What a difference three days make….the Cygnet is fast becoming an ugly duckling for Town as they nosedived to their third home National League defeat in succession. You would have to go back 14 years to March 2009 to find the last time the Peacocks endured such an unwanted hat trick in League fixtures when a loss to AFC Totton on 11th March sparked a sequence of four home defeats on the spin, and against their visitors from West London they were again well off the pace as they were unable to build on their excellent weekend win at Tonbridge.
The Taunton side showed two changes from the victory in Kent, with Lee Lucas coming back in for Cameron Evans and Nick McCootie replacing Ross Stearn who was absent after having eye treatment. And the early play saw Town looking fairly confident as they attacked the Travis Perkins End. A corner won inside the first minute was cleared and when Jay Foulston returned the ball in from the right, Dave Sims-Burgess flicked a header just wide. Zac Smith then did well but saw his cross cleared and Sims-Burgess had an effort blocked before the woodwork rescued the Beavers on ten minutes, keeper Alan Julian kicking away Ollie Chamberlain’s driven cross from the right which fell for Sims-Burgess whose improvised back-heeled volley hit the post.
Hampton had posed little threat until they broke the deadlock after 18 minutes with their first opportunity, an aerial challenge for Jake Gray’s corner falling loose and Town were slow to react, allowing Luis Fernandez to take advantage and rifle into the net. The Peacocks were not behind for long as they levelled ten minutes later. Moments after McCootie had sent a strike just wide of the post, a high ball over the top was chested down by Sims-Burgess who ran through to tuck home past Julian.
The industrious Sims-Burgess then fed Chamberlain who shot wide from the edge of the box before the game went to sleep leading up to the interval with little happening at either end. That is until two minutes before the break when Town sloppily lost possession, allowing Alfy Whittingham to break down the middle to find Adrian Clifton and from his lay-off Borough skipper Gray curled his finish beyond Lloyd Irish into the far corner to give his side an interval lead.
The Peacocks needed a big second half to overturn the deficit, as they had so ably demonstrated three days earlier. Unfortunately for the vast majority of the 456 crowd, the lowest League attendance at the Cygnet since December 2021, there was to be no repeat. Smith showed some early promise when he weaved in from the right but delivered his cross straight out before the visitors were close to adding a third, Clifton breaking down the left and getting into the box but thankfully Irish made a fine block and when the loose ball fell to Clifton again, his second effort was kicked away by Jake Wannell just ahead of the goal line.
Nat Jarvis replaced McCootie just before the hour as Town attempted to improve their fortunes. A quickly taken free kick by Lucas sent Wannell on a run but his shot was easy pickings for Julian who, in keeping with other visiting keepers of late, had very little to do. After 64 minutes, Hampton effectively sealed their first League win on the road since winning at Chelmsford in November. Gray’s corner was flicked on at the near post by Luke Jenkins and Fernandez lunged in at the opposite stick to net his second goal of the evening.
Town quickly introduced their two remaining substitutes over the next five minutes, with Dylan Morgan replacing Dan Ball and Lloyd James taking over from Joe Guest but in truth this made little difference as home attacks remained impotent. It was the visitors who should have added salt into the wound when more casual defending enabled Whittingham to go clear but with Irish advancing he dinked his effort narrowly wide of the far post. Ruaridh Donaldson’s strike was safely held by Irish while at the other end Borough continued to deal efficiently with some aimless long balls and any crosses or set pieces into the box.
Sims-Burgess whose perseverance won him the Man of the Match award did have a brief opening close to time but delayed his shot allowing a defender to block while five minutes of stoppage time was never likely to overturn the 90 minutes that had gone before, with Wannell’s blocked attempt from a Morgan cross being the only credible opportunity. Defeat leaves Town in 17th spot but another step towards an uncomfortable finish to the season. With games next up against two sides also fighting to stave off relegation, the Peacocks know they cannot afford inadequate displays at either end of the pitch if they wish to avoid the scrap for National League survival.
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball (Dylan Morgan 64), Jake Wannell, Ollie Chamberlain, Nick McCootie (Nat Jarvis 57), Joe Guest (Lloyd James 68), Zac Smith, Dave Sims-Burgess, Lee Lucas. Unused sub: Cameron Evans
Hampton & Richmond: Alan Julian, Luke Jenkins, Dean Inman, Luis Fernandez, Alfy Whittingham, Jake Gray (captain) (Connor Kurran-Browne 85), Dan Wishart, James Comley (Jordan Thomas 45), Sam Deadfield, Adrian Clifton (Ruaridh Donaldson 78), Shane Dunne. Unused subs: Daniel Rowe, Endurance Johnson
Referee: Farai Hallam (New Malden)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Steven Swan (Truro)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Mark Hickson (Newton Abbot)
“Disappointing not to take what we had on Saturday into today……” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match Highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Mind In Somerset MOM
Dave Sims-Burgess was named the Taunton Town Man Of The Match, photo to follow