner. It was Town though who were presented with the key to the three point door on 82 minutes after Sam Barder had been adjudged to have impeded Mitchell. Bedwell guessed correctly though and dived to deflect the penalty from Rogers to safety.
Despair turned to delight only two minutes later though when the Peacocks notched the crucial third. Owen Irish headed down a White free kick, Rogers strike was saved by Bedwell but Irish was on hand to drive the loose ball into the net for his 13th goal of the season and spark jubilant scenes among the travelling faithful on the terrace. Thankfully there were no further causes for concern as Town saw out the remainder of time to gain a crucial three points and get that bit closer to the two sides above them in the South and West Division table.
By Andy Power
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Josh Searle, Owen Irish, Ed Palmer (Ross Staley 71), Alex Hoyle, Shane White, Brett Trowbridge (captain), Matt Wright (Jordan Rogers 61), Craig Veal (Matt Buse 89), Ollie Chamberlain. Unused subs: Ben Palmer, Matt Villis
Didcot: Leigh Bedwell, Sam Elkins, James Organ (Taylor Janes 76), Andy Ballard, Stuart Cattell, Adam Learoyd (captain), Sam Barder, Callum McNish, Ben Whitehead, Louis Joyce (Jack Longford 76), George Reid (George Jeacock 61). Unused subs: Ollie Thomas, Harry Whitehead
Referee: Craig Simpson (Crawley)
Assistants: Martin Tudor (Stonehouse), Thomas Green (Carterton)