FT: Chipping Sodbury Town 3 (White 2, Dempsey 55, Box 84)
Plymouth Parkway 3 (Farkins 25, Lane 40, Krac 45)
For their final league match of the season, Parkway travelled to Chipping Sodbury, the last team to defeat them on January 5th, looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 20 games with a victory which would see them clinch the league title should leaders Willand Rovers fail to get a point at 3rd placed Bitton. Parkway made two changes from Monday’s win at Shepton Mallet with Jordan Trott and Teigan Rosenquest returning in place of Les Afful and Jamie Lowry. With a considerable number of their supporters in the crowd of 140 and playing with a strong wind at their backs, Parkway got off to the worst possible start going behind in the 2nd minute. A cross from the right caused defensive hesitation in the 6 yard box with Joe White finding the net from close range. After this early shock, Parkway regrouped and began to get their game going looking dangerous down both flanks. Shane Krac received an early yellow card on 9 minutes adding extra pressure on Parkway. Ryan Lane then fired over when well placed on 10 minutes. The hosts looking dangerous on the counter created another chance on 15 minutes when a free kick was not cleared with the loose ball being stabbed into the side netting. With Parkway beginning to dominate in midfield, a good passage of play down the right on 18 minutes resulted in a Krac shot being deflected behind with the resultant corner being well defended. Parkway continued to threaten with a Trott free kick from 25 yards being parried by keeper Ross Grimshaw and cleared to safety. With Mikey Williams and Lane causing problems in the wide areas, Parkway continued on the offensive and drew level on 25 minutes. A well directed free kick by Krac saw Rob Farkins rise unchallenged and power home a header from 8 yards giving Grimshaw no chance. With the strong wind proving challenging, both sides were guilty of conceding possession too easily as play became fragmented and broken up with a series of petty fouls and free kicks. Chipping Sodbury were being restricted to mainly long range efforts with Kyle Moore comfortably holding a shot on 34 minutes. With Parkway now forcing the pace and Chipping Sodbury holding firm, White was the next to receive a yellow card. On 40 minutes Parkway eventually took the lead with the best move of the match. A fine interchange of first time passes on the left between Williams, Krac and Trott ended with the ball being crossed into Lane who smashed home a shot from around 12 yards. With Parkway now on top and in full flow, another fine move saw Lane cross to Williams whose great effort was superbly saved by Grimshaw. They were not to be denied for long and increased their lead in first half stoppage time. Another fine move along the left saw an excellent cross by Trott reach Krac who had got ahead of his marker and glide an angled header into the far corner. After the dramatic start to the game, Parkway gradually imposed themselves, created the better chances restricting Chipping Sodbury to the occasional counter attacks which were defended comfortably. With the half time news that Bitton had taken an early lead against Willand, playing their 4th game in 8 days, the mood amongst the Parkway faithful was hopeful but understandably apprehensive. With the wind now at their backs, Chipping Sodbury started the second half the better having more possession and forcing Parkway on to the defensive. A superb save by Moore on 55 minutes resulted in a corner from which the hosts pulled a goal back, Daniel Dempsey scoring from close range after a scramble in the 6 yard area with Parkway unable to clear their lines. With Chipping Sodbury now in the ascendancy they forced 2 more corners with Parkway now having to defend in depth and unable to create much going forward. As the pressure increased, Parkway had a massive let off on 68 minutes when superb shot from distance smashed against the bar with Moore well beaten. News was also filtering through that Willand had equalised shortly after going down to 10 with the mood amongst the Parkway fans becoming increasingly muted. As the tension grew, Chipping Sodbury continued to threaten looking the more likely to score as Parkway were unable to keep any decent possession or create any clear chances. With play becoming compressed into a compact midfield, the hosts Sean Keet was the next to receive a yellow card on 69 minutes as Parkway continued to live dangerously. Parkway replaced Rosenquest with Nick Milton in midfield on 77 minutes as they looked to hold on to their slender advantage. Jon Morgan was yellow carded on 80 minutes as Chipping Sodbury continued to force the pace with Parkway hanging on and being restricted to the occasional breakaway with the home defence remaining strong and solid. The host’s pressure finally paid off on 84 minutes when a long ball down their left was not dealt with allowing George Box a clear run on goal and firing home giving Moore no chance. Defender Sam Hillson was immediately replaced by striker Jordan Annear as Parkway now threw everything into attack looking for a winner. Chipping Sodbury replaced White with Luke Henderson on 87 minutes as Parkway pushed forward having a strong shout for a penalty waved away on 89 minutes with captain Krac being shown a second yellow for subsequent remarks made to the referee. Despite a period of late pressure, Parkway were unable to breach the Chipping Sodbury defence as the match ended all square with the hosts being the only team not to be beaten by Parkway in the league this season and taking 4 points from them. With the Bitton v Willand match also ending all square, a Parkway victory would have been academic as Willand deservedly clinched the title with the point they required with Parkway the runners up 2 points adrift and Bitton a further point behind in 3rd place. On completion of the game the Parkway players were presented with their runners up medals by League officials. Despite going so close and taking the destination of the title to the very last game, Parkway should be extremely proud of their achievements in their first season at step 5 and have almost certainly exceeded expectations. With only the Western League champions currently being promoted to the Southern League Division 1 and the continuing restructuring of the leagues nationally being undertaken by the FA, there is a possibility that some teams who finish as runners up may also be promoted. These decisions are not expected until mid May. Parkway await the outcome with interest. Before that Parkway have the small matter of 2 Cup Finals. With very little recovery time they will need to quickly regroup as they now visit the Devon HQ in Newton Abbot on Monday where they will meet Exeter City and look to retain the Devon St Lukes Challenge Bowl. Their final game in what has been long, tough exciting and in many ways remarkable season will be at Sherborne Town’s ground on Monday 6th May in the Les Phillips League Cup Final where they will meet Willand Rovers who will no doubt be looking to complete the double.