Town snatched a stoppage time goal to claim the league double over their visitors from Hampshire. Was it deserved? Probably not. Was it pretty? Definitely not. Was it important? Undoubtedly, as despite an unconvincing performance a win is a win and this particular one lifts the Peacocks up to 8th spot to keep them in touching distance of the play-off places.
With Ben Adelsbury replacing the suspended Jake Wannell being the only change from their last outing at Walton Casuals a week earlier, Town made a decent enough start. Ross Stearn saw an early shot blocked before lifting a cross into Toby Holmes whose header beat Hartley keeper Tom Williams but not the crossbar after eight minutes. A minute later though and the visitors were ahead. Will Buse punched away a cross from Jordan Edwards to concede a corner which was cleared as far as Edwards on the edge of the area and his deliberately executed strike had enough to beat the Peacocks’ keeper to find the net.
Matters very nearly went from bad to worse moments later when Adelsbury and Buse got in a defensive pickle, the beneficiary being Kofi Halliday who seized the ball and looked odds on to double the score with the goal open. However Ioan Richards made a brilliant tackle to prevent the ball crossing the line. The hosts continued to look somewhat ragged at the back for a spell, with the Row carving out other openings. Sam Argent failed to connect with Khalid Simmo’s cross, then Simmo himself lashed a shot high and wide from an angle. Town gradually settled and after Joe Guest had curled a strike wide, they equalised after 28 minutes. Jay Foulston sent in a corner from the right, Adelsbury headed back into the middle at the far post and Nick Grimes was on hand to volley home into the roof of the net from close range.
Boosted by the goal Town sought out another before the break, forcing Williams into two good stops. Firstly Joe Budd’s pass teed up Ollie Chamberlain for a low shot which the Hartley keeper turned wide at his near post, then after Foulston’s free kick had cannoned off the wall, his follow-up effort ricocheted to Adelsbury, and Williams kept out his attempt with his legs. The visitors reminded the Peacocks of their threat when Edwards put Simmo clear, but he steered his shot the wrong side of the post, leaving the game evenly poised at half time.
The second half was often played in thick drizzle which seemed in keeping with the match unfolding, with neither side being able to produce the necessary final ball or finish to get their noses in front. Foulston’s strike looked destined for great things until defender Ryan Case got in the way while Chamberlain cut in but dragged his shot wide and then Hill, who had replaced Budd four minutes into the half, fired high and wide of the target from the edge of the box. Halliday lashed a shot into the side netting for Hartley and a diving header from Edwards flew over the top as the game fluctuated from end to end. Williams remained the busier keeper, parrying a Foulston drive and then safely holding Hill’s downward header before punching clear a Holmes cross with Hill waiting. Buse was then called into action when he touched wide an angled strike from Matt Drage.
Jared Lewington replaced Holmes with just over ten minutes left on the clock and soon saw a shot held but with neither side able to create a clear opportunity the contest appeared to be dwindling to a slow death. Josh Webb fired over from distance and Edwards drove a ball across the box and wide while Hill blasted another shot well wide for the hosts and when Adelsbury was forced to go off to continue Town’s wretched luck with injuries this season it was almost time to call it quits.
However there was one last throw of the dice. Stearn’s free kick three minutes into added time was launched into the box, Richards rose to plant a header against the post and the loose ball fell to Hill to slot home to claim an unlikely win and extend Town’s unbeaten run to five matches. The display may have been more stuffed turkey at times than festive sparkler but as previously stated, a win’s a win.
Taunton: Will Buse, Joe Budd (Gethyn Hill 50), Jay Foulston, Ben Adelsbury (Jack Veale 90), Nick Grimes (captain), Ollie Chamberlain, Toby Holmes (Jared Lewington 79), Joe Guest, Ross Stearn, Zac Smith, Ioan Richards. Unused subs: Ross Staley, Lloyd Irish
Hartley Wintney: Tom Williams, Ryan Case, Leo Hamblin, Matt Drage, Aaron Goode, Harrison Bayley, Josh Webb, Jordan Edwards, Sam Argent (captain) (Adam Allen 61), Khalid Simmo (Reece Wylie 84), Kofi Halliday (Kingsley Eshun 57). Unused subs: Harry Taylor, Steven Noakes
Referee: Andrew Hobbs (Radstock)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Ryan Blackman (Bath)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Ella Broad (Westbury)
“It’s all about the win today and that’s it, it’s all about the win…” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Albert Goodman MOM
Ross Stearn receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Club Photographer Colin Andrews