A FIRST half goal flurry from Newton Abbot Spurs Reserves was ultimately enough to send them on their way to the semi-finals of the Devon Football League Mini Tournament.
Their game against Newtown at the Exwick Sports Hub on Saturday was officially abandoned late on following a nasty injury to opposition substitute Ben Howard, who required an ambulance.
But with the 10-man Spurs 4-2 up and just a handful of minutes left to play, officials decided that the result would still stand.
After a relatively action-less opening 20 minutes the Spurs hit the front when left-back George Fice directed a low cross into the bottom corner.
Not long later and they had doubled their lead, Gavin Collins on hand to capitalise on a defensive error and roll the ball into an empty net.
Collins barely had to wait a minute to get his name on the scoresheet again. Following some good hold-up play, James Moxon fed his strike partner – who rifled the Spurs’ third into the roof of the net.
Newtown would see a glorious chance to get back into the game go begging before the break.
Referee Aidan Madden pointed to the spot after Daniel Koita was fouled in the area. Substitute Howard stepped up, but his tame effort was easily saved by Joel Hawker-Patchett.
Koita saw an effort of his own saved by the Spurs stopper in the run-up to half-time, before being heavily involved when Newtown did eventually find the net in the second half.
His efforts down the left resulted in the ball finding Rio Turl, who made no mistake and gave his side a lifeline with around 20 minutes to play.
Barely four minutes later the game looked as though it was headed for a tense finale. Koita kept his cool to send a delightful chip over Hawker-Patchett after being sent clean through.
But it didn’t take long for the game to swing back the Spurs’ way. Moxon’s effort crept in at the near post three minutes later to restore a two-goal lead.
It looked like the Spurs would be forced to defend that margin with 10 men for the final nine minutes when Brad Crocombe was sent packing for a second bookable offence.
But an awkward landing after an aerial duel saw Howard require medical treatment, and referee Madden brought an end to proceedings with 86 minutes played.
Spurs manager Jake Elms admitted he was ‘buzzing’ that his side were semi-finalists, with keeper Hawker-Patchett singled out for his role in the win.
‘I can’t complain at all,’ Elms said after the final whistle. ‘I thought everyone was brilliant.
‘In the second half they came at us a bit, took the game to us and I thought they changed the way they were playing. They were a bit more direct into the strikers and tried to force the issue a bit more.
‘In the first half I don’t think they troubled us all that much, bar the penalty. If anything, I feel for Joel. I felt that the way he played in the first half he deserved a clean sheet. His hands in the air were like glue.
‘The lads understood that we’ve been a bit flat the past couple of weeks. It’s probably just because we knew we’d qualified and took our foot off the gas a bit.
‘I just felt that today it was nice to see that positive reaction. To be honest I’m absolutely buzzing right now.’
Elms will take his side away to the unbeaten University of Exeter on Wednesday. The Students received a bye on Saturday after Watcombe Wanderers couldn’t raise a side.
Okehampton Argyle suffered the same fate, which handed Teignmouth a semi-final spot against PAFC FITC Development without a ball being kicked.
It was the second time in a matter of days that Teignmouth’s opposition had to pull out, after Chudleigh Athletic were forced to withdraw on Wednesday.
‘It’s frustrating because ultimately we want to earn the right to be in the latter rounds,’ said Teigns manager Liam Jones yesterday.
‘With no disrespect at all to Chudleigh, I do kind-of understand how they might have struggled.
‘But for a squad as strong as Okehampton, it’s disappointing when a newly-promoted Peninsula League side can’t raise a team.
‘We were told late on Friday, which was poor because preparations at the club were already well underway.
‘The lads were well up for it. It’s a rivalry which sort-of appeared out of nowhere after events last week.’
Looking ahead, he added: ‘Ultimately, we need to focus on Tuesday and make sure we’re at it and put in a good performance.
‘I’m going into it a little bit blind as I have no real view on Argyle. They play on 3G, so being at Coach Road will give them what they perceive to be an advantage.
‘But we shouldn’t be fearful of anyone. We just need to turn up and play our game.’
Devon Football League Mini Tournament Semi-Finals:
PAFC FITC Development vs Teignmouth (Coach Road, 25/05, 7pm)
University of Exeter vs Newton Abbot Spurs Reserves (Topsham Sports Ground, 26/05, 7.30pm)