The Peacocks steadied the ship after two defeats on the bounce with a well-earned point at the Melbourne Community Stadium. Their first half display was particularly assured when they looked the more cohesive unit against an outfit which had reached last season’s Play-Offs, but as in the previous outing at Bath, second half syndrome crept in with City gaining the upper hand. However Town dug in to share the spoils and register a second clean sheet on their league travels in 23/24.
Head of Football Rob Dray tweaked the formation for the visit to Essex, with the strike pairing of Nat Jarvis and Ross Stearn being replaced by Nick McCootie and Dylan Morgan and for the opening 45 minutes the switch worked a treat, with the only thing missing being a crucial goal. An expansive early run from City’s Ody Alfa was snuffed out before the visitors settled and began to create some openings. Only four minutes had elapsed when Morgan’s cross was touched down by Zac Smith for Jay Foulston to drill narrowly over. Austen Booth’s diagonal pass then found Smith again and his knockdown fell for McCootie whose instinctive effort squeezed inches above the bar while Clarets’ keeper Josh Oluwayemi eventually gathered Morgan’s curling cross at the second attempt.
The hosts posted their first attempt when Charlie Ruff steered a header off-target from a Jermaine Francis cross while Francis himself got on the end of Alfa’s centre to prod wide, however the more purposeful play was coming from Town as they incurred deep into enemy territory down either flank. After a Lloyd James free kick had ricocheted around the box, it fell for Morgan whose strike was blocked by a City defender, with appeals for handball falling on deaf ears. A clearer opportunity arose minutes later when good work from Morgan on the left produced a cross to just beyond the far post where Ollie Chamberlain lashed it into the side netting.
The Peacocks continued to control the game up until the break but frustratingly could not find a goal some of their football merited. McCootie, a massive irritant to the Chelmsford defence all afternoon, was unceremoniously upended by former Taunton player Callum Watts who received a yellow for his troubles, with the Town No 10 then finding Booth who in turn fed Chamberlain inside, Oluwayemi diving to claim the shot. The City keeper made an even more important contribution three minutes before the break when he foiled Morgan from close range after Smith’s cross found him alone at the near post. That missed chance meant it remained goalless at the break although City did enjoy their most threatening moment of the half during the four added minutes, Francis in space to deliver towards Charlie Ruff but Lee Lucas executed a perfect interception to clear the danger for the home side’s only corner of the first 45 minutes.
Rewind four days earlier and a scenario had evolved at Twerton Park with Town very much in the contest at the interval before their impetus declined in the second half while their opponents stepped up a gear as they went on to claim victory. It was a similar sort of story against the Clarets with the crucial difference being that this time the Peacocks contained their hosts who emerged with renewed intent for the second half. Lucas was caught in possession early on, allowing Callum Jones to make ground on the left before seeing his shot tipped over by keeper Dan Lavercombe. Two corners ensued which were defended before home shouts for a penalty were answered with a booking for City’s Cameron James for simulation while Ben Brookes blasted an effort high over the top. Another spot kick appeal after Jones went down was also waved away.
The Peacocks weathered the Chelmsford storm and had what turned out to be their best opening of the half just before the hour. A long clearance from James saw McCootie outmuscle the defender, stride into the box but make the angle too tight and Oluwayemi was able to block his attempt at his post, the only real time the City shotstopper had to make a save of note in the second half.
Dave Sims-Burgess was introduced as the first Town sub when he took over from Morgan before McCootie chested down a Booth cross to turn and fire over the bar. This proved his final contribution to what was an excellent performance and he limped gingerly off the pitch accompanied by his signature tune being bellowed out by the Peacock faithful.
Stearn was the new man but in truth had little opportunity to make an impression as the visitors needed to nail down the defences in the final stages. Lucas rifled a strike wide from distance, which was the last real effort of note for Town as Chelmsford pressed to avoid their third consecutive draw. Francis was brought down by Lucas in a dangerous central position, but Lavercombe safely held Samir Carruthers’ free kick before Nick Grimes misjudged the ball and Ruff was suddenly through on the right to fire narrowly adrift of the far post.
A couple of late corners for City jangled nerves further before Dan Ball replaced Smith as six minutes of added time began. Cue candidate for save of the season…… City’s new loanee from Ipswich Town Finley Barbrook let fly from the edge of the box and his shot took a wicked deflection off James but Lavercombe reacted with an outstanding tip over, pawing it away as it flew towards the top corner 😍 Ruff managed a last ditch effort when he spun onto Zech Obiero’s assist but the shot had the sting taken out of it by a deflection and Lavercombe did the rest.
A proverbial game of two halves with a draw being a fair result on the day. It’s now three games without finding the net for the Peacocks though, a stat they will need to address quickly with a heavy programme upcoming in November.
Taunton: Dan Lavercombe, Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Austen Booth, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nick McCootie (Ross Stearn 75), Zac Smith (Dan Ball 90+1), Cameron Evans, Dylan Morgan (Dave Sims-Burgess 67), Lee Lucas. Unused subs: Nat Jarvis, Marcus Day
Chelmsford: Joshua Oluwayemi, Cameron James, Ben Brookes, Mo Bettamer, Callum Jones, Jermaine Francis (Zech Obiero 88), Charlie Ruff, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb (captain), Ody Alfa (Samir Carruthers 66), Callum Watts (Finley Barbrook 38) , Henry Ochieng. Unused subs: Anthony Wordsworth, Josh Castiglione
Referee: Shelby Elson (Aldershot)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Christopher Hastings (Colchester)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Steven Parmenter (Southend)
“It was important we didn’t lose today, I think that was the most crucial thing……” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights to follow
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance MOM
Dan Lavercombe receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Peacocks’ supporter John Vile