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Graham Lloyd writes............

FT: Plymouth Parkway 0 Westbury United 1 (Demkiv 68)

After 5 successive away matches, Parkway returned to Bolitho Park in front of a crowd of 156 to entertain fellow promoted club high flying Westbury United, last seasons Western League Division 1 champions. Parkway were looking to consolidate their league position against a side who had a 100% league record having won all 7 of their games. A couple of ongoing injuries resulted in Parkway making 4 changes to their starting line up from their impressive midweek victory at Bitton.

Both sides made a positive start with Parkway taking the early initiative but Westbury, looking a solid, well organised outfit forcing the first corner on 7 minutes. As play continued to fluctuate, Mike Smith made a good break down the left with his cross being cleared to safety. With Westbury looking sharp and incisive in midfield and pacy up front, they created the first clear chance when a header from a right wing corner was well saved at full stretch by Kyle Moore. Parkway continued to compete well with Ryan Lane and Tiegan Rosanquest seeing plenty of the ball in wide areas but too often their final ball lacked the quality to trouble the solid looking Westbury defence who were proving hard to break down. However Parkway did create a good chance on 19 minutes. Neat play between Mikey Williams and Smith down the left ended with Smith's shot from around 12 yards being tipped over by the Westbury keeper Brendon Sawyer. With the impressive Westbury midfielder Josh Ferguson beginning to dictate proceedings, Parkway spent a period on the back foot as they worked hard to remain in the game with goalscoring chances few and far between. Westbury's Ricky Hulbert was booked for dissent on 28 minutes just prior to his strike partner Dan Kovacs picking up an injury and being replaced by Jamie Jordan.

Parkway then had a period in the ascendancy with Tiegan Rosanquest looking lively on the right but again the final ball lacked penetration as Westbury continued to defend strongly. On 38 minutes Moore did well to smother a dangerous cross from Will Stead before play switched to the other end with Ben Joyce seeing his fierce shot pushed wide. Westbury continued to look dangerous on the break and on 43 minutes only a last ditch, perfectly timed tackle in the penalty area by the ever reliable Rob Farkins prevented Hulbert from getting his shot way. The half ended with the lively Callum Dimkiv receiving a yellow card for persistent infringements. A highly competitive, fairly even half with not too many chances for either side with both defences generally holding the upper hand.

At the break Shane Krac replaced Rosanquest who appeared to have picked up an injury. Westbury almost took the lead on 48 minutes with Jordan shooting just wide. Parkway then had a 10 minute period of pressure with a Lane cross fizzing across the 6 yard box without getting a touch and Krac having a snap shot saved on 51 minutes. Smith then saw a shot on target deflected for a corner before a Williams shot went narrowly wide. With Ferguson becoming increasingly influential in midfield and Stead pushing further forward Westbury almost took the lead on 57 minutes. Ferguson went on a powerful forward run with his shot from 18 yards going narrowly wide as the Parkway defence retreated. Parkway bounced back making good progress down the right with Aaron Bentley making inroads and Williams pushing further forward down the left. On 63 minutes a good move on the left ended with a firm Smith header being blocked on the line at point blank range by Sawyer. Krac then saw his deft chip just clear the bar.

The midfield area continued to be keenly contested with both sides guilty of conceding possession. From one such Parkway error on 68 minutes, Westbury made the vital breakthrough. A break down the right exposed the Parkway defence with the ball being crossed to the unmarked Demkiv who slid the ball home from close range. Parkway almost equalised straight from the restart with a Stewart Yetton shot being headed off the line. On 70 minutes Francois Allen replaced Demkiv who appeared to have been injured in the post goal scrum celebrations. Sam Hillson replaced Lane on 72 minutes as Parkway continued to push forward with Krac and Hillson creating an opening which was cleared for a corner. With Parkway pushing forward Westbury were able to exploit gaps at the back and Hulbert shot narrowly over on 76 minutes. Westbury were now content to defend deep and play on the break with Parkway unable provide the clinical finish to match their approach play. With Ferguson continuing to control the midfield and look comfortable in possession, he released Allen on 83 minutes but his effort to clinch the game went well wide. Christian Pople who had worked tirelessly all game, closing down, chasing and winning numerous tackles received a yellow card on 85 minutes before another period of Parkway pressure ended with Smith volleying well over from around 15 yards.

Westbury were now content to see the game out by knocking long balls to the wide open areas denying Parkway any forward momentum. They should have doubled their lead on 89 minutes when another long ball over the top saw Moore forced to rush well off his line with Allen just beating him to the ball, rounding him on the deck at least twice before inexplicably missing the unguarded goal from close range. Surely a genuine contender for miss of the season!!

A good, tight game between two evenly matched sides with Parkway not quite good enough on the day, lacking the cutting edge and a bit of quality in the vital final third against a strong, resolute Westbury defence. Parkway's first home defeat since losing to Westfields in the FA vase last December, sees them remain in 6th place, 10 points off Willand Rovers at the top with 3 games in hand. Attention now turns to the FA Vase 1st round next Saturday with a visit to old rivals St Austell.

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