FT: Westbury United 0
Plymouth Parkway 4 (Carter 30, 72, Krac 61, Annear 86)
Accompanied by around 25 supporters amongst the 92 in attendance, 2nd placed Parkway made the long trip to Wiltshire to face 4th placed Westbury United. Westbury were one of only 5 teams to have inflicted a league defeat on Parkway this season having had a narrow 1-0 victory at Bolitho Park during Parkway's poor run in October. Due to illness, representative call ups and other unavailabilities, Parkway travelled with a depleted squad enforcing changes from last weeks victory over Bridport. Jordan Trott slotted across to centre half from left back, Ryan Lane dropped into the left back role with Les Afful and Christian Pople being recalled into midfield. Only 2 available substitutes were on the bench.
On a bobbly surface making passing and control likely to prove difficult, both sides made a cautious start looking to find their front men early with long balls into the channels. With Westbury's Joe Stradling looking lively early on, they had a half hearted penalty appeal turned down with top scorer Callum Demkiv going down in the area but only a goal kick being given. The first chance of the game on 8 minutes saw Mikey Williams, looking to continue his superb scoring run by making it 8 in 8, force Ed Baldy into a fine save from a well hit shot. Westbury captain Steve Hulbert immediately received the game's first yellow card apparently for dissent. Both sides continued to play a direct style and on 19 minutes the dangerous Demkiv saw his shot deflected just wide for a corner before at the other end Shane Krac volleyed just over after a passage of neat play on the right. Adam Carter up front was seeing plenty of the ball with his strong running and hold up play all across the front line continually pulling the Westbury defence around and putting them under pressure. On 27 minutes Demkiv saw another effort flash just wide after another long ball stretched the Parkway defence.
With Parkway now beginning to assert some control through the midfield, they took the lead on the half hour. A corner from their right saw the impressive Carter show good strength and timing by rising the highest and nod home a well directed header from around 5 yards. Westbury were working hard to stay in the game with Jordan Pinder shooting just wide on 35 minutes. Parkway now playing with a good rhythm and energy and defending strongly, created further chances on 35 and 37 minutes with a Krac effort being well saved by Baldy and Afful shooting just over. With Rob Farkins imperious at the back and marshalling the defence strongly, Westbury were generally being restricted to long range efforts with the final chance of the half on 41 minutes falling to Krac who shot just over from distance. After a stodgy start with little between the sides, Parkway gradually adjusted to the difficult surface, gained the upper hand and created the clearer chances but Westbury remained dangerous on the break forcing solid defending from the Parkway back line.
Parkway made a strong start to the second half with an Afful shot being deflected wide on 49 minutes. With Krac, Pople, Williams and Teigan Rosenquest now controlling the midfield and Carter continuing to be a threat up front they doubled their lead on 61 minutes. A neat passage of play through the midfield ended with Rosenquest cleverly setting up Krac who turned sharply on the edge of the 18 yard box and fired a crisply hit left footed strike high into the net with Baldy well beaten. Westbury replaced Pinder with Dan Kovacs on 65 minutes as they looked to claw their way back into the game. With Parkway continuing to dominate, the lively Krac fired just over on 64 minutes before the game entered a short chaotic period with both sides being reduced to 10 men. A rash challenge by Krac just in front of the technical areas on 65 minutes saw a period of deliberation and consultation by the referee who eventually gave Krac a straight red card when most observers on and off the field seemed to think it may only have been a yellow. Westbury then replaced Jamie Jordan with Will Stead (who came on with no number on his shirt). Having been on the pitch for about 5 minutes, Stead was booked for a silly challenge in midfield and immediately given a second yellow seemingly for uncomplimentary remarks made to the referee regarding the original decision.
Once a semblance of order had been restored and both sides adjusted their formations, Parkway increased their lead on 72 minutes. A long ball into the Westbury 6 yard box saw Carter once again show good strength by turning and stabbing the ball home from 6 yards with Westbury unsuccessfully claiming a handball. Carter, who had put in a terrific shift all game, was then replaced by Jordan Annear up front for Parkway's only substitution of the game. Westbury continued to threaten occasionally but with Farkins outstanding at the back and Trott, Lane and Sam Hillson all defending solidly their only real chance came on 84 minutes when a Steve Hulbert volley following a partially cleared corner forced a fine save from Kyle Moore who had been relatively untroubled but competent throughout.
Parkway finally sealed the game on 86 minutes. A Westbury attack was broken up in the Parkway half allowing Parkway to break forward creating a 4 on 3 situation with a neat interchange of passes ending with Annear showing good composure and control, firing a powerful left foot strike into the top corner from around 15 yards. Stradling received the game's final yellow card on 87 minutes as Parkway continued their dominance to the end with Williams being denied a shot on goal in stoppage time as he appeared to be brought down just outside the penalty area. A very good all round performance from Parkway despite their depleted squad and on a difficult surface which almost certainly ended Westbury's fading title challenge as they dropped a place to 5th. Parkway remain in 2nd place, a point adrift of leaders Willand Rovers who secured a 4-2 victory today with 2 late goals and 3 points ahead of 3rd placed Bitton who also won today.
With the thrice rearranged home game with Hallen taking place this Wednesday and Willand not playing until next Saturday, a Parkway victory would see them go top of the table for the first time this season. Should that be the case, the outcome of next next Saturday's visit to Bitton becomes even more vital and would surely go some way to affecting the destiny of the title. With Parkway having just 5 league games left after that along with the semi finals of the Les Phillips Cup and Devon St Lukes Bowl also to play, the end of season climax could not be more exciting.
Thankyou Graham for yet another cracking report, the SJA British Sports Journalism Awards surely beckons