FT: Buckland Athletic 1 (Farkins og 33)
Plymouth Parkway 2 (Krac 52, Milton 83)
Parkway made the short trip (33 miles) to Newton Abbot for the Boxing Day local derby with old friends and rivals Buckland Athletic with whom there had been many classic, hard fought games during the club’s SW Peninsula League days. Today would be no different. Buckland took promotion to the Western league after the 2011/12 season and have consistently acquitted themselves well ever since, winning the League Cup last season. The last league meeting between the two was on 28 April 2011 with Buckland winning 5-3. As usual a warm welcome was afforded to the large following of the Bolitho faithful who were in attendance as Parkway fielded an unchanged side from Saturdays victory over Shepton Mallet. News also filtered through that since Saturday, striker Stewart Yetton had left the club and signed for Tiverton Town. Buckland started the sharper and at a high tempo winning a number of free kicks within 25 yards of the Parkway goal. On 6 minutes Ethan Phillips saw his free kick well blocked by Rob Farkins. Parkway were struggling to get into the game and a wild long range effort from Billy Palfrey on 10 minutes was their sole effort. Buckland continued to press, dominating possession and overrunning the Parkway midfield who lacked any conviction and looked unusually lethargic. Further free kicks on 12 and 13 minutes were thwarted by the Parkway defence who were coming under increasing pressure. A smart move down their left ended with a Ryan Bush shot to the near post being pushed behind by Kyle Moore. Parkway were forced into making long, desperate clearances from the back with the front two of Adam Carter and Jordan Annear being given little quality service and the Buckland defence, marshalled by the experienced Chris McPhee and Liam Head rarely being put under pressure. A rare Parkway foray forward on 20 minutes saw a Shane Krac free kick easily held by Kenny Griffiths in the Buckland goal. Buckland continued to dominate and only resolute defending kept them at bay with the colossal Farkins winning header after header, tackle after tackle and putting in block after block. Further efforts from Bush on 22 and 27 minutes came close with the second seeing a last ditch block by Nick Milton. The Parkway midfield continued to be out passed and out fought as Buckland remained in the ascendancy. On 29 minutes, with arguably Parkway’s first attack from open play, Krac shot wide after a good break from Tiegan Rosanquest down the right flank. Buckland’s dominance was eventually deservedly rewarded when they took the lead on 33 minutes. A long ball to the right saw a low, dangerous cross fired into the 6 yard box with the unfortunate Farkins, who to this point had been flawless, slicing the ball into his own net from close range whilst under pressure from a Buckland attacker who would surely have scored had Farkins not attempted the clearance. Parkway offered little going forward with the front two unable to get into the game and unable to retain the ball as the Buckland defence remained in control with their keeper a virtual spectator. They should have doubled their lead on 42 minutes when yet another sharp exchange of passes in midfield released former Parkway player Phillips who blazed over from around 18 yards when he arguably had better options supporting him on either side. The final action of the half came on 44 minutes with Parkway’s best move of the game and only effort on target saw Griffiths, at full stretch, push a decent Krac effort wide with the resultant corner seeing a headed effort cleared off the line. Buckland had been by far the better side, playing at a high tempo and deserving of their half time lead with the single goal advantage hardly reflecting their dominance. Half time saw Annear and Rosanquest replaced by Ryan Lane, returning from a one match ban, and the redoubtable Christian Pople. The changes saw a formation change with Carter left as the lone striker and Pople and Lane bolstering the Parkway midfield which had been out passed and out fought in the first half. The changes had an almost immediate impact with Parkway upping their game and drawing level on 52 minutes. A long free kick from wide on the left saw Griffiths appear to collide with his own defender and fail to gather the cross cleanly with the ball dropping to the alert Krac who stabbed home from close range. Krac then saw another effort comfortably saved before Phillips shot wide at the other end from distance on 58 minutes. Buckland almost regained the lead on 63 minutes when a long ball put their player through, round Moore but lose control of the ball at the vital moment allowing Milton to make another last ditch clearance. Parkway continued to have the upper hand and by now looked far more solid and aggressive in midfield. However many of their crosses lacked accuracy or penetration with most being far too close to Griffiths who commanded his 6 yard box with ease. Buckland replaced Richard Groves with Matt Roberts on 68 minutes as Parkway continued to control the game with Mikey Williams becoming more influential, running at defenders and causing them more problems. Clear chances however were few and far between. Both sides made changes on 78 minutes with Phillips being replaced by another former Parkway favourite Luke Durham and the hard working Carter being replaced in attack by Mike Smith returning from his lengthy ban. An almighty scramble inside the Buckland six yard box on 80 minutes saw some desperate defending deny at least 3 attempts on goal with no Parkway player able to get a firm strike on the loose ball. The referee, who had managed to keep a lid on proceedings which at times threatened to boil over, booked Krac on 82 minutes just prior to Parkway going ahead for the first time. Further pressure wide on the left saw Parkway awarded a free kick which for once was directed well away from the keeper with Jordan Trottputting in a quality delivery to the far post. Parkway won a couple of decisive headers with the ball finally dropping to central defender Milton who lashed home from close range through a pile of bodies. Parkway now looked to see the game out by keeping possession and slowing the game to their pace. They almost increased their lead on 93 minutes when Smith was put through one on one with Griffiths who bravely left his line just beating Smith to the ball to make a smothering save on the edge of the 18 yard box. The proverbial game of two halves with Buckland far superior in the first with Parkway vastly improved and more competitive in the second. The change of formation at half time undoubtedly reversed the direction of the game and all credit to the Parkway management for being decisive in their decisions. A hard fought attritional game lacking any great quality with clear chances at a premium and all three goals scruffy scrambles in the six yard area. They all count though. Once again the desire, commitment and ability to grind out gritty results by Parkway was the foundation for the victory, the 9th consecutive since their last defeat on 20 October. They remain in 6th place and just about in touch with the leading pack still with games in hand over all teams above them, 2 of whom dropped points today including Westbury United who tasted defeat for the first time. Worthy of note also today are Shortwood United who gained their first point of the season with a 0-0 draw at Chipping Sodbury after 19 consecutive defeats. It had to happen somewhere sometime. Also worthy of note is the excellent “Bucks Review”, by far the best matchday programme I’ve seen anywhere all season. A snip at £1.50. Well done to the producers of that. Parkway return to Stadio Bolitho on Saturday when lowly Hengrove Athletic are the visitors. Having already beaten them twice at Paprika Park this season, hopes will be high for a 10th win on the spin.