Both teams deserve plaudits for providing the large crowd with a proper game of British football in atrocious conditions. Toby Holmes gave Wimborne the lead on 72 minutes before Ollie Chamberlain’s glancing header restored parity.
With Billy Maybury suspended and Carl Pettefer injured, Lee Francis and Jordan Lee took their places. Manager Matty Holmes opted for a central three in defence, with versatile Franklyn Clarke and Stefan Penny operating as wing-backs. For a third game running at the Koolpak Stadium, there was a 400 plus crowd.
With the strong, gusting wind and driving rain at their backs, Wimborne attacked the hospital end in the first half. On 5 minutes, from Gerard Benfield’s goal-kick, Toby stood well behind the visitors’ back-line. The clever tactic worked as the wind-assisted kick flew through to him but he was unable to get a shot on target. On 12 minutes, Toby linked with Luke Burbidge but his curling effort went just over the corner of post and bar.
However, it was Taunton who came closest two minutes later. From a free-kick wide on the left, Ed Palmer’s header came back off Benfield’s cross-bar. With the ball receiving plenty of air-time, the two defences restricted the free-scoring attacks to few chances. Luke Holmes had a shot easily saved by Lloyd Irish in the 24th minute, and Clarke’s inviting cross found no taker. At the other end Andrew Neal’s carefully placed shot was narrowly wide of the far post on 31 minutes, and then, with 5 minutes of the half remaining, he volleyed over from inside the goal area when the ball bounced up in front of him following a corner.
With the wind now at their backs on the increasingly greasy surface, Taunton made their intentions obvious from the start of the second period as Keith Emmerson’s shot from distance whistled over Benfield’s cross-bar. This was the first of their 19 goal attempts in the half. As attacks rained down on Benfield’s goal, Neal’s 25-yarder stung the big keeper’s hands on 55 minutes, Penny made a crucial sliding tackle, and Sam Davidson broke up another attack before majestically striding forward to start a rare Wimborne attack.
Having survived Taunton’s opening onslaught, the home side gained in confidence and looked for opportunities to threaten Irish’s goal from quick counter-attacks. Luke Holmes combined with Burbidge for the latter to have a shot on 65 minutes.
And then, on 72 minutes, Wimborne grabbed the lead. Luke Holmes, on the right, passed inside to Burbidge who instantly played a perfectly weighted ball behind the Taunton back-line on the left. This was just what Toby was waiting for. He pushed the ball through the on-rushing Irish’s legs and gleefully toe-poked the ball into the unguarded net. The crowd erupted with an explosion of noise.
Taunton took off defender Palmer and sent on centre-forward Matt Wright as they chased an equaliser, or maybe more. Luke Holmes was inches away from another cross by Clarke, and James Stokoe headed wide from Burbidge’s free-kick but most of the action was taking place around Benfield’s goal.
The almost inevitable equaliser came on 77 minutes when Chamberlain headed home a left-wing cross. Pierce Mitchell’s rasping drive then went narrowly over, Benfield made a terrific save with an outstretched leg, then an important catch under immense pressure from a corner before Wright’s shot took a deflection and glanced off the outside of the post. Matty Oldring threw his body in the way of another goal-bound shot and the ball looped up and flew inches over the bar. It was desperate rear-guard action by the home defence, and after 4 minutes of additional time, referee Evans blew his final whistle and Wimborne had their hard-earned point against the league leaders.
This was a terrific team performance by Matty’s men to keep their unbeaten home league run going (now 9 games). It wasn’t a day for pretty football. It was a day when the conditions dictated the tactics. Wimborne’s back five, plus keeper Benfield, were outstanding. And a word for the supporters who made for a great atmosphere – the Koolpak was buzzing.
Next up it’s the Metropolitan Police on Tuesday – another testing game to look forward to.
Wimborne: Benfield, Clarke, Lee, Davidson, Oldring, Francis (Owen 86), Stokoe, Penny (Young 80), T.Holmes, Burbidge, L.Holmes. Unused subs: Collins, Shepherd