LYME Regis 1st team kicked off their first ever game in the Devon & Exeter League Premier Division, the highest standard in which they have played, with a controversial 3-2 victory over old rivals Beer Albion.
In years gone by clashes between the two seaside teams were always feisty affairs – and this opening game of the season was no reception.
Lyme were the better side throughout, playing some expansive football at times, but Beer, with former Aston Villa and Bristol Rovers striker Richard Walker leading their front line, are not the sort of team to roll over and made a real game of it in the second half.
In front of a crowd of around 150, including the Devon & Exeter League secretary Neil Anthony, visiting the Davey Fort for the first time, Lyme started strongly with Ben Turner going close with a header from a pin-point cross from Cody Bowditch. Minutes later Dominic Rowe shot wide from a Robbie Fellingham free-kick.
Lyme took the lead soon after when full-back Cody Bowditch headed home from a Ben Vine Corner.
Walker showed glimpses of his skill and brought a full-length save from the Lyme keeper, Will Meech, but the former pro, carrying a few more pounds these days, got little change from centre-back Dominic Rowe, who alongside fellow central defender Kingsley Wellman, was in commanding form.
Bowditch and Vine also went close before Beer leveled matters against the run of play when Joe Adkin put the visitors on level terms just before half-time. The Lyme linesman, Ryan Turner, flagged for offside but the referee, Duncan Stamp, a former Lyme youth player, overruled him which resulted in an altercation between the ref and Turner, who threw down his flag in disgust and was replaced by former Lyme captain and manager Tim Edwards in the second half.
There was some sympathy for Turner’s stance who accepted the ref’s ruling but complained about Adkin who ran to the touchline when he flagged and unleashed a tirade of foul language which the ref claimed he did not hear.
Beer came strong at Lyme after the break but the Seasiders soon settled into their rhythm again and Cody Bowditch caused all sorts of problems down the left flank with his long runs and superb crossing. From one of these frontrunner Lee Cleal went achingly close to slotting the ball home but the ball skidded wide.
But Beer were not done yet and they hit back, again against the run of play, when Chris Love, slotted the ball home to level the scores again on 63 minutes.
Lyme bounced straight back with a Julien Simier goal which was flagged offside by the Beer which the referee allowed after a lengthy discussion with the ref , who disallowed he goal, but to the derision of the Lyme crowd who felt the decision was unfair.
The Beer goal was now under constant attack and the visitors were lucky to escape when a defender sliced the ball onto the bar as he cleared yet another Lyme onslaught.
The equaliser came in the 74th minutes when Julien Simier beat the keeper to a one-on-one and deftly lifted the ball into the net to make it 2-2.
The final controversy settled the game when Vine, a menace all afternoon, was brought down in the box by the Beer keeper. The Beer players argued that Vine had lost control of the ball when the clash occurred by referee Stamp was having none of it and Vine stepped up to clinch the winner from the penalty spot to give Lyme their first ever victory in Premier football.
New manager Gerard Hitchcock will be pleased with this first performance. It was a good all-round showing from the Lyme boys with Cody Bowditch winning the man-of-the match award in my view.
Lyme now now travel to near neighbours Seaton Town for their second league game of the season on Tuesday evening.
Favourites for the Premier title, Exeter-based Cronies, started the way they intend to go on with a 14-0 victory over Exmouth Town 2nds. Lyme’s closest competitors, Colyton and Seaton Town, also started with victories – Colyton beating Heavitree United 7-1 at home and Seaton winning 4-1 at home to Upottery.
Lyme Regis Reserves, competing in Devon & Exeter Division Four this season, start their 2018-2019 campaign on Wednesday with a trip to close neighbours Millwey Rise.