It was a day of firsts at Bulpit Lane as another impressive defensive performance secured Town’s first ever away win in the National League South and their first at the Crusaders’ ground after six previous visits which had culminated in five defeats and just a single point from a Southern League fixture. That statistic took a turn for the better courtesy of Jay Foulston’s matchwinner on the stroke of half time, reward for a first half of some positive football down the hill before the Peacocks had to withstand frequent pressure from the hosts after the break.
Town remained unchanged from the side that had beaten Chippenham five days previously, but they were nearly caught out within the opening 30 seconds when Adam Liddle broke free to fire a shot from range just over the bar. With the assistance of a sizeable and vocal travelling contingent, the visitors settled quickly though playing down the noticeable slope on a ground now boasting two further stands since the Peacocks last visited in 2013, and it wasn’t long before opportunities arrived. A Lloyd James free kick from the left reached Nick Grimes whose back header went wide before Lee Lucas found Ollie Chamberlain on the right and from his low cross, Nat Jarvis might have hoped to do better than prod over the top.
The bright start continued, with Dan Ball heading over from Foulston’s corner and Lucas picking out Zac Smith infield who scuffed an effort wide before Rhys Tyler broke away for Hungerford, but the threat faded when Liddle’s shot was blocked. Generally though it was the Peacocks who were looking the more potent, with the menacing Chamberlain, seeing plenty of ball down the right flank, having a strike held by home keeper Jed Ward. His opposite number Jack Bycroft was then quickly off his line to palm away ahead of the incoming Jake Evans before the Crusaders’ Ben Allen who had just replaced the injured Evans saw a shot deflect wide, from which the hosts’ Man of the Match Matt Berry-Hargreaves headed over.
Play became scrappy at times before Town were forced into their first switch on the half hour when Nick McCootie replaced Jarvis who felt a tweak in his calf. The hosts then enjoyed their best spell of the half, the Peacocks finding it difficult at times to clear their lines. Callum Willmoth drove a strike wide and Bycroft was called into action, Liddle’s ball across goal being met by Niko Muir who had his shot denied by the Town keeper’s leg. However the Peacocks ended the opening half strongly. Good work from Foulston after weaving his way into the box saw the ball run loose to McCootie whose powerful shot deflected over for a corner and after Smith had been felled on the edge of the box, earning Hungerford skipper James Rusby a yellow, the free kick from James was spilled by Ward but gathered at the second attempt after rebounding off Curtis Angell.
With 45 minutes played, Town grabbed the all-important winner. A throw down the right found Chamberlain who dinked a pass inside to Smith who in turn laid square to Foulston. Instead of a first time strike, he showed great composure to control, cut inside Tyler, and slide his finish past Ward from ten yards. Four minutes of stoppage time were safely negotiated to put the Peacocks ahead at the interval.
Now looking uphill, Town created an early chance when James’ pass reached Dave Sims-Burgess who turned well to fire in a shot which Ward pushed wide for a corner. Chamberlain and Smith then linked up, ending with the former curling a strike over from the right side. The Crusaders responded, winning three corners as they began to pressurize. Although the Peacocks often cleared the threat, the ball was increasingly coming straight back at them as the hosts searched for the equaliser. Grimes intercepted a dangerous cross from Kamaron English before the Town defence eventually scrambled clear after Rusby shaped to shoot from inside the box.
Ross Stearn replaced Sims-Burgess with just over 20 minutes to go which was soon followed by the final switch, Morgan taking over from Lucas, as Town sat deep and contended with the Crusaders’ crusade down the slope for the remainder of the game. Yet again though the Peacocks’ defence were up to the task as they continued to repel what was thrown at them although it took a brilliant save from Bycroft to preserve the lead after a long throw was flicked on and fell for Tyler whose header was touched wide by the Southampton loanee.
Town provided some relief through McCootie who kept the home defence busy with his strength and experience, winning a free kick from which James delivered and Grimes nipped in ahead of the defender to volley straight at Ward. Stearn also had an effort deflect over while Smith mishit a shot to the Hungerford keeper from Stearn’s cross. The home side piled forward as five minutes of stoppage time began but failed to produce anything clear cut, a great defensive blockage thwarting Joel Rollinson’s shot, as the Peacocks made it four matches unbeaten at Step 2. Despite the game having swung Hungerford’s way in the second half, for all their possession and pressure it says volumes for the industrious Town defence and team as a whole that the hosts created few clear chances. The victory lifts the Peacocks up to 9th in the table with just four goals conceded from seven games, the fewest in the division so far. Long may it continue 👍🦚
Taunton: Jack Bycroft, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Jake Wannell, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nat Jarvis (Nick McCootie 30), Zac Smith, Dave Sims-Burgess (Ross Stearn 68), Lee Lucas (Dylan Morgan 72). Unused subs: Joe Budd, Harry Warwick
Hungerford: Jed Ward, Curtis Angell, James Rusby (captain), Joel Rollinson, Callum Willmoth, Adam Liddle (Kamaron English 63), Jake Evans (Ben Allen 24), Niko Muir (Leighton Thomas 72), Matt Berry-Hargreaves, Rhys Tyler, Jerry Gyebi. Unused subs: George Smith, Kyle Bailey
Referee: Farai Hallam (Ilford)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Sean Jenkins (Southampton)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Martin Bloor (Lymington)
“Really pleased with this win today, we knew it was going to be hard and I wasn’t wrong…….” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights to follow
Mind In Somerset MOM
Dan Ball receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Chairman Kevin Sturmey