LYME Regis 1sts are clinging onto their lead at the top of the Devon & Exeter Premier division despite losing three of their last four games.
The Seasiders got off to an explosive start, winning their first six matches, including one cup victory, but they have lost three league games, the latest on Saturday when they were beaten 2-1 at Whipton & Pinhoe.
It was the second time Lyme had succumbed to the Exeter side, losing by a similar scoreline earlier in the season.
Lyme stay on top of the Premier division, courtesy of them having played more games than the rest, but if all the sides below them win all their games in hand, the Seasiders will be down in eighth place. However, Whipton, one of the most aggressive teams in the league, are likely to take points off some of the other top sides.
Having returned to winning form the previous week with a emphatic 8-2 win over Sidmouth Reserves, manager Gerard Hitchcock will be disappointed his side did not dispatch with Whipton especially after a good second half display during which star man Fred Parsons got their goal. Lyme looked the better of the two sides in the second half.
Hitchcock’s frustration was very visible on the touchline and he ended up being red carded for consistent abuse of the referee.
Lyme were without two of their quickest players – Ben Vine (unavailable) and Cody Bowditch who dropped down to the Seasiders’ third X1 at his own request because he is unhappy with his wing-back role for the senior squad and wants to revert to his favourite position as an out-and-out winger.
Good news for the Seasiders, however, was the return of influential centre-back Gary Knight who was sidelined for several weeks with a suspected blood clot.
Next Saturday, Lyme have a break from league football when the travel into Dorset to meet old rivals Beaminster in the first round of the county Senior Cup, no easy task with the West Dorset side in a mid-table position with six points from four games in the Dorset Senior League.
Lyme have an impressive record in county cup competitions, having won the Dorset Intermediate Cup nine times and the Junior Cup six times. Lyme are now considered a senior team, playing in the Devon & Exeter League’s top level but Dorset FA will not allow them to play senior cup games at the Davey Fort because their pitch does not meet the size criteria for senior football in Dorset. So all their cup games have to be played away.
LYME Regis Reserves, after a tough opening four weeks to the season in Devon & Exeter League Division, gaining just five points from four games, put in an excellent performance in the first round of the Bill Slee Cup on Saturday, beating Division Two highflyers Otterton 3-1 at the Davey Fort.
This was believed to have been the very first encounter between the two sides and the East Devon villagers proved to been a well drilled outfit and the Lyme second string had to dig deep to win a place in the second round.
Chances were few and far between for Lyme in the first half with the nearest they came to scoring was a rasping free kick from Sam Bevis which was headed off the line in the 14th minute.
Two minutes later Lyme opened their account with a well-placed Ryan Fifer shot from a good cross from Jack Farrant.
At the other end, Lyme keeper Rob Harp was in tremendous form, bringing off a series of saves to keep the home team in the game.
After the break Lyme could have increased their lead when a free-kick from Bevis was met with a bullet-like Wally Blackmore header which went wide.
Lyme had to work hard in defence with the new signing Mike Knight, back in action after injury, demonstrating what an asset he will be for the Seasiders and with Wally Blackmore in determined form, snuffing out numerous Otterton attacks.
Otterton got back on terms in the 77th minute but Lyme regained the initiative four minutes later when Cam Fowler slammed the ball home to make it 2-1 when the Otterton keeper failed to hold a fierce drive from Bevis who looked dangerous down the left flank.
Lyme were well on top at this time but Harp was called into action on several occasions before the final whistle to protect the Seasiders’ lead with a string of great saves.
The clincher came in the final minute of full-time when Jack Farrant was brought down in the box and Fifer crowned a good performance with a well taken spot-kick to make it 3-1.
The referee played seven minutes’ injury time after a relatively incident free second half, during which time Harp brought off one more brilliant stop.
The goalkeeping position is proving a bit of a problem for the Lyme management team. They have four excellent keepers – Wiil Meech, Rob Harp, Brett Garner and and Chris Higgs, all capable of playing at the highest level. On this performance, Harp will surely be knocking on the first team door.
In their first season in Perry Street Division Two, Lyme Rovers moved into third spot after an excellent 2-1 home victory over division leaders Combe St Nicholas Reserves. Their goals came from Cody Bowditch and Sam Burke.
Full report to come.