A comfortable victory at Western Leaguers Bitton got the Peacocks’ pre-season schedule off to a winning start. The scoreline doesn’t reflect the number of opportunities which Town failed to put away during the 90 minutes but other than that for an opening friendly it all went to plan.
The Peacocks were on the front foot from the start, Ross Stearn dragging a shot wide early on from Jared Lewington’s chest down while new recruit from Bath City Dan Ball prodded over from a Lloyd James’ cross and the returning Nick McCootie had a strike blocked. Joe Guest was then inches away from getting on the end of Stearn’s centre and Lewington robbed Bitton defender Jamie Turner but fired straight at keeper Matt Dunk.
The pressure told on 22 minutes when Liam Monelle flattened McCootie and Stearn sent Dunk the wrong way from the penalty spot. The one way traffic continued as Town played plenty of good football going forward, with Budd sweeping just over from the edge of the box and then McCootie blasting over from Guest’s pass before curling another effort wide. When Zac Smith’s cross deflected off Syd Partridge to hit the post, it seemed just a matter of time before further goals would materialise. Lewington lifted the ball over the top from James’ pass and Jay Foulston’s shot was kept out by Dunk at his near post, but Bitton kept the deficit to a single goal at the break, with the returning Lloyd Irish in the Peacocks’ goal a virtual spectator.
A double substitution at the break saw debutant striker Dave Sims-Burgess appear along with trialist Freddie Hinds, and it was only six minutes in before the Peacocks doubled their lead. Budd weaved in from the left to see his shot turned over by Dunk and from the James’ corner that followed, Ball’s header squeezed between defender and far post to find the net.
The hosts had a rare opening soon after when Town conceded a free kick just outside the box, but Joe Lennox’s shot hit the wall. It then was back to the other end, with Hinds’ shot striking the post and then Dunk failing to hold a James free kick but the danger was cleared in the nick of time as Sims-Burgess looked to pounce. A bullet header from McCootie whistled over from Foulston’s cross before the new signing from Weston was out of luck again when his header was blocked on the line from a Foulston corner.
Two goals in the last ten minutes brought a truer reflection of the game. Hinds pass to substitute Harry Warwick was slotted past Dunk on 80 minutes and Warwick added his second with four minutes to go when he deftly tucked home James’ long ball to conclude a pleasant evening’s entertainment.
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Joe Budd (Ioan Richards 61), Jay Foulston, Nick Grimes (captain), Dan Ball, Lloyd James, Joe Guest (Lewis Smith 80), Ross Stearn (Dave Sims-Burgess 45), Zac Smith (Conor Hartley 80), Jared Lewington (Freddie Hinds 45), Nick McCootie (Harry Warwick 69). Unused sub: Ollie Chamberlain
Bitton: Matt Dunk, Liam Monelle (Fletcher Cripps 74), Jordan Williams (Jack Dempsey 69), Syd Partridge, Jamie Turner, Archie Thayer, Ash Kendall, Dean Griffiths (captain), Joe Lennox, Callum Baker (Harvey Smith 83), Jack Shephard (Matt Hughes 58)
Referee: Andrew Sheppard (Gloucester)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Ben Williamson (Melksham)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Richard Morris (Bristol)
Head of Football Rob Dray commented:” The game served our purpose well. It was important to get some rustiness out the legs in a match environment and start building up the fitness for the season ahead and with no injuries it was all positive. I thought we played some decent stuff considering it was our first game and I thought the new lads settled in very nicely. If I had one criticism it would be the number of chances we missed but all in all a satisfactory start to pre-season.”
Unfortunately the game was not filmed so no highlights are available
Match photos from Club Photographers Ashley Harris and Darren Harris can be viewed HERE