Town brought up their century of goals for the first time ever in a Southern League season with a generally stress-free victory over their mid-table visitors from the hills above Nailsworth. The Gloucestershire club had toppled Tiverton in their previous game but rarely looked capable of repeating that success against a Peacocks side which stretched their unbeaten run to eleven matches on a perfect night for football at the Viridor Stadium.
Although the scoreline was comfortable in the end, it took Town some time to get the engine running properly despite only one team change from the weekend win over Bishops Cleeve, the returning Owen Irish replacing the injured Matt Villis. Craig Veal laid the ball across from the right for an early sniff after three minutes but Ross Staley looped his effort into the arms of debutant Wood keeper Josh Langley. Another cross from Veal was then helped on by Ollie Chamberlain and eventually fell for Pierce Mitchell whose strike was blocked by Langley’s legs while Rogers directed a header from Mitchell’s centre just over the bar.
For all their attacking intent though, Town were struggling to inject punch into their quest for a breakthrough, with many raids lacking the cutting edge to breach a Shortwood defence well marshalled by ex-Peacocks Ed Weeks and Nick Peare. A long ball from Alex Hoyle picked out Rogers on the right side of the area but his left footed shot was smothered by Langley at his post while Mitchell’s rising shot rose too much as it fizzed over five minutes from the half time whistle. In comparison, Shortwood were even more devoid of any menace in the opening half, a Matt Bennett cross which landed on top of the net feasibly being the closest they came to causing problems.
Whilst the first half was rather tame fare for the highest crowd of the season for a home midweek League game, the second proved altogether more appetising. Town were more energised from the start, Staley rifling a shot over the angle inside the first minute and Rogers seeing his strike parried away by Langley before Mitchell hooked a left-foot half volley onto the crossbar and over. Langley punched a Shane White corner away as Owen Irish was about to connect and then kept his side level again when he blocked Veal’s close range volley at his near post as Town cranked up the pressure.
Shortwood finally threatened just past the hour mark when Chris Withington broke downfield and found Hayden Turner who got wide of Lloyd Irish but his attempt from a tight angle was bundled away at the post by the covering Brett Trowbridge. The Peacocks responded when Langley’s punched clearance fell to Rogers whose attempt again hit a body with the keeper out of position and then Veal fired into the side netting before Irish made his only real save of the evening, diving to turn Adam Price’s strike around the post.
With twenty minutes left on the clock, Town got the breakthrough their second half display merited. Rogers headed on White’s corner, the ball falling amongst a crowd of players for Owen Irish to shoot goalwards and with the visitors frantically trying to clear their lines, Hoyle was on hand at the back post to joyously force over the line. Veal then made it 16 goals for the campaign just a minute later, a cross from Owen Irish reaching him twelve yards out and a swift turn and rapier left foot shot billowed the roof of the net.
Price dipped a shot just over when Shortwood finally managed to rediscover the opposition half but Town were in no mood to surrender their lead as they continued to stretch the visitors and killed the game off with nine minutes remaining. Rogers found space on the right and his delivery reached Staley who applied the coup de grace with a slanted half volley across Langley and into the corner, the concluding goal to a game expertly officiated by referee Rothwell and another three point haul to put further daylight between the Peacocks and the chasing pack.
By Andy Power
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell (Josh Searle 83), Ross Staley (Ben Palmer 83), Owen Irish, Ed Palmer, Alex Hoyle, Shane White, Brett Trowbridge (captain), Jordan Rogers, Craig Veal (Matt Buse 79), Ollie Chamberlain. Unused sub: Michael Meaker
Shortwood: Josh Langley, Sonny Lowe, Matt Bennett (captain) (Rob Humphreys 79), Ed Weeks, Nick Peare, Chris Withington, Sam Mendes, Jack Freeman, Hayden Turner, Adam Price (Nathan Marks 76), Nick Humphreys. Unused subs: Will Morford, Steve Davies, Nick Hancock
Referee: Sean Rothwell (Plymouth)
Assistants: Oliver Green (Plymouth), Mark Senior (Plymouth)
Match Sponsor: Matthew Conridge
Match Ball Sponsor: Ivan Russ and Family
Mascots: Falcon Golden Goal Academy