Josh Pearce scores stunning first goal for Appledore in Peninsula League win
BY his own admission, Josh Pearce does not cross the halfway line as much as he would like.
But the right back ventured forward to hit his first goal for Appledore in stunning style at Marshford on Saturday.
Pearce's swerving strike was the pick of three second-half goals in a 3-0 win over Exeter Civil Service in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League.
Having signed from Barnstaple Town reserves as an attacking midfielder, he has gradually adapted to a new role.
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Keith Shapland, the Appledore player-manager, said: "Josh is technically a very good footballer. He's got great feet.
"He played in midfield when he came to us and I said, 'I know full back is not your position but that is where you'll play in this team'.
"We have worked in training a bit on his defensive work.
"I'm pleased for him. He's never moaned about playing at full back."
Working with a young squad, Shapland has needed to be patient but the signs are they are making good progress.
Marc Clark scored his first two goals for the first team, completing Appledore's fourth win from five matches in first division (east).
"We were just under halfway (in the table) last year," said Shapland. "If we can go over halfway, then great, I would take that.
"Rather than a points target or positions, if we can improve game on game that would be a successful season as far as I'm concerned."
In an energetic opening spell, a succession of half chances fell for both teams.
Clark put a lob over and Kurtis Parkin, Appledore's goalkeeper, saved with a foot to deny Harry Taylor and made a block from Nick Murray.
Nick Fishwick and Mark Cann both broke forward from midfield, testing Paul Gibbons with strikes the visiting keeper did well to hold.
And Gibbons showed fine reactions and a strong right hand after Seth Hodorowski cut inside to hit a powerful right-footed shot.
The visitors squandered another opening when team-mates Josh Burrell and Shaun Densham could only succeed in tripping each other.
Cann then got on the end of a free kick from Jamie Frickleton, only to see his header held by the goalkeeper.
But the same players combined for the breakthrough early in the second half.
A typical pacy run on the left wing from Hodorowski earned a free kick and Cann crossed to the far post where Frickleton headed across goal for Clark to pounce.
The second goal was no more than Appledore deserved after a positive performance – and what a goal it was.
After picking up possession on the halfway line, Pearce ploughed forward unchallenged to smash a shot from outside the box into the top corner.
"They seemed to back off him and he didn't really have any other options but to hit it," said Shapland. "As soon as he hit it, it was in."
Exeter responded by sending on Ollie Burns and Jamie Densham, the former Bideford striker whose appearances this season have been limited by a broken arm.
Burns almost made an instant impact when the ball dropped in the six-yard box but Parkin did enough to put him off.
As the visitors pressed, Frickleton made an excellent block and Hodorowski was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty for a challenge on Burrell.
Alongside the younger players, Frickleton, at the back, and Cann, in midfield, give the team valuable experience.
Shapland has asked his side to find a nasty streak to go with their nice football and the manager showed that with a crunching challenge on Neil Pointing.
As a late substitute, he then helped set up the third goal by stealing possession from a defender.
Clark did the rest with a mazy run and cool finish to round off another promising display after stepping up from the reserves.
"Clarky did well to get his two goals," said Shapland. "Maybe we were a bit fortunate to get the free kick that led to the first goal but we'll take it.
"We started slowly. Going up the hill against the wind in the first half was difficult.
"We'll always attack freely and we have worked hard on keeping it tighter at the back."
Conceding 24 goals in 15 fixtures, Appledore have the second best defensive record in a free-scoring division.