Praying for a dry spell
A SPELL of dry weather would have been on the Christmas lists of every SDFL club over the festive period as rusty teams looked to get back into action after successive washouts in the league, writes Neil Hocking.
If the combined prayers have been answered, then this weekend will throw up a fixture or two that could turn out to be real Christmas crackers.
Top of the list in the Premier Division is the visit of Watts Blake Bearne to Homers Heath to face a Buckland Reserves side that have the chance to take over at the top of the division.
WBB manager Neil Snell will be without suspended co-manager Lee Breslan, while Jamie Williamson faces a late check on the condition of his hamstring. Otherwise, the Claymen are at full strength, with centre-half/midfielder Craig Derrick on standby to make a debut following his switch from local rivals Kingsteignton Athletic.
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A win for WBB would put them level on points with Bucks, and continue a winning league streak that has so far stretched to five games.
"Buckland are probably the team to beat, so we know it's a big game," Snell admitted, but was confident that his side had the ability to get a result. "It's going to be a tough game at Buckland, but I've always said to the lads that it's eleven versus eleven and you're good enough to win games if you work hard. Buckland are beatable."
The other Premier games pencilled in for Saturday include unbeaten Kingskerswell and Chelston's home tie against Galmpton United Reserves; a crucial visit to Stoke Gabriel for troubled Teignmouth Reserves and a trip to Ipplepen's Moor Road for Loddiswell Athletic, who haven't played in the league since November.
A real festive treat awaits the neutral at Windmill Hill, as one of Division One's perfect starts has to give. Neither Waldon Athletic nor Watcombe Wanderers have dropped a league point so far, and the tie becomes even tastier given the rivalry between the sides.
"The players know each other really well, probably too well," admits Clarets' secretary Keith Aplin, whose side lie second in the table having played one game less than their rivals.
"The match is very important to us especially since both teams are unbeaten. Being a forward-looking club we're looking for promotion this year and it would be one more notch on the belt for us."
With the teams having amassed sixty goals between them in thirteen games the tie has the look of a high-scorer about it, but Aplin warned the neutral not to expect the usual goal glut.
"Both teams have got very good defences as well," he explained, "so I think it will be a close game and I think it will be down to whoever wants it most on the day."
That's if the game goes ahead at all. "That would be a nice Christmas present," Aplin admitted, "no-one's played for two weeks, so it will be nice to get a game out of the way and play off the turkey. If we get a couple of dry days at Windmill, it will be playable because it drains well up there."
The weather situation was so dire last weekend that the South Devon Football League was rumoured to be the only league in Devon that managed to hold a game. With Torquay's derby with Exeter called off, it was certainly the only league with South Devon representatives in action.
Paignton Community College was, once again, the place to go, as the all-weather pitch staged an SDFL Division One encounter between home side Riviera Spurs and visitors Dartmouth AFC Reserves, the rain swinging constantly between drizzle and torrential showers.
The match was keenly contested from the off. Riviera Spurs had their chances, but Dartmouth always looked the more likely to score and took the lead when Scott McRoy's free kick was helped on by Mark Sneap to man of the match Ben Greeno who nipped in to score with a tidy finish from close range.
The game ebbed and flowed before Riveria Spurs were awarded a penalty which was duly dispatched beyond Darts' goalkeeper Seth Gloyns, the half ending honours even.
The second half saw more of the same with Darts making good use of a strong wind at their backs to pile pressure on Spurs. Greeno and Sneap combined for Lee Prestage to score a second, quickly followed by a third when Freddie Smith and Ryan Frost set up Greeno again, who calmly rounded the keeper and slotted home.
Spurs looked dangerous on the break but Kevin Causley, Jordan Frost and Alex Buscombe superbly handled the threat of the forwards who never really troubled Gloyns, with the exception of one shot which he smartly pushed away.
Dartmouth's second successive win pushes them up to fourth.