New North Devon under-18 football league is taking shape
A NEW under-18 league in North Devon is taking shape.
A sponsor has almost been secured and teams are being lined up, including Bideford, Braunton and a combined Barnstaple Town and SAS side.
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Teams from Petroc and Bideford College may also join.
Peter North, the head coach of Bideford's youth set-up, has been heavily involved in the planning.
He said: "We are hoping to get it started for the 2013-14 season.
"We have a sponsor lined up and it looks quite promising.
"We have such a nucleus of under-16 players it is a good opportunity to get this under-18 league going and hopefully having the legs to continue."
Bridging the gap between under-16 football, where the West Country Cleaning Services North Devon Youth League currently stops, to the adult game has been occupying minds at Bideford.
A number of North's under-16 players have been training with the club's reserve team, who are second in the North Devon League premier division.
"I think the step up is too much for some of them," said North.
"I'm an advocate of players going through under-18s to men's football.
"Even training is a big step up. Some of the big players can hold their own but some won't be able to make the step up yet and under-18s is the pathway for them.
"We have got three or four players training with the reserves and Sam Stephens (the reserve-team manager) has been very forthcoming in wanting them there.
"They're going to sign a couple on and bring them into games where the opposition isn't so strong to get them acquainted with that level of football."
While the men maintained their title hopes with a 5-0 win over Putford on Saturday, the under-16s effectively saw theirs ended by a 3-1 derby defeat to Bideford Blues.
It was a seventh win out of seven games for Blues, who are five points behind leaders Torridgeside with four games in hand.
Mark Newman, the manager, said: "It's going well at the moment but it was our first game for six weeks and they looked really tired.
"It was a hard game and could have gone either way."
Kristian Hancock, Joe Wreatham and Bradley Westcott, who made an impact as a second-half substitute, scored for Blues. Mark Bryce was man of the match.
Bideford's prolific Billy Parsons got their goal.
North said: "It was a very good game and probably a draw would have been a fair result. They took their chances."
Barnstaple Youth are top of the under-15 division with a 100 per cent record after eight games.
Matt High and Jack Benham scored two each to give them a 4-3 victory over Torridgeside.
It was a case of third time lucky for Samuel Wright as his long-range screamer gave Torridgeside under-11s a 1-0 win over SAS.
He had gone close with two earlier efforts from distance.
Ronnie Pickard, making his full debut, was man of the match for Torridgeside who lead the table, having dropped only two points all season.
Bailey Stubbings is recovering after collapsing with a burst appendix shortly after playing a starring role in Torridgeside's 3-2 win over Braunton Wanderers earlier this month.
Barnstaple FC, playing their first match for five weeks, took on an Ilfracombe Town side who had not seen action since December 9 and came out on top 5-2.
Man of the match Oaklan Clarke and Jack Joslin grabbed two each for Barnstaple, with the other coming from Jack Winter.
There were solid displays from the winners' Devon Sharp and Freddy Taylor.
Goals from Joel Kirby, Charlie Oldbury and Jack Creely gave Braunton Wanderers a 3-3 draw at South Molton.
Appledore progressed to the semi- finals of the under-10 plate with a 2-0 win away to Torridgeside.
They took the lead in the first half with a goal from Sami Gillett.
In the second half, Torridgeside piled on the pressure but Appledore defended resolutely and a fine breakaway goal was finished by Poppy Cloke, to book a meeting with Bideford.