Matt Hockley sets the standard as Bideford beat Bedworth United
AS CAPTAIN of Bideford, Matt Hockley has come to represent many of the team's qualities.
Tough-tackling, hard-working and doing the simple things well, he sets the standard for the younger players to follow.
Against unfancied opponents Bedworth United on Tuesday, it was a night to get the basics right.
And Hockley led by example with the first and final goals in a comprehensive 3-0 win at the Sports Ground.
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The midfielder's season had kicked off less successfully with a red card in the 2-1 defeat against the same opponents in August.
On the evidence of the return fixture, Bideford have made a much smoother transition to a higher standard than their fellow newcomers to the Evo-Stik League Southern premier division.
They could afford to waste numerous chances, including a penalty from Richard Groves, and still edge ten points clear of the relegation zone.
Bedworth, who arrived with a depleted squad, are hovering just outside the bottom two and Sean Joyce, the home manager, knew the importance of getting a result.
"It's a great victory for us," he said. "We usually do well against the top sides but it's the ones down around us you have got to take care of.
"It's a massive result because it puts us nine points above them."
In the build-up, Bedworth had criticised Bideford for refusing to find an alternative date for the rearranged fixture.
Having agreed to make the trip from the Midlands, they later found several players had to work and manager Steve Farmer had booked a family break at Disneyland Paris.
There was nothing Mickey Mouse about their approach to the game as a team featuring three debutants showed plenty of resilience.
A surging run from Ben Polk – their most impressive outfield player on the night – warned the Robins this would be no walkover.
And a glancing header from Mitchell Piggon clipped the crossbar before Bideford went on to dominate the half.
Alexander Dean, the right back, was given a torrid time by Ben Wood and it was his handball that presented Groves with the opportunity from the spot.
However, the penalty was poorly struck and Andrew Kemp dived right to make a comfortable save.
The goalkeeper had an inspired half, keeping out volleys from Kevin Squire and Sean Downing before Hockley finally found a way through.
Ian Sampson and Squire combined and Downing went on the overlap, crossing for the captain to bundle in his first goal from open play this season.
Andrew had missed the 4-3 defeat at St Albans on Saturday feeling unwell and was given some "treatment" on his return. Three Bedworth players, Dean, Jermaine Fletcher and Tom Byrne, were shown yellow cards for fouls on the midfielder in the first half.
Aside from one alarming air-kick by goalkeeper Tim Sandercombe – not helped by a ploughed-up playing surface – the hosts had little to concern them at the back.
But when Piggon turned sharply to shoot wide with the last kick of the half, it was a warning they could not afford to be complacent.
That is what appeared to happen for 20 minutes after the break when Bedworth got on top and Polk tested Sandercombe with a 30-yard drive.
The second goal took the sting out of the game as Squire and Andrew linked up to put Wood clear. The winger scuffed his shot but Andrew was there to help himself to a tap-in.
Squire should have done likewise moments later but the striker leaned back and blazed over for a horrible miss.
Andrew was involved again for the third goal when defender Andrew Spencer was judged to have pulled his shirt and Hockley succeeded where Groves had failed, beating Kemp with the penalty.
In the closing stages, Sandercombe showed sharp reactions to deny David Blekinsopp and secure his first clean sheet since signing for Bideford last month.