CURTAINS fell on Buckland Athletic’s disappointing pre-season campaign with a 4-3 defeat to Peninsula League side Elburton Villa on Tuesday night.

The hosting Elburton netted a glut of mouthwatering goals, with Lewis Edwards, Bentley Alcantara and Reece Brown (2) propping up the home half of the scoresheet. Buckland’s response came from Ryan Bush (2) and stand-in skipper Owen Stockton.

'There was a little bit of vulnerability again which has reared its head four days before we start the season,’ admitted Buckland boss Dan Hart. 

'Whilst that’s not ideal, I think it is important that we iron out those issues. We spent a long period after the game looking at why we’re conceding too many goals in pre-season and why we’ve consistently done that and what we can do to stop it. 

'What we are trying to do this year is implement something new and that takes time. One thing that we’re going to have to be quite efficient with is the fact that we don’t have time – obviously we start the season in a small amount of days but three points at the end of a game changes a player’s performance, and that is just the reality. We need to find that level and find it quick. 

'There has been pleasing parts of tonight – I think with the ball at times we were really good – but obviously there are some things that need ironing out when we lose possession. It’s not the ideal way to end pre-season but at the end of the day that’s exactly what it is: pre-season.’

Elburton 4-3 Buckland
Sam Stayt, left, embroiled in a physical battle for the ball. (Josh Goodman)

Buckland enjoyed a lot of possession but there was a sense that something was not quite clicking. At times, Elburton were the better side and caused real problems for the Bucks defence, particularly on the counterattack. 

'[We’re lacking] a little bit of rhythm,’ Hart said. 

'If you bring in five or six players to a group it does take a little bit of time for players to gel. Hopefully now there’s been enough good pieces of play and enough good occasions for us to have a little bit more insight into how people operate and how people work. Some of that is down to us [the coaching team] as well, to make sure players understand the requirements. 

'We’re a team that like to have possession, and, if we don’t have it, to win it back nice and quickly, so there are demands on the fitness of a player and the intensity levels, and that’ll only grow as the season starts.’

Edwards put Villa ahead on 19 minutes with a sumptuous effort from range, and the half-time interval was reached with just the sole strike on the board. Bush turned things around in the space of two minutes after the restart, albeit both goals a gift from the home goalkeeper. The match burst into life, with Alcantara – who was dual-registered with Buckland last season – squeezing home an equaliser on the hour mark. 

Elburton 4-3 Buckland
Sam Leary, left, stands tall to block a shot from the ever-dangerous Bentley Alcantara. (Josh Goodman)

Elburton put themselves back in front on 69 minutes with a spellbinding strike from Brown that curled beyond the reach of Andy Collings but were pegged back by a thundering Stockton free-kick seven minutes from time. The winner came two minutes later, when Brown cut inside and tucked a clever finish home at the near post.

'One thing that I will give to these players is that they’re a good group of humble players and maybe you could level that at the group tonight,’ Hart said. 

'They thought this would be a final pre-season game that they could come and score some goals in but that certainly wasn’t the case in our preparation, and the players that they’ve got here [at Elburton] this season are good ones.;

Buckland begin their much-anticipated Western League campaign on Saturday, July 29, with a trip to Clevedon Town.

'We’re going to be training [before the Clevedon game] and we’ll make the most of what we have,’ Hart explained. 

'We have the footage of each game in pre-season and we will do some individual work with each of the players on where we believe they can improve, positionally and in possession as well. There is more we could do to hurt teams; we’ve not scored enough goals for my liking from open play in pre-season. 

Elburton 4-3 Buckland
Stand-in captain Owen Stockton, middle, is beaten to a header. (Josh Goodman)

'I think we need to use this time efficiently to make sure that players understand their responsibilities but they also understand the freedom they’ve got in this team, because they’re good players and that’s why they’re with this club.

'League football brings the best out in players and I know that we’ve got the right characters here to produce much better and much more consistent performances.’