OLLIE Aplin’s injury-time header rescued a point for Bovey Tracey in a thrilling 2-2 draw with Elburton Villa on Wednesday night.
Aplin nodded home four minutes into additional time of Bovey’s Peninsula League home the Moorlanders, joining James Watts-Barciela on the score-sheet as a much-improved second half saw Bovey answer two first-half goals from Elburton’s Reece Brown.
‘I think we have to be kind of happy we got a point and kind of unhappy at how poor we were in the first half compared to what we were like in the second half,’ Bovey boss Will Small admitted.
‘We just weren’t at the races, and first half-hour we didn’t win a second-ball and we didn’t challenge for a second-ball. [Brown] has hit a good strike from his free-kick but the phase of play before that, we were weak in the tackle and we gave the ball away – we just weren’t at it at all in the first half.
‘Second half, we made changes and the lads have come on with a point to prove and I think we were unlucky not to win it in the end with the amount of chances we had.’
Bovey looked well off the pace in the opening exchanges and, when Brown thundered home a 25-yard free-kick on 17 minutes, it was undeniable that it had been coming. He struck again just six minutes later.
‘Too many people had a bit of an off-day in the first half and too many of them weren’t really fancying it,’ Small said.
‘The formation probably didn’t suit – their front two are good and have been around playing a good standard of football and will cause lots of people trouble in this league. But we should have dealt with it better; our communication wasn’t great and our desire to do the ugly stuff wasn’t really there in the first half.’
With a mammoth task ahead of them, Bovey began the second half well. Small rolled the dice with a triple-substitution 10 minutes after the restart which saw the introduction of 17-year-old Watts-Barciela, wing-back Lewis Perring and industrious midfielder Chester Walters.
‘For me, it was just getting more balls into the box,’ Small explained.
‘We needed to bit a lot more direct in the way that we were playing, and we know Lewis has great delivery and James has got great delivery, they’ve both got a bit of pace and once they get half a yard they’ll put a good ball into the box, so that was the thinking behind that. Chester gets on the ball in midfield and he moves it side-to-side, which allowed us to get the ball into the box from those positions.
‘It was positive we had a Plan B and a Plan C and we’ve managed to get something out of the game but Plan A needs to be a lot better from the start, and the lads need to execute what we are asking them to from the start.’
The impact of the changes was palpable. After heaping the pressure on, Watts-Barciela halved the deficit on 72 minutes, converting a jinking run in which his quick feet meandered round half-a-dozen defenders by curling home off the far post.
With the gas pedal firmly stuck to the ground, the hosts went in search of an equaliser, coming agonisingly close on two occasions. Immediately after the goal, a mouth-watering move ended in Sean Finch clipping a clever, unsighted flick into the middle of the box where unmarked midfielder Dan Griffiths miscued to send the ball over. Then, in the early stages of injury-time, marauding defender Ryan O’Callaghan fought to keep possession of the ball on the edge of the Villa box and managed to get an awkward-but-effective shot away, forcing visiting goalkeeper Jason Peters to produce a superb save as he scrambled across goal.
The moment of elation finally came for Bovey four minutes into a period of injury-time that would eventually see the clock tick past 100 minutes. With an increasing number of bodies crowding the penalty area, Perring fizzed a teasing cross in from the right flank which Aplin – quite bravely – met with his head to score.
But with plenty of time still to play, Bovey could perhaps consider themselves lucky to come away with anything. Men piled forward to find a winner for the home side, which Elburton counterattacked through substitute striker Bentley Alcantara. Having turned one defender inside-out, Alcantara cut in and looked like he would snatch victory but dragged his shot a whisker wide of the post.
‘Second half, I thought we were a lot better,’ Small said.
‘We scored within a couple minutes of the half starting and it was wrongly ruled out. We scored three – albeit one of them ruled out – but we could have scored four or five if we had taken our chances.
‘In a way in [the dressing room] it feels like a win because you’ve got a late equaliser but I will look at it as two points dropped ultimately today, which means Saturday [against Bishops Lydeard], we’ve got to go and win.’