Clinical Seagulls Soar Out Of Bottom Two
Weston-super-Mare AFC manager Ryan Northmore spoke of frustration with his side’s play in the final third at Twerton Park on New Year’s Day, but Sunday’s 3-2 victory against Sutton United at the Woodspring Stadium will go a long way to alleviating his dissatisfaction of a few days ago.
The Seagulls overcame a disjointed first half showing, where the visitors squandered a number of opportunities, surging into a three goal advantage after half-time. The U’s pushed hard late in the game, but Weston held on to the relief of the Woodspring crowd.
Tidy finishes from Ollie Watkins and Bradley Ash saw the Seagulls fly out of the blocks after the interval, before a sumptuous bending strike from Jake Mawford nestled in the stanchion to give Weston a three goal cushion with thirteen minutes to play. As the home support were growing surer that a vital Vanarama Conference South win was wrapped up, Sutton staged a late fight-back through a double from skipper Charlie Clough, but referee Richard Hulme called time on proceedings, with the Seagulls in possession of all three points.
The sand-coated playing surface – a measure taken to soak up the excess moisture that threatened to mar the festive period at the Woodspring stadium – was a little out of place in the seasonal chill and murk, as the Seagulls boss shuffled the pack, bringing in Mawford, Ingram and Ash for Grubb, Cane and Jay.
The visitors dictated the opening salvos, and should have taken the lead on ten minutes, when versatile defender Clough, who operated in a forward position for much of the afternoon, collected the ball from a throw-in deep into the Weston half and spun in behind Clayton Fortune, picking out Bedsente Gomis on the edge of the area, only to fire well over the crossbar when he ought to have done better.
Another golden chance went begging for Sutton, when smart play from Clough and Glen Southam on the edge of the area opened up the Weston defence. Southam rolled the ball into Billy Medlock, turning in behind Llewellyn but he could not win the duel with Luke Purnell, as the Seagulls stopper raced off his line to smother the diminutive forward’s effort, allowing Llewellyn to recover and hack the ball away to safety.
In stark contrast to the New Year’s encounter with Bath, the Seagulls struggled to move the ball and maintain possession for much of the first half, resulting in them often being camped in their own territory, but the visitors could not break through the rear-guard as the sides went in level at the break.
The Seagulls appeared energised as they returned following the interval, and were swiftly into stride as they raised the tempo of their passing game.
With just three minutes gone in the second period, Weston were in front as Ollie Watkins sped in behind the Sutton defence, chasing on to Jamie Edge’s through ball. The Exeter City loanee displayed pace and determination to fend off a strong challenge from the Forest Green-bound Clough to slot left-footed past Lovelock in the Sutton goal, punishing the wasteful visitors for not capitalising on their first-half superiority.
That trend of wastefulness continued for the U’s, as moments after the Weston opener Jack Evans rattled Purnell’s crossbar, volleying Dundas’ knockdown goalwards with the keeper well beaten, allowing the home defence to bundle the ball away from danger.
The second goal for the Seagulls came again through a Jamie Edge assist, as the combative midfielder lifted a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Bradley Ash, who controlled with his chest before setting himself and lashing across the keeper into the bottom corner from eighteen yards out to double the lead for the hosts with sixty-seven minutes played.
The game’s defining moment was to arrive ten minutes later, as Watkins broke from deep in the Weston half down the left flank, with the Sutton defence isolated as they pushed for a route back into the game. Watkins cut onto his right foot, spotting the surging run of Mawford, feeding the wing-back. Mawford jinked past Wishart near the touchline, shifting onto his apparently weaker left foot, sending a high, curling shot towards the far post. The stadium became eerie in anticipation as the ball drifted towards the top corner, but the home crowd were soon roaring when the bending strike found the top corner with Lovelock at a standstill, giving the Seagulls a 3-0 lead.
Weston were given a fright late on, as Clough was sent up from the back and bagged twice, the latter a storming volley of a high dropping ball, to give the U’s hope, but Northmore’s side anxiously preserved their lead and secured three crucial points, which dragged the Seagulls out of the relegation zone.
Following Sunday’s victory, Northmore commented “It was not our best performance, but we did what we needed to do to win the game. There were some important moments in the game where the players stood up to be counted, and that was what was most pleasing for me.
“In the first half, Luke Purnell has made an outstanding save when Sutton were very much on top, and for me it was key in the first half to go in at nil-nil. We can be pleased with that.”
The manager gave special praise to the efforts that ensured the Woodspring Stadium pitch was playable. “Getting the game on today was a testament to Bob, and he had an army of volunteers as well to help him. Without their help, we wouldn’t have played today and wouldn’t have got the three points.”
Final Score: WsM 3-2 Sutton Utd (Watkins 48, Ash 67, Mawford 77; Clough 85, 90)
Weston-super-Mare AFC: Purnell, Mitchell, Llewellyn (Barnes 90), Edge, Jordan (c), Fortune, Mawford, Ingram (Brown 80), McClennan, Ash (Cane 82), Watkins.
Subs: (Not used) Jay, Camper.