Bideford hit by cruel late blows in Chippenham defeat
UNTIL the 85th minute, it looked as though Bideford would comfortably hold out for a 1-0 win over Chippenham Town.
A scrappy success without being at their best would have proved they are adapting to life in the Evo-Stik League Southern premier division.
But two late goals from Alan Griffin handed Bideford the cruellest of defeats and showed they still have a way to go.
Griffin pounced on a sliced clearance from Ian Sampson to equalise with Chippenham's first significant effort on target.
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And the tall striker wheeled away to celebrate again after heading a controversial winner four minutes into stoppage time.
Tuesday night's encounter was not one that will live long in the memory but Bideford seemed to be doing enough for the win thanks to Kevin Squire's 63rd-minute strike.
A largely forgettable first half produced only two shots on target, both coming from Nick Barker whose efforts were easily held by Chippenham goalkeeper Ben John.
Neither side looked much like scoring until Squire reacted to a header from Clifford to turn in his third goal in four games.
That was the signal for Chippenham to increase the tempo but most of the balls they sent into the box were dealt with efficiently by a deep-lying home defence.
Bideford had the opportunity to craft a second on the counter-attack when Matt Bye robbed possession from Steve Casey on the halfway line.
Bye went for a hasty lob that dropped wide when he might have been better sending Squire clear.
It took a defensive blunder from Sampson, the right back, to hand Chippenham the equaliser with five minutes to go. His misdirected clearance fell for Griffin to finish at the far post.
The goal was another harsh lesson for an inexperienced team that mistakes at this level get punished.
Sean Joyce, the Bideford manager, said: "(The clearance) could have gone anywhere. It's a shame for Sammo because he was awesome. He was probably up against one of their best players and he didn't give him a kick."
Jamie Guthrie, the Chippenham winger, was a box of tricks but Sampson held his position well and did not allow him to get crosses over.
Clifford, the Bideford left back, found his luck was out, too, with the winner in the 94th minute.
The referee waved play on after he appeared to be caught with a high boot on the edge of the box and when Bideford failed to clear, Griffin stooped to head past Paul Hider.
"The referee has absolutely killed us," said Joyce.
"It was a bouncing ball and Connor nearly had his head taken off."
Clifford did lose his head moments later when he was shown a red card for remarks made to the referee.