Matt Andrew proves an all-round goal threat for Bideford
THE ABILITY of Matt Andrew to weigh in with all types of goals has been integral to Bideford's rise up through the leagues.
On New Year's Day, the midfielder showed his worth with a spectacular right-footed volley and a poacher's goal in the win against Weymouth.
Last week, in defeat to Banbury United, he scored the consolation, this time with a swipe of the left foot.
And on Saturday, in the 1-1 draw with AFC Totton, Andrew timed his run into the area, putting the Robins in front with a textbook headed goal.
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Basketball players call it hang time. The skill of taking off and staying in the air as gravity pulls at your ankles. Andrew seemed to soar effortlessly as he met Ian Sampson's cross and looped the ball into the corner.
The goal gave Bideford a first-half lead in a game which, on the balance of play, they should have won.
They paid the price, however, for a brief lack of concentration just after half time when Richard Gillespie forced in the equaliser.
Like Andrew going up for his header, Bideford have hit new heights this season and they look determined to stay there.
Having lost 2-0 at Totton both in the league and FA Trophy in September, this was an opportunity to benchmark their progress.
After last week's struggle against Banbury, manager Sean Joyce was encouraged by the tempo and tenacity of "a typical Bideford performance".
"We created a lot of chances," he said. "I was disappointed we didn't win in the end.
"We have always been a very wasteful team but that's because we get on the front foot and create so many chances. Performance wise, I can't fault the lads."
Perhaps they would have gone on to win had Baily Cargill not escaped punishment after appearing to lash out at Sean Downing off the ball.
The Totton wing back had already been shown the yellow card for a foul on Downing early in the second half.
When they clashed again, the referee opted not to take further action and Cargill was swiftly substituted.
Despite having the majority of possession, the hosts were lacking punch in the final third.
Twice in the first half, Sampson whipped corners across the goal without anyone applying a finishing touch.
It was an afternoon when forwards seemed unable to judge the flight of a cross as the ball bobbled and bounced in all directions.
Ben Wood, hardly known for his aerial ability, could not quite grow enough as a cross fizzed over his head.
Wood then failed to make contact after good work from Matt Bye and Andrew to carve out the chance.
Finally, Andrew made the breakthrough in the 30th minute, claiming his fifth goal in five league and cup games.
Totton responded by testing Tim Sandercombe with a header from Ross Bottomley, which the goalkeeper was forced to scramble clear. Their equaliser, though, seemed to catch Bideford cold.
Facing a free kick in the corner, they switched off and left Bye outnumbered against Ryan Hill and Jamie Coutts. Hill was afforded too much time and crossed for Gillespie to force in a shot from close range.
Bideford's response was positive but it was a similar story to the first half with a finishing touch proving elusive. Downing delivered two wicked crosses from the right without team-mates taking a gamble in the goalmouth.
Andrew had a drive beaten away by Barfoot and Kevin Squire, after opting to take his shot early, saw the keeper make a comfortable save.
Barfoot was also grateful when a sizzling effort from Downing flashed just over.
While snow caused every other Evo-Stik League Southern fixture to be postponed, it was sand causing problems for players in the Sports Ground goalmouth.
"We worked a great free kick and the ball bobbled up so high Matty Bye nearly ended up doing a diving header," said Joyce.
"We are in the Southern premier league. It's a good standard of football we're playing and the pitch is embarrassing.
"I don't know if it's up to the club or the council, something has got to be done about it. They have thrown sand on it. They have thrown more sand on. There will be donkeys on it before long."
That label can certainly not be aimed at Bideford's defence in recent months.
Rob Farkins, a tower of strength again, made an expertly timed tackle on Jordan Chiedozie in the closing stages.
With Totton sensing a possible smash and grab, Sandercombe was required to deny Chiedozie with a near-post save.
Unusually, Joyce resisted the temptation to send on any substitutes or make tactical adjustments.
"I didn't want to change it because I thought we were on the front foot," he said.
"Ten minutes to go, do I go for it and try to get a win? I didn't think we deserved to get beaten by being silly."
In the end, the hard-earned draw was enough to move them nine points clear of the premier division relegation zone.