One of the longest away days of the season awaited Rich Fey’s men on Saturday, and they were welcomed to the South Coast by abysmal weather conditions which had turned the pitch into a mudbath. Regardless of this, we were still able to witness 90 minutes of Southern League action, with the two sides sat side-by-side in the table looking to push away from another. Town were off the back of two wins on the bounce, and their hosts Plymouth Parkway were looking for a consecutive win themselves, after beating Highworth last week. There was also added incentive for the hosts; in the reverse fixture Town miraculously overturned a 3-0 deficit in the second half to win 4-3, leaving Parkway a very frustrated picture. However, Town would be without forward Kyle Tooze who is serving a suspension following his red card last week.
The pitch was in poor condition as the game kicked off, and with the rain battering down it was only going to get worse. However, Town didn’t let that interrupt their plans, as within the first 5 minutes, Jay Malshanskyj latched onto Luke Ballingers perfectly weighted through pass, and finished superbly beyond the ‘keeper to give his side a very early lead in the fixture. 3 goals in his last 3 games for Malshankyj who is rewarding his managers faith in him, taking his opportunity with a run of games back in the starting XI. A brilliant start was nearly made better, when goalscorer Jay Malshasnkyj looked to provide as his front post flick on found the head of David Thompson, who met it well, but it was well held by the ‘keeper in the end.
After scoring the early goal Town were always going to face an immediate response from the play- off chasing hosts, and after some tidy build up play they showed just why they’ll be up there come the end of the season. A deep cross to the back post was met by Jack Crago to give the hosts an equaliser just 15 minutes into the game. The two early goals gave both sides the belief that the game was there for the taking, and Matt Hall was up to the challenge pulling off a superb save not long after conceding, flying away to his left to deny Parkway an important second in quick succession.
Both sides refused to let the conditions get the better of them and were both looking to get on the front foot, with Jay Malshanskyj causing issues in-behind the Parkway defence Town were able to get into a few good areas before a last ditch clearence or tackle denied them. However the sides went in level, thanks to some superb goalkeeping from both ‘keepers and some help from the pitch making it difficult to be clinical.
Having ended the half the stronger side, Town came back out continuing to apply pressure on a stern Parkway defence, and almost straight after the restart Luke Ballinger tried a bit of magic with a lob to catch the ‘keeper out, but his effort fell wide. The next oportunity came a few minutes later, this time for the hosts aa they broke away up the pitch and were inches away from taking the lead but the Town defence did enough to put the striker off. This foreshadowed an end- to-end second half that was to prevail, such was the desire for the three points from both sides.
Matt Hall also continued his fine form into the second half; as well as his usual diving efforts, a few times he was needed to get off his line quickly and bravely to smother the ball at the feet of an on-rushing striker. Matt was one of many who could have been named man of the match on Saturday afternoon such was the work rate and desire of the squad.
At times, the lads up front were quite literally tredding water, but they showed superb fitness levels to chase absolutely everything up until the full tuime whistle, which sounded after what had been an entertaining 1-1 draw considering the conditions.
Both managers would have been eyeing up the 3 points, but also coming away glad they didn’t concede a defeat in a game which could have goine either way.
Up next for Town is a welcome return to Oakfield’s on Saturday as Mangotsfield make the journey to Wiltshire, with Rich Fey looking to continue a recent uplift in form and an string together an unbeaten run similar to previous runs of form in the season.