Survival is name of the game for Lear
NEWTON Abbot Spurs Reserves boss Matt Lear starts the New Year with Premier Division survival in mind, as last year's Division One runners-up prepare for a rematch against leaders Brixham AFC, less than a month after going down 3-0 at Wall Park.
That defeat was Spurs' sixth in nine matches, leaving them fourth from bottom, writes Neil Hocking.
"We came up last season, and our aim is to solidify our position in the league." Lear said.
While Spurs do have to start picking up points quickly, a run of good results could soon turn things around.
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Spurs have faced a tough start to the campaign, but wins over Galmpton and Ipplepen demonstrated they have the ability to compete with the teams around them - a crucial factor in deciding who stays and who drops.
"Our six defeats are against the top six teams in the table, so it's not all bad," laughed Lear, "and we're still in the quarter-finals of the Herald Cup as well, so we've got things to play for."
Brixham will arrive at the Rec in the knowledge that only a win will guarantee they remain at the top of the table, although Buckland Athletic will have to overturn an in-form Kingsteignton Athletic at Broadpark if they are to capitalise on any slip-up by Jason Couch's side.
Upton Athletic entertain Stoke Gabriel Reserves, with both teams aiming to string consecutive wins together and maintain the pressure on the leaders.
Watts Blake Bearne travel to bottom club Staverton and Landscove and champions Kingskerswell and Chelston go to Ipplepen Athletic, with both teams looking to complete the double against their opponents.
Struggling Abbotskerswell host Galmpton United Reserves, while Teignmouth Reserves will be anxious to come away with at least a point from their visit to the Loddiswell Playing Fields.
After Waldon Athletic's Division One headliner against Watcombe Wanderers fell foul of the bad weather last weekend, both sides are now free to extend their unbeaten starts. Waldon go to Hele Rovers, while Watcombe entertain Dartmouth AFC Reserves.
In fact, only one fixture survived last weekend's washout, but any joy Riviera Spurs might have felt about once again being the only team able to host an SDFL encounter was soon overshadowed by a second successive defeat on the 3G all-weather pitch at Paignton Community College.
In blustery conditions, opponents Totnes & Dartington Reserves fought their way in front after 10 minutes. A delightful 30-yard ball from Darren Blight put in Chris Head to poke home his – and Tots' – first. They extended the lead to two less than ten minutes later, Head's trickery on the byline, culminating in a cross to Joseph Eke, who slid in at the far post.
Three goals in the second half left the game delicately poised at 3-2, Head nodding in Ashley Henning's cross and Spurs netting through Ant Jones and Ryan Frayne.
Spurs spurned a series of chances to equalise before Totnes & Dartington scored a crucial fourth goal at the other end, man of the match Mike Hallowes starting a move which Head finished with a fine lob over the home goalkeeper.
Late in the game, Eke made it five with his second, and sub Kieren Lincoln converted a penalty after Head was pulled down by the Spurs goalkeeper.
The 6-2 win was the first in three starts for Tots, who leapfrog Dartmouth AFC Reserves into fourth spot in Division One.
Tots' last win was back in November, against Chudleigh Athletic, and Chris Head also scored four of their eight in that encounter.
Riviera Spurs were gracious in defeat, sparing the time to commend referee Angus Muirden for an excellent performance.
But three defeats in their last four home games leave them with plenty to do in 2013, starting with another crucial home tie against Buckfastleigh Rangers on Saturday.