Willand Rovers v Parkway | Match Report

Parkway take Gold at Silver Street

Words By Graham Lloyd
Images by Dave Harry

Willand Rovers 3 (Shepherd 14, Wylie 30, Griffiths 62)

Plymouth Parkway 4 (Allen 61, Krac 76, Garside 81, Rhead 88)

After their recent win over Dulwich Hamlet in the FA Trophy, Parkway returned to league action in a seasonal local derby (120 mile round trip) with Willand Rovers who they had beaten 4-1 earlier in the season. A sizeable contingent of the Parkway faithful who had made the journey despite the poor weather conditions and road traffic accidents were amongst the crowd of 379. Due to COVID protocols, Parkway were without 6 squad regulars and made 4 enforced changes. Tyler Coombes replaced Kyle Moore in goal, with Harrison Davis, Aaron Bentley and Callum Hall coming in for Ryan Lane, Jack Crago and Mikey Williams. Adam Carter and Rhys Shirley were the other two absentees. Positional changes also had to be made with Matt Andrew deployed as a makeshift striker, Finlay Craske moving into midfield from full back and Bentley and Davis in the right and left back positions respectively.

On a soft playing surface and in tricky conditions, both sides made a tentative start as they adjusted to the conditions with Willand looking the more assured and composed. A free kick from Archie Reay flashed just wide on 6 minutes as the hosts looked the sharper, dominating the early exchanges. On 12 minutes, a speculative effort from around 50 yards by River Allen over a retreating George Burton in the home goal which sailed way over was as good as it got for Parkway as they struggled to find any rhythm or get a foothold in the game. Willand continued to be the better side and it was no real surprise when they took the lead on 14 minutes. A break along the left saw Jack Rice-Lethaby cross into the 6 yard area and with Parkway twice unable to clear their lines, recent signing from Millbrook Rikki Shepherd was left free with the simple task of slotting home into the bottom corner.

Willand continued to control the midfield area and remained relatively untested in defence as Parkway continued to look off the pace, lacked cohesion and frequently conceded possession in vital areas. A couple of long range efforts on 21 and 25 minutes from Davis and Andrew respectively were comfortably dealt with by Burton as Willand continued to be the sharper and more cohesive side. On 31 minutes the hosts doubled their lead. After Parkway had conceded possession in midfield, Shepherd was released along the right beyond an exposed Parkway backline and squared the ball to the unmarked Joe Wylie who finished coolly from around 8 yards. With Parkway beginning to get back into the game they won a series of free kicks in wide areas but they lacked the quality of delivery and merely provided catching practice for the home keeper.

On 39 minutes Willand almost went further ahead when a free kick was deflected narrowly over the bar for a corner. Parkway created their first meaningful opportunity on 42 minutes. After good link up play along the left between Hall and Allen, a cross into the 6 yard area found Andrew who, under pressure from a defender, stabbed an effort narrowly over the bar. Approaching half time a cross from the Willand left flashed across the Parkway 6 yard area with no one able to get a final touch. Allen then became the first player to receive a yellow card just before half time. A strangely lacklustre, fragmented first half display from Parkway with Willand the superior side and deservedly leading at the break.

The start of the second half saw Craske, who appeared to have picked up an injury, replaced by Jack Rhead who went up front with Andrew dropping back into his more familiar midfield role. With rain now falling heavily and the surface becoming more treacherous, Parkway started in a more determined manner, passing the ball better and looking to stretch the Willand backline along the flanks. Willand made an early substitution on 52minutes with Glenn Gould replacing Bailer Kempster with Parkway replacing Callum Rose with old favourite Shane Krac on 54 minutes. Bentley moved into central defence with Davis switching from left to right back in a slight formation change. With Parkway now looking far more fluent, they pulled a goal back on 61 minutes to give themselves a lifeline. Allen won a free kick on the edge of the 18 yard area after a strong run forward and he stepped up to drill his low kick through the wall into the bottom corner. Almost straight from the kick off the hosts regained their 2 goal cushion. A neat passage of play along their left saw the ball played into the edge of the 18 yard area from where a shot was superbly pushed away by Coombes only for the ball to cannon off the chest of the incoming Griffiths and roll over the line from close range.

With conditions continuing to deteriorate and players beginning to tire and slip and slide, mistakes from both sides began to creep in. Willand replaced Sheppard with Jagger-Cane on 65 minutes followed shortly after by Matthew Wood replacing Josh Searle. With Krac having an immediate impact in midfield and Rhead’s strong running and physical presence finally beginning to test the host’s defence, Parkway were now in the ascendancy looking far more determined and organised, forcing Willand to defend deeper and play on the counter. On 76 minutes Parkway’s pressure paid off as they clawed a goal back. Good play along the left by Rhead and Rio Garside saw the ball played into Krac just inside the 18 yard area and he rolled back the years by cleverly creating space and lifting his shot over the advancing keeper.

Willand continued to play attractive football through midfield but the Parkway defence held firm with Michael Landricombe showing his experience with timely interceptions and covering tackles well supported by Bentley and Davis. Billy Palfrey in the midfield holding role worked tirelessly showing good energy and tenacity in tracking and closing down Willand’s midfield runners. Coombes also played his part making in a couple of good saves low down showing a safe pair of hands in testing condition for a keeper. However Parkway now had momentum and Krac saw an effort headed off the line before they grabbed the equaliser on 81 minutes. A break along the right forced a mistake in the host’s defence allowing the increasingly influential Garside to pounce on the loose ball around 10 yards out and shoot across Burton into the bottom corner.

With players tiring on the heavy surface, a couple of yellow cards were shown as Parkway continued to show the desire to look for another goal and they took the lead for the first time on 88 minutes. Another mistake under pressure in the Willand defence allowed substitute Rhead to race clear and show good composure to beat the onrushing Burton at the edge of the 18 yard area to shoot into the unguarded net from around 15 yards.

Parkway managed to see out the 4 minutes of added time to complete a remarkable comeback and secure the 3 points. Despite having a severely depleted squad and being distinctly second best in the first half, Parkway showed considerable grit, desire and resilience in a vastly improved second half performance to grind out the win in extremely difficult playing conditions. The astute introduction of substitutes and formation changes by the management also played a significant part. Credit also to the management for fulfilling the fixture despite the unavailabilities with once again the strength, adaptability and commitment of the whole Parkway squad on display. The victory sees Parkway climb to 9th place still with games in hand over every team above them. The action recommences on New Years Day when bottom of the table Barnstaple Town visit Bolitho Park. Barnstaple gained their first league win of the season today with a narrow 1-0 victory over Bideford. Earlier in the season they knocked Parkway out of the league cup 4-3 on penalties after drawing 3-3 at 90 minutes so cannot be taken lightly.

Line ups:  Parkway

1 Coombes, 2 Bentley, 3 Davis, 4 Craske (Rhead 46), 5 Rose (Krac 54), 6 Landricombe ©, 7 Garside, 8 Allen, 9 Andrew, 10 Palfrey, 11 Hall,

Substitutes: 12 Krac, 14 Rhead, 15 Smith (unused), 16 Castlehouse (unused).

Willand Rovers

1 Burton, 2 Searle © (Wood 73), 3 Richards, 4 Poole, 5 Bailey, 6 Reay, 7 Griffith, 8 Wylie, 9 Sheppard (Jagger-Cane 65), 10 Rice-Lethaby, 11 Kempster (Gould 52)

Substitutes: 12 Jagger-Cane, 14 Wood, 15 Gould, 16 Yule-Turner (unused), 17 Piper (unused)

Attendance 379