SAM Leary’s injury-time strike earned Buckland Athletic a dramatic 3-2 win over Ilfracombe Town at Homers Heath on Tuesday night.
The centre-half found the net right at the death, joining fellow rearguard Rob Farkins and striker Josh Grant on the scoresheet. Goals from Ilfracombe duo Harry Stevens and Jack Magarotto pushed Buckland all the way.
'I think we always knew tonight was going to be a really difficult test with Ilfracombe coming off a great home win against Falmouth [Town],’ said Buckland Head Coach Dan Hart.
'I thought Ilfracombe were fantastic tonight and they made our lives difficult. Stevens up front with his back to goal was almost unplayable at times and he got himself the first goal. They really worked us out defensively but in the end I think we had numerous opportunities where Sammy [Stayt] goes through one-on-one.
'I’ve said to the boys in the changing room that I thought all of our substitutes were fantastic, and I think that their impact and their attitude to come into a game like that and win us it is a real good sign for this group. We’ve got some fantastic lads in that changing room, and at times they are going to have to pull each other through.
'It was important we got a result, and to win the game at the death was what we deserved at the end.’
Buckland broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark. Ryan Bush, typically a striker but thriving on the wing, worked the ball superbly on the right, beating the defender and slipping a perfectly-weighted pass through for Grant to smash home at the near post on his return to the starting line-up.
'I really like Bushy off the right,’ Hart gleefully explained. 'I think he’s quite a deceiving player; he doesn’t look quick but he certainly can shift and he’s got a real killer instinct to run in behind at the right times.
'I’ll keep working with Bushy to keep developing someone who can play right across the front line. Jared [Lewington] and Josh [Grant] are great options and it’s down to them now to put consistent runs of form together and get their goals, and it was really pleasing for me to see Josh get his first goal in Buckland colours this season.’
Stevens clapped back eight minutes later, turning well to fire the Bluebirds level. They were in front on 58 minutes when Magarotto netted a bizarre effort from distance which caused all sorts of confusion among Buckland’s backline and trickled into the goal.
Farkins restored parity with his head just beyond the hour. Callum Martindale whipped in an inch-perfect delivery from a corner which the captain nodded home for his second goal in as many matches.
'I’m very happy that we’re scoring from set-pieces because it is something that we have worked very hard on,’ Hart said, 'and I feel that we have got a variety of people that can attack the ball.
'We’ve got a big side and we’ve got some fantastic deliverers of the ball as well, so it is important we can score from set-pieces. The percentage of goals at this level from set-pieces is really high and I want to be right in the mix of that, defending them very well and attacking them very well.
'Farks’ header came at a very good time.’
The winner came in dramatic fashion right in the dying embers of the game. Martindale thumped a long free-kick in deep for Farkins, who headed back across into the middle where substitute Frazer Clark was waiting. He could not gather the ball and it pinball out of the area to Leary, who stroked home into the bottom-right corner through the traffic.
'I think any manager would be [frustrated that the game ran so close] because of what we’ve got and the amount of chances we created,’ Hart said.
'We’ve got to be ruthless with the chances, and Ilfracombe were and took the chances they had but it took us a little while to put the ball in the back of the net.
'When we’ve got so much quality in the final third, it always irks me when we don’t finish off our chances but it came, and it’s important that we take our chances when they come, and it was Sam Leary that popped up with a good finish – there are not many better feelings than when you win with a late goal.’