LIVERTON United weathered a bright start by Stoke Gabriel & Torbay Police Reserves to eventually run out 6-1 winners at the Halford Ground on Saturday.
Substitute Ben Towler helped himself to a second half brace for the hosts, who also scored through John Devine, James Thomas, Neil Last and Lee Fenner. Chris Burgin got the visitors’ consolation.
Stoke looked the more likely to open the scoring in the first half an hour, with Livvy keeper Nial Herbert called into action and Jack Cousins’ inventive effort from out wide thundering against the far upright.
But Devine was on hand to give the home side the lead with 33 minutes gone when he poked the ball home having been sent clean through.
Simon Laughton, operating well at left wing-back for Liverton, placed a side-footed volley just wide before Last sent a free-kick straight at visiting keeper Benji Evans.
John Fleet’s men then had a huge slice of luck to thank for the strike which would see them go in at half-time with a two-goal lead.
Jake White played the ball inside from the right hand side for Harry Shwenn to unleash a shot – which cannoned off Thomas and completely wrong-footed Evans.
Devine saw another decent chance saved just before the interval, but Liverton would make it three with the second half only moments old when Last capitalised on a mistake at the back.
Ryan Griffith drilled an effort against the base of the post with an hour gone, and he’d be involved in his side’s fourth goal five minutes later when he set up a simple finish for Towler.
Stoke got themselves on the scoresheet with quarter of an hour left when Burgin tapped in, but the four-goal advantage was restored moments later when a corner wasn’t dealt with and Fenner prodded home from all of four inches.
The best goal of the game was saved until last, with Towler unleashing a powerful strike from range on the stroke of full-time to round off a convincing win.
‘I’m really pleased, actually,’ said Liverton boss Fleet after the game. ‘We’ve managed to get a lot of players back who missed last week. We were still missing a couple but it was a fairly strong team for us.
‘I also tinkered with the system a little bit. We’ve got a lot of central players in our team, and it’s just about trying to work out the best way to accommodate everyone.
‘In the first 15 minutes we were finding our feet a little bit. It was a different system for a lot of the lads so they were finding their roles within it.
‘The first goal settled us and we were a bit more confident on the ball after that. In the second half we pushed on and dominated.’
After Paignton Saints pulled out of Saturday’s initial friendly, Fleet said he was pleased to still get a game in against opposition from the same level.
‘They’re obviously a new club after the merger, so I think they’re probably finding their feet a little bit and working out the standard that they’re going to be at,’ he explained.
‘I don’t know who they’ve got to bring in, but probably a few. For us it’s the equivalent standard, so hopefully it bodes well for us.
‘It’s nice to get a win, get some goals and whoever you’re playing it doesn’t really matter – it’s a confidence boost moving forward.
‘If you’re winning games people are more buzzing for the next one, so hopefully everyone is keen to keep it going.
‘It’s not long until the start of the season, so we really need to start firming down positions and getting the squad sorted.’
For Stoke manager Micky Marshall, he felt his side’s performance during the opening exchanges was a positive to take back to the South Hams with them.
‘I thought we started well and worked well as a unit,’ he said. ‘There were some individual mistakes in there but you expect that from pre-season.
‘I genuinely thought that the two goals they scored before half-time were lucky – the second one definitely with the massive deflection.
‘But in that first half I thought we matched them in a lot of areas.’
Stoke are still suffering with the disruption caused by Covid, with a number of players unavailable for selection and members of the third team filling in.
‘Today isn’t a reflection of where we are, it’s safe to say,’ Marshall said. ‘We had five or six missing through Covid or work.
‘The Development team game got called off so I brought a few of them up just to have a look at them and see what they need to be working on moving forward.
‘But that result today is no reflection at all on the team for next season.’