Since the Peacocks first became members of the Southern League back in 1977 and then rejoined in 2002, they had never progressed past the Quarter Final stage of the Southern League Cup. That all changed with a competent victory over their Division South visitors on a chilly night at the Cygnet Health Care Stadium.
Rob Dray’s pre-match preparations had been thrown into disarray earlier in the day. Already missing the suspended Jared Lewington, injured Ioan Richards and Jake Wannell and Joe Budd who is trialling at Swindon Town, striking duo Toby Holmes and Gethyn Hill also pulled out because of illness. The Peacocks’ revised frontline Dan Sullivan and Ross Stearn soon combined though, Stearn seeing a drive swerve just wide. It was Rovers though who grabbed the initiative early on, taking the lead after four minutes when Ed Butcher’s ball inside found Liban Ibrahim, his shot was blocked but deflected to David O’Hare who scooped it over Will Buse from eight yards.
Town responded and were unlucky not to equalise after 11 minutes when Stearn hooked a pass down the right which Sullivan latched onto and drilled a strike against the post. Sullivan again came close when he controlled Zac Smith’s centre to turn and fire in a shot which Paulton keeper Aaron Sainsbury pushed wide. The Peacocks though always had to be alert to a pacy Paulton on the counter-attack and on one such occasion Ibrahim set up Nathan Brown for a shot which he deposited in the car park.
Taunton continued to create openings, with Ross Staley, making his first start since October, finding Sullivan who shot wide, then a fine Staley cross was punched clear to Stearn who didn’t connect cleanly while a Staley corner was nodded wide by Joe Guest. The intent paid off after 27 minutes when the Peacocks got back on level terms, Ollie Chamberlain crossing from the left to find Sullivan on the penalty spot and he calmly sidefooted past Sainsbury into the bottom corner.
Paulton then enjoyed a decent spell, during which Butcher rifled a strike narrowly over from the left side of the box before the same player outmanoeuvred his man to get in a shot which Buse parried. For all that though it was the Peacocks who were in the driving seat at the interval after they went ahead with a scrappy goal on 40 minutes. Stearn picked out Sullivan on the right and his volleyed cross deflected off Leo Eglin to Sainsbury who palmed it onto Chamberlain and over the line.
The second half was only three minutes old when Town created some daylight with goal number three. Lloyd James pass down the right was nicely flicked on by half time substitute Acey Mead to Sullivan whose shot ricocheted to Staley at the far post, and he slotted home past Sainsbury. The pressure was maintained during the first 20 or so minutes of the half. A good move ended with Stearn having a shot saved while Kyle Anderson was too close to his own goal for comfort when he cleared a cross before Town’s passage was effectively sealed with a fourth goal after 63 minutes, Stearn’s cross from the left being met by Nick Grimes volley which flew across goal to Mead who, despite going down after being caught by Neil Martin, showed great instinct to find the top corner whilst getting to his feet. Mead, who was awarded the Man of the Match for his display, was one of three Bridgwater and Taunton College students to feature on the night and all acquitted themselves well against good quality opposition.
Despite the deficit, Rovers kept plugging away and Buse was called into service again when he got down well to push away George Fowler’s shot from 12 yards. The Town keeper then punched away Ibrahim’s header from a free kick, the clearance falling to Fowler whose effort was safely gathered before Martin flicked a header just over from another Will Harvey free kick. Mead was then a fraction away from claiming his second of the evening ten minutes from time when a James free kick downfield was nodded on by Smith to the young striker whose glanced header hit the outside of the post.
Buse made routine stops from Fowler and Harvey as the tie entered its final scenes while some Stearn trickery set up Sullivan for a strike which deflected wide. There was even a cameo appearance from 50 year old coach Michael Meaker who replaced Stearn with seven minutes to go. The deserved victory extended the Peacock’s unbeaten run to 11 games as they now look forward to a Semi-Final against either Royston Town, Rushall Olympic or league rivals Swindon Supermarine in several weeks’ time.
Taunton: Will Buse, Ben Adelsbury, Nick Grimes (captain) (Mike Murphy 67), Ollie Chamberlain, Lloyd James, Dan Sullivan, Joe Guest, Ross Stearn (Michael Meaker 83), Zac Smith, Lewis Smith (Acey Mead 45), Ross Staley. Unused subs: Jay Foulston, Connor Sidley-Adams
Paulton: Aaron Sainsbury, James Byrne (Harley Prior 53), Barney Soady, Neil Martin, Kyle Anderson, Nathan Brown, Liban Ibrahim, Leo Eglin (George Fowler 56), Will Harvey, David O’Hare, Ed Butcher (Jack Ball 63). Unused subs: Dan Dempsey, Paul Tovey
Referee: Carl Peters (Bridgwater)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Jack Bromham (Glastonbury)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Daniel Uren (Crediton)
“I thought we were very solid, very professional, took our goals well and it could have been a little bit more as well…” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Albert Goodman MOM
Acey Mead receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from team captain Nick Grimes.
NB Due to Acey’s age his father was present when the photo was taken