FT Plymouth Parkway 2 (Williams 24, Annear 77)
Willand Rovers 0
On a highly emotional day at Bolitho Park, a massive crowd of 459, by far the seasons highest, turned out for the game against league leaders and FA Vase quarter finalists Willand Rovers. The match was dedicated to the memory of President, former Chairman and Club legend Jim Parsons who sadly passed away last Saturday. After a fitting tribute over the PA by Life Vice President and long time Club member Stuart Cadmore, members of Jim’s family joined Chairman Mark Russell in the centre circle for an impeccably observed minutes silence. Parkway made 2 changes from Wednesday’s victory over Wellington with Shane Krac, returning from injury, and Tiegan Rosenquest replacing Jordan Annear and Jordan Trott who was suffering from an illness. Parkway were looking to avenge their heaviest defeat (4-0) of the season at Willand in August with the visitors on an impressive unbeaten 23 match run in all competitions with their last defeat being on 29 Sep 2018. Both sides made a quick start with Dean Stamp going close for the visitors and Adam Carter also seeing an effort just off target for the home side. On 6 minutes Craig Duff shot just over for Willand as both sides started to probe openings. Mikey Williams created a good chance on 8 minutes with his shot just clearing the bar. Both sides continued to play attractive football with the midfield area becoming competitive and keenly contested with neither defence being unduly tested. As was to be expected, neither side were able to dominate as the game developed into an even affair with few clear chances being created. The first real chance of the game came on 21 minutes with the increasingly influential Krac breaking forward from midfield and firing in a low shot which was comfortably saved by Mike Searle. As Parkway gradually began to increase the pressure, they took the lead on 24 minutes. A good ball into Carter saw him show good strength to hold the ball up and set up the incoming Williams who shot low into the far corner from around 15 yards. As the midfield battle intensified,Christian Pople showed great desire and tenacity to win two consecutive headers with Krac picking up the pieces and setting up Carter who shot just wide. Willand made the occasional break forward but with the Parkway back four looking solid and well organised and Rob Farkins and Nick Miltonblunting the much vaunted Willand front two, Kyle Moore in the Parkway goal remained relatively untroubled. A tap free kick to Krac on 31 minutes saw his 25 yard effort well saved by Searle as Parkway continued to play at a high tempo with the midfield three and their two wide players forcing the pace using both flanks to good effect. On 40 minutes Willand almost equalised with a long ball just outside the area taking an awkward bounce deceiving Moore with Stamp taking advantage and firing the ball towards towards the empty net only for the covering Farkins to calmly clear the ball just short of the line. Williams then picked up the first yellow card of the match before the half ended with a further period of Parkway pressure resulting in another shot being blocked at close range. A hard fought half with Parkway deserving their lead in a game of few chances with their midfield providing a solid platform and their defence looking assured and focussed with Willand competing well to stay in the game. Parkway continued in the same vein in the second half with the hard working, unsung Billy Palfrey firing just over on 49 minutes after good build up play along the left. More good work from Palfrey on 53 minutes saw him set up Krac whose venomous strike from 25 yards was superbly tipped over by Searle. Farkins then picked up the game’s second booking after apparently uncomplimentary comments to the referee. Willand then had a period of possession but were unable to create too much with the Parkway midfield continuing to press hard and break up play. Willand made their first substitution on 58 minutes with Ben Bickle replacing Luke Mortimore who had had a good game on the right flank. On the hour a left wing corner by Krac arrowed in to hit the post with Ryan Lane’s 20 yard follow up strike being blocked in the 6 yard box. Sam Hillson then became the third Parkway player to be booked after ilegally halting a Willand break on the left. Carter then had a goal disallowed for offside on 64 minutes before in the next attack he rounded the keeper only to see his well struck effort cleared off the line. The industrious Carter seemed to pick up an injury on 69 minutes and was replaced by Annear who almost made an immediate impact when showing good pace raced clear on the right, shooting just wide of the far post. Duff was replaced by Aidan Moyle on 74 minutes with Parkway then giving themselves breathing space by doubling the lead on 77 minutes. The ever elusive Williams was fouled wide on the right and the resultant perfectly flighted free kick from Krac found Annear unmarked at the far post whose well timed leap saw him plant a bullet header into the far corner giving Searle no chance. Willand responded and were unlucky not to pull a goal back on 79 minutes when a looping header bounced back off the top of the bar, bounced back into play and was headed behind for a corner. From the corner a massive scramble ensued in the six yard box which was somehow eventually cleared. Parkway continued to work hard with Williams and Annear linking well close to the bye line with the cross flashing narrowly wide. Parkway almost increased their lead on 85 minutes with the outstanding Pople launching an audacious clearance (or was it a shot?) from just inside his own half with Searle way off his line just able to scramble back and paw the ball to safety. On 86 minutes Angus Wilson replaced Luke Alden for Willand and with Parkway now content to manage the game out, they replaced the impressive Rosanquest with Les Afful and Williams withMike Smith in stoppage time. A thoroughly workmanlike performance from start to finish from front to back based on solid defending, a grafting, penetrative midfield and a couple of quality finishes. The victory sees Parkway remain in fourth place but now only 6 points adrift of leaders Willand with a game in hand and surely firmly in the mix in the title race. With second placed Westbury and third placed Bitton also winning today and Bridgwater winning on Friday night it’s sure to be an interesting last third of the season. Hard to pick a man of the match today so I’ll just call them all the Team of the Day. I’m sure Jim looking down from above will have been highly impressed and extremely proud of today’s performance and there can be no more fitting tribute to him than today’s victory. Parkway now travel to 14th placed Hallen next Saturday as they look to remain in touch with the leading pack.