The Peacocks won through to the 1st Round of the League Challenge Cup following a penalty shoot-out win against a Willand side containing five players who have appeared for Town in recent seasons.
The competition is often used by clubs, Town included, to give game time to fringe, reserve and youth players but both sides named familiar-looking starting line-ups. Not that this made much difference in a slow start to proceedings, with chances hard to come by. Ryan Brett, making his first start of the campaign, fired a free kick over while Dan Sullivan’s 20 yard effort went the same way, then another Brett free kick was cleared and Ed Palmer launched the ball back into the box from midfield which Mike Searle fumbled but managed to hold.
Willand in reply had no more luck. Douglas Camilo put the first attempt of the evening wide of the target, then Lloyd Irish was alert to push Rob Norrish’s looping header out for a corner as Craig Veal threatened. However, it was the visitors who broke the stalemate after 32 minutes, Dean Stamp finding Ben Bickle on the left side and despite whiffs of offside he took the ball in his stride to fire past Irish who got a hand on the shot but couldn’t keep it out.
Attacking the Invest Southwest End, Town inched closer with Josh Grant squeezing in a shot which Mike Searle turned aside and then a wicked cross from Lewis Hall was headed narrowly wide by Shane White. Despite some tidy football though the hosts were unable to cut through and were lucky not to go further behind two minutes into the second half when Stamp put Veal clear on the right but with Irish advancing the former Peacocks striker put his effort wide of the far post.
Camilo had another shot saved low down by Irish before Town were reduced to ten men after 54 minutes. A slack Palmer pass was seized by Bickle who was pulled down by Nick Grimes 20 yards out and referee Pearson deemed the defender to have prevented a goalscoring opportunity and was red carded to everyone’s astonishment. Irish turned Camilo’s resultant free kick around the post.
Town made a double substitution on the hour mark and one of the replacements Matt Wright was soon contributing, sending in a low cross which was just too far ahead of Sullivan. A good run by Jamie Short then led to the equaliser on 64 minutes as he took stock before laying a pass back to Ollie Chamberlain just outside the area and his drive whistled past Searle.
Despite being a man down, the Peacocks were on top and edged ahead after 71 minutes when Chamberlain was brought down just outside the area and Palmer found the net with the free kick via a slight deflection off the underside of the wall. Willand were not out of it though and Camilo was unlucky to see his free kick crash off the woodwork, with Irish clutching the follow-up header from Veal.
Town had further opportunities, Wright’s flick from a goal kick giving Sullivan an opening but he rushed it and blasted over while keeper Searle was surprised by a strong backpass by namesake Josh and then pouched Zac Smith’s shot. Unfortunately though, the Peacocks’ defending became sloppier as the minutes ticked away. A poor pass reached Luke Mortimore whose shot was saved by Irish who also acrobatically claimed Veal’s close range effort, then another strike from Mortimore. More loose play led to Willand drawing level four minutes into stoppage time, the Peacocks not clearing their lines and Mortimore capitalising to drill home a fine finish inside Irish’s post.
With the scores level at the final whistle, the tie was decided on penalties taken at the Innovation By Design End. Bickle netted the first kick for Willand before Sullivan and Will Richards both hit the post and Smith scored to make it 1-1. Camilo’s penalty hit the crossbar, allowing Short to fire in for a 2-1 lead. Josh Searle levelled, and Chamberlain also hit the bar to leave the shoot-out poised at 2-2. Veal and Ryan Guppy were successful for Willand and White and Wright reciprocated for Town. With the score at 4-4 Aiden Moyle fired his attempt over the bar, giving Irish the chance to steer home the winning penalty and send Town through.
Match: Taunton Town vs Willand Rovers
Date: September 11, 2019
Competition: Southern League Challenge Cup Preliminary Round
Venue: Cygnet Health Care Stadium
Kick Off: 7.45pm
Taunton: Lloyd Irish (captain), Shane White, Lewis Hall, Josh Grant (Jamie Price 59), Ed Palmer, Nick Grimes, Ollie Chamberlain, Ryan Brett (Jamie Short 45), Dan Sullivan, Zac Smith, Andrew Neal (Matt Wright 59). Unused subs: Naby Diallo, Bradley Webb
Willand: Mike Searle, Josh Searle, Will Richards, Adam Hill, Ryan Guppy, Rob Norrish, Craig Veal, Joe Curtis (captain) (Aiden Moyle 78), Dean Stamp (Luke Mortimore 68), Douglas Camilo, Ben Bickle. Unused subs: Brett Worbey, David Steele
Referee: Stacey Pearson (Bristol)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Ryan Cornelius (Plymouth)
Referee’s Assistant 2: George Gross (Wellington)
The Albert Goodman Man Of The Match