Bideford can show they have learned
TWO testing home fixtures this week will give Bideford the chance to show their progress in the Evo-Stik League Southern.
St Neots Town come to the Sports Ground on Saturday and Cambridge City are the visitors on Tuesday – and both teams have promotion ambitions.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Bedworth United was the latest sign Bideford have adapted well to life in the premier division.
Since the 5-3 defeat at St Neots in November, when they trailed 4-0 at half time, the Robins have won seven and drawn three of their 14 fixtures.
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Sean Joyce, the manager, said: "St Neots gave us a lesson up there.
"We were 5-0 down and we got it back to 5-3.
"You feel like you have won the second half and that was probably the start of the good run we went on.
"It will be a good test to see how far we have come."
Matt Hockley scored twice and Matt Andrew got the other goal against Bedworth as Bideford overcame stubborn opposition and a heavy pitch.
Joyce slammed the state of the Sports Ground surface, which is maintained by contractors through Torridge District Council.
"The pitch was an absolute disgrace," he said. "They have done nothing on it again. It's a spud patch.
"We have got players who can run with the ball – Sean Downing, Matt Andrew, Ben Wood – and every time they get it they are getting scythed down because it's bobbling all over the place.
"We go away and we get lovely pitches. Teams come down here and it's embarrassing."
On Saturday, Bideford were beaten 4-3 at St Albans City where, despite goals from Downing (two) and Richard Groves (penalty), they paid for defensive errors.
First-half strikes from Chris Seeby and James Comley, and two late goals from Chris Henry, kept St Albans in the hunt for a play-off place.
Ahead of the match against St Neots, there will be a minute's silence in memory of three Bideford supporters, Tommy Brimacombe, Bill Barber and Mike Stevens, who have died recently.
Ross Middleton welcomed a clean sheet as his Ilfracombe Town team ensured they got the better of Willand Rovers in the Toolstation Western League this season.
Ilfracombe followed up a 2-0 win in the away match in August with a goalless draw at Marlborough Park on Tuesday night.
It was a poor game but Middleton, the player-manager, was pleased to shut out Willand after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Melksham Town.
"It was a well-earned clean sheet," he said.
"There was a lot of huffing and puffing, it was a good old derby.
"We couldn't get the win but we have taken four points off Willand in the derbies this season."
Stan Paxton, the former Barnstaple Town player who has joined from Bridgwater Town, was Ilfracombe's best player at Melksham.
He missed the Willand game because of university work but Middleton predicted a bright future for his new recruit.
"He started up front and went to centre half for the second half," said the manager. "He will be a big signing for us."