The 2023-24 season is up and running and the Peacocks made it a highly satisfactory start after fighting back from conceding an early goal to claim the points against last season’s play-off participants. The jolt of conceding a freak goal after just five minutes was quickly forgotten as Town went on to boss the majority of the game, drawing level in first half stoppage time before grabbing a deserved winner after the break.
The hosts gave competitive debuts to centre half Austen Booth, striker Malachi Linton and keeper Dan Lavercombe who did not begin his Town career in the manner he would have hoped. The Peacocks had made a bright start, delivering two early free kicks into the box but suddenly found themselves one down after just five minutes. Lavercombe caught a Braintree long throw into the box but when it came to redistributing the ball upfield he opted to roll it in front of him and his clearance cannoned off the advancing Iron forward Nnamdi Nwachuku to loop back over the beleaguered Taunton keeper into the net.
Town sought to regroup after that initial shock to the system but were soon forced to defend again, an awkward ball over the top carrying in the wind to reach Nwachuku and his cross was eventually dealt with. However the home side gradually began to gain the upper hand, Lloyd James prominent with a free kick straight to Braintree keeper Jack Sims and then skewing an effort high and wide from Zac Smith’s centre. A neat move down the left then threatened to pay dividends, a lovely pass from Nat Jarvis finding Dylan Morgan who moved inside and fired towards the far corner, but Sims was equal to it as he palmed it round the post.
The frustrating conditions continued to interfere with the flow, the gusty wind then being partnered by intermittent rain showers, but the Peacocks stuck to their task. After seeing off a brief interlude of Braintree pressure, they saw another James free kick into the mix which just wouldn’t fall for a claret and blue shirt before they found the net eight minutes before the break. A yellow card for a foul on Linton produced a James free kick towards the far post where Nick Grimes ran in to glance home. However, a raised flag for offside curtailed the celebrations.
Town weren’t done…..James played Linton through, but Sims smothered in the nick of time and Booth had his effort blocked before the screw was turned further during added time. After Sims had saved Smith’s close range effort, the ball was returned in for Linton whose header deflected for a corner. When this was cleared, Ollie Chamberlain delivered from the right and there was skipper Grimes to plant a header home for the equaliser three minutes into stoppage. No offside this time and no disputing how much it was merited.
The second half initially continued in the same vein. A Cameron Evans poke at goal deflected over which led to a trio of corners in quick succession as Town searched for a second. James released Chamberlain on the right, only for his cross to be cut out at the expense of yet another flag kick before the contest went flat for a while, the only moment of concern coming when penalty appeals from the Iron after Tom Blackwell went down in the box were dismissed. The Peacocks though were efficiently managing anything the visitors could offer.
Town made their first switch when Dave Sims-Burgess replaced Jarvis soon followed by Ross Stearn taking over from Morgan, with both substitutes playing a major part in the winner. Sims-Burgess was felled on the left and when James directed the free kick into the middle, Sims saved from Sims-Burgess’ first attempt at goal before Stearn, who had barely been on the pitch for a minute, reacted quickest to drill his finish into the roof of the net on 73 minutes.
Linton latched onto a James pass but was thwarted by Kyran Clements’ intervention while Chamberlain fired over from the edge of the box after a cleared James free kick but not adding a third goal was not an issue as the home side appeared comfortable. Lavercombe safely claimed a Blackwell strike before being forced into his most strenuous activity of the match during six minutes of stoppage time, Blackwell in space on the left curling in a 25 yarder which Lavercombe got down well to to push wide. There might have been another goal for Taunton as well, Sims-Burgess flicking the ball on to fellow sub Nick McCootie whose lob from the right side of the area was tipped over by Sims.
The Peacocks ran down the clock and it was job well done on the first step of the National League South marathon.
Taunton: Dan Lavercombe, Nick Grimes (captain), Austen Booth, Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Nat Jarvis (Dave Sims-Burgess 67), Joe Guest, Zac Smith, Cameron Evans, Dylan Morgan (Ross Stearn 72), Malachi Linton (Nick McCootie 83). Unused subs: Marcus Day, Lloyd Irish
Braintree: Jack Sims, Alfie Owen-Jones (Ben Tompkins 57), Toby Stevenson, Joe Grimwood, John White (captain) (Kyran Clements 74), Harry Beadle, Leon Davies (Reggie Lambe 79), Alfie Payne, Nnamdi Nwachuku, George Quantrell, Tom Blackwell. Unused subs: Jayden Smith, Josh Dawodu
Referee: Phillip Eddie (Plymouth)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Martin Underhay (Weymouth)
Referee’s Assistant 2: James Hooper (Bristol)
“I thought we were absolutely magnificent today in so many ways ……” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance MOM
Joe Guest receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from club sponsor Ian Lewis of 360 South West
Many thanks to our Matchday Mascots Tone Youth Hornets Under 12’s