Two goals from top scorer Toby Holmes made it a memorable night at the Webbswood Stadium as the Peacocks fought back in the second half to reach their first ever Southern League Challenge Cup Final. The result means Town have now recorded a tremendous 12 successive wins in all competitions, but things did not get off to such a great start after they fell behind early on. However the confidence from a 17 match unbeaten run finally shone through after the break as they recovered to gain a deserved victory.
Town welcomed back Ioan Richards for his first action since early January while Joe Budd and Holmes also stepped back into the starting eleven on an ideal night for a Semi-Final although the public of Swindon obviously decided otherwise, preferring maybe to attend the counter-attraction of Swindon Town taking on Walsall less than 5 miles away which no doubt affected the measly gate of 127, the lowest crowd the Peacocks have played in front of all season. And the atmosphere hardly improved when the visitors found themselves one down after just six minutes. It stemmed from some unconvincing defending, culminating in Will Buse running outside his box to clear but only as far as Matt Britton whose cushioned pass found Kieran Phillips and the Bristol Rovers loan striker displayed a great piece of skill to lob the ball over the back-pedalling Buse from 30 yards.
Buse made a smart save from a low strike from Phillips before Town won their first corner, then a rapid fire second which ended with Dan Sullivan’s shot deflecting quietly to Martin Horsell. The Peacocks though were subdued for the first quarter of the contest in which the hosts looked the more positive side and eager to gain recompense for two defeats this season. Supermarine were not afraid to shoot from distance, George Dowling finding space to fire just wide and then Conor McDonagh’s shot was held by Buse before a cleared corner reached Dowling on the left and his cross found Britton who jinked through from the edge of the box but failed to get enough on his effort to beat Buse.
With the half hour approaching Town finally began to make some progress in the final third. Zac Smith found Sullivan infield and he advanced to fire a swerving shot narrowly over, then Sullivan again forced Horsell into a diving hold with a strike from 18 yards after he received Budd’s pass on the edge of the area. An incisive run from Smith in from the right might have had a better end result, setting up Sullivan for a shot which was blasted well over the top while Holmes just failed to connect with a cross and Foulston drilled over as Town started to give signs they were getting to grips with it as the half ended quietly.
Despite trailing at the interval for only the 6th time this season Town were hopeful of a turnaround for the second half as they attacked the Swindome End. However Marine enjoyed a busy opening to the half, with McDonagh making space in the box to fire over and then moving in from the left to fizz a drive just wide of the far post. McDonagh again pulled the trigger but this time his attempt was sliced well wide before an incident on the hour mark left the hosts feeling aggrieved following a collision between Buse and Phillips as the Marine striker tried to break clear. With the home fans baying for a red card, referee Finn consulted his assistant and opted for the yellow instead. The resultant free kick from Dowling was curled over.
Ross Stearn was immediately brought on for Richards and his presence was felt straight away, a cleared corner finding its way back to him on the left and Horsell making a sprawling stop from his low cross. McDonagh put a decent chance over the bar from a Phillips cross, but the momentum was swinging in Town’s favour and the increasing pressure paid off after 65 minutes when Town equalised, a long ball from Nick Grimes landing for Holmes inside the box and he deftly lifted the ball over Horsell for his 18th goal of the campaign.
The goal gave the Peacocks the shot in the arm required to go on and win the tie. Lloyd James threaded a pass through to Sullivan whose cut back unfortunately couldn’t pick out a teammate, then Foulston tested Horsell with a powerful strike from 20 yards. Another good build-up saw Sullivan’s effort deflect for a corner from which the Peacocks completed the turnaround with 12 minutes remaining. James’ flag kick was partially cleared but indecision cost them dear, Holmes needing no second invitation to rob the ball off a defender and fire home via Horsell into the far corner to spark wild celebrations from the travelling contingent.
One last moment of concern for Town came when they conceded a free kick on the left which was played short by Lewis Hall to Henry Spalding who drilled a shot over. However Town deservedly saw out the remainder of the tie and kept looking to add to the scoreline, Sullivan moving inside to fire over and then sub Ross Staley not potentially making the most of a breakaway. Five minutes of stoppage time were safely negotiated as the Peacocks made it a hat trick of wins over Marine this season to earn the right to take on Royston Town in the Final.
Taunton: Will Buse, Joe Budd, Jay Foulston, Ben Adelsbury (Nick Grimes 45), Jake Wannell, Lloyd James, Toby Holmes (Ross Staley 89), Dan Sullivan (captain), Joe Guest, Zac Smith, Ioan Richards (Ross Stearn 60). Unused subs: Jared Lewington, Connor Sidley-Adams
Supermarine: Martin Horsell, Pierce Mitchell, Lewis Hall, Tom Sharpe (Brad Hooper 71), Jamie Edge, Mat Liddiard (captain), Matt Britton, George Dowling (Henry Spalding 79), Kieran Phillips, Conor McDonagh, Tom Mehew (Ryan Campbell 79). Unused sub: Michael Hopkins
Referee: Robert Finn (Tidworth)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Kwame Hinson (Chippenham)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Steven Brenchley (Melksham)
” I thought we were really good value for that, especially the second half, played some fantastic football……” watch the Match Reaction of Rob Dray and Michael Meaker on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Match photos from Club Photographer Ashley Harris can be viewed HERE
Albert Goodman MOM
Zac Smith receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Coach Michael Meaker