Tim Sandercombe cannot save Bideford from Banbury reality check
TIM SANDERCOMBE is used to being in the firing line this season.
On his final appearance for Truro City in September, the goalkeeper played in an 8-0 defeat at Maidenhead United.
He was a busy man again on Saturday, making a promising debut as Bideford were beaten 2-1 by Banbury United in the Evo-Stik League Southern.
After impressing in the 4-0 friendly victory over Barnstaple Town last week, Sandercombe was given the nod in goal ahead of Paul Hider.
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Sean Joyce took the opportunity to sign the former Mansfield Town keeper after he returned from a knee injury.
And against a lively Banbury team, Sandercombe was far busier than his manager would have liked.
"I tried explaining to him we've hardly given away a chance in the last seven or eight games," said Joyce.
"He pulled off three or four great saves. Considering he's hardly caught a ball for two months, he did really well."
Hider, who won the battle with Sam Hutchings for the goalkeeper's place, must now fight for the No 1 jersey again.
"They are vying for the position," said Joyce. "I just want competition for places. It will make us a better team."
After four home wins in a row, defeat came as a reality check for Bideford against a side who started the day one point and one place beneath them.
Well-drilled and resilient in defence, Banbury were a threat with pace and energy on the counter-attack. In short, they beat Bideford at their own game.
In such tight matches, the first goal is critical and the hosts will look back on two wasted opportunities in the first 15 minutes.
Sean Downing seized on a short header from Jack Ashton, only to see his lob drop narrowly wide.
Jack Furzer then whipped in a free kick and Kevin Squire's glancing effort was beaten away by Lewis Kidd.
Marvin Martin proved a handful on the Banbury wing all afternoon and his wicked free kick was almost turned in by Wayne Blossom.
Few strikers in recent months have given Bideford as much to think about as Adeyinka Talabi.
After a surging run from Talabi, Sandercombe reacted smartly to tip over a snapshot from Ryan Plowright.
Bideford's Ben Wood is renowned for his long throws but it was a throw from the opposition that caught him out for the opening goal.
Wood was unable to clear Albi Skendi's delivery and, with a group of defenders failing to close down quickly enough, Martin bundled a shot past the unsighted Sandercombe.
"It should have been our throw but we got punished because we didn't defend it properly," said Joyce.
The goal was greeted with a thick plume of smoke drifting across the Sports Ground like a firecracker going off in the San Siro.
The smoke came, not from visiting fans, but from a car on fire across town in Victoria Park.
Home supporters were still waiting for their team to ignite.
Sandercombe again had to come to the rescue, denying Martin when the defence were caught square from a Kidd goal kick.
The Robins had a go in the second half but with Downing and Matt Andrew slicing shots off target it was not going to be their day.
The lack of sharpness was summed up by an error from Nick Barker that led to the second goal just two minutes after he went on as substitute.
Barker's header fell short and while Sandercombe raced from his line to block Talabi, Blossom expertly sent a lob back over the keeper from 25 yards.
A burst of pace from Wood almost offered an instant reply but the winger's cross eluded the sliding Downing and Squire at the far post.
Another wayward header from Barker then handed Banbury possession and Sandercombe thwarted Martin at the end of a three-pass move.
The goalkeeper remained Bideford's busiest player, making another full-stretch dive to thwart substitute Chris Lait.
Squire headed a late chance wide and the hosts finally got on the scoresheet when Andrew wriggled clear to score in stoppage time.
"It would have been interesting if we had scored with ten minutes to go how they would have reacted," said Joyce.
"They deserved to beat us in the end. I don't think it was a lack of trying, I think we were just beaten by the better team.
"They have beaten Leamington and Hemel Hempstead and you can see how.
"On the counter-attack, they were good, probably the best I have seen in this league."