SAM Stayt’s second-half wonder goal pushed Buckland Athletic up to third in the Western League as they beat Millbrook 1-0 on Saturday.

The goal came within the final 10 minutes of the match and was a just reward for a dominating performance in which Buckland enjoyed the majority of the ball.

‘It’s another important three points as we approach the business end of our season,’ said Buckland boss Dan Hart. 

‘Heading into Tuesday night [Les Phillips Cup match against Helston Athletic], I would’ve liked a more polished display but that’s three wins and two clean sheets on the bounce and that’s quite important because before today we had two clean sheets in the last 10, so it was key we shut them out.

‘I’d credit particularly the three defenders; I think they all played really well today and shut out the threat that Millbrook did have. Andy [Collings] made a great save at the end but I’m not sure I’d say we were lucky – they earned the clean sheet.’

Among the resilient defence was debutante Josh Robins, who joined the club from Southern League side Tavistock at the end of March.

‘Josh came into the team today and made a difference,’ said Hart. ‘He looked really polished even though he’s not played too much football in the months since he left Tavistock. I was really impressed with his debut.’

Robins showed few signs of a man who had not played for a while, and he was called into action just 13 minutes in. David Youlden sprayed a spellbinding ball forward for Kieran O’Melia to give chase, with the initial delivery beating Robins. Buckland’s newest signing recovered well and put in a crucial challenge to win the ball.

Buckland Athletic 1-0 Millbrook
Josh Robins, right, saw the ball gathered by his goalkeeper after his challenge. (Toejam237)

Valiant defending came to the Bucks’ rescue again in the second half when O’Melia and Ben Goulty broke forward on the counterattack, and Goulty tempted the defence over and slipped a clever ball across the edge of the box for his teammate. O’Melia set himself to shoot but his effort was spectacularly blocked by the flying body of centre-back Jordan Pearce.

‘I’ve got to credit Millbrook,’ said Hart. ‘I know their coaching team really well and a lot of their young players from my working life as well, and I was really impressed with how they went about their game. They were brave in possession and caused us a lot of problems in the first half but, fortunately, maybe didn’t have that clinical edge. 

‘Defensively, we looked really structured, and that is pleasing for me as a coach; to get to this part of the season and have a defence looking that solid against young sides two games in a row is great to see.’

Buckland pushed their noses in front on 81 minutes. Sam Morcom’s free-kick was headed clear by a defender but only got as far as Stayt. With 30 yards to goal, Stayt arrowed a sublime half-volley through the crowded penalty area and in off the far post.

Buckland Athletic 1-0 Millbrook
Millbrook goalkeeper Chris Wearing is beaten by Stayt's screamer. (Toejam237)

‘He’s a player that I really like and he’s at the right age profile for this club,’ Hart said. ‘He went away to university mid-season and played for Cribbs for a little while but has returned and that’s now 13 league goals for him at 18 or 19-years old, so he’s a player that we need to keep at this club and make sure his playing career is an enjoyable one with the right coaching and direction. I think he’s someone that can get better and better as the years go by.’

There was still time for one final scare for Buckland. Deep into injury-time, O’Melia found space on the edge of the box and pulled the trigger. Bucks custodian Collings produced a fine off-balance save to tip the ball onto the crossbar and the rebound was thumped to safety.

‘The team, from an attacking point of view, just need to find that rhythm again,’ Hart said at full-time, reflecting on a performance in which Buckland enjoyed the majority of possession but found chances hard to come by. 

Buckland Athletic 1-0 Millbrook
Buckland boss Dan Hart was pleased with his defence but feels the attack has gone flat. (Toejam237)

‘We didn’t have Josh Webber today – he’s a big part of our game from an attacking perspective – but need to find that rhythm and show a bit more bravery in front of goal and in and around the box. Sammy Stayt is a key example because he takes the initiative in attacking positions. 

‘At the minute, in Jared Lewington and Ryan Bush, you’d do better to find better strikers in our league but they’re a little bit flat in their performances but when they click again, it will be dangerous for any team that we face.'