Gaping hole in Barnstaple Town defence lets goals flood in
KNOWING what the problem is, and being able to do something about it, are two completely different things.
A gaping hole in the Barnstaple Town defence was brutally exposed as Odd Down swaggered to a 5-0 lead inside 23 minutes at Mill Road.
In the end, Barum were beaten 6-1, suffering their tenth consecutive defeat in the Toolstation Western League.
Avoiding relegation from the premier division already looked like mission impossible when Tom Bulley took over as manager last month.
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Shipping 16 goals in the last three home matches has done nothing to change that view.
"It's obvious what the problem is," said Bulley. "It's there for everyone to see. We are still looking for that experienced leader at the back.
"We didn't start off too badly but once we conceded one goal the floodgates opened.
"The players knew at half time it was unacceptable."
It was more like Sunday League than Western League as two teams struggled on a heavy surface, scoring seven goals and sharing five penalties – three of which were missed.
It is commendable that Barnstaple try to pass the ball through midfield and open teams up with constructive football. But, in reality, success at this level comes through the bread and butter of winning headers, making tackles and showing defensive resilience.
None of those qualities was evident in the first half when Odd Down walked through, almost with embarrassing ease.
Not even the inclusion of Stephen Reed in midfield, playing because Weymouth did not have a game in the Evo-Stik League Southern, could spark Barnstaple to life.
Kris Miller started the rout in the eighth minute, cutting inside Ross Jones and beating Adam Fuller with a 20-yard strike that the goalkeeper simply did not react to.
The second and third goals were even worse from a defensive point of view.
A long clearance from Odd Down keeper Lewis Pierre bounced between Ian Wheatley and Jordan Pearce for Kye Simpson to nip in and score. Then Miller turned in the area and beat Fuller at the near post without the hint of a challenge.
A trip by Wheatley on Twaine Plummer presented Odd Down with their first opportunity from the penalty spot.
And Plummer set the standard for some erratic finishing from 12 yards, sending his kick high over the bar and out of the ground. He would not have to wait long to make amends with a second penalty.
Pearce, signed from Ivybridge Town, had a torrid debut and, when he missed the ball completely, Plummer was clear on goal. This time, Fuller dashed from his line and chopped down the striker, who picked himself up to score.
Plummer remained at the scene of a monumental leak and was involved again when Miller completed his hat-trick to make it 5-0.
Home fans were left wondering what had happened to the spirit and tenacity so evident in the recent derby against Ilfracombe Town.
Barnstaple did begin to put something together in the final third and Cory Roach crossed for Liam Gregory who fired wide at the far post.
A raking pass from Matt Rickard picked out Jed Harper-Penman who was pulled back by Adrian Harvey for a penalty in the 39th minute.
Harper-Penman tucked away the kick with minimum fuss, taking his tally to four goals in four games since signing.
But the winger was unsuccessful with his second spot kick, given for handball, early in the second half.
His weak effort was easily saved by Pierre and, to compound the home team's misery, Odd Down counter-attacked for Simpson to add their sixth.
Simpson then squandered his hat-trick chance, blasting his side's third penalty against the bar after he was fouled by Fuller.
Already on a yellow card for the first penalty he conceded, the goalkeeper perhaps escaped red because Simpson went to ground so easily.
It was Harper-Penman's willingness to shoot from long range that belatedly got Barnstaple going.
After hitting the post with a free kick he then rattled the crossbar from distance.
Rickard and Pearce also saw piledrivers saved by the goalkeeper and substitute Andrew Alexander had a shot blocked.
"I thought we came out fighting in the second half and there was a bit of improvement," said Bulley. "Luke Evans got on the ball more, held it up and caused their defence problems. Jed played well again and I thought Kieran Jewell did well."
The manager was keen to pick out the positives. In the situation Barnstaple find themselves, nine points adrift of safety, they have little choice.