Bovey Tracey AFC got valuable pre-season minutes under their belt as Southern League side Willand Rovers left the Western Counties Roofing Ground with a 6-1 win on Wednesday night.
A solitary goal from Bovey talisman Lewis Perring proved to be only a consolation as the impressive visitors ran riot.
Bovey ‘keeper Dom Aplin had his reflexes tested within five minutes of kick-off, but he did not appear to have lost sharpness over the break as he answered the call of the plundering Willand strike force on several occasions.
Five minutes later, Finn Roberts squandered Bovey’s first chance of pre-season as his ranged effort trickled wide of the empty net after miscommunication amongst the visiting backline left Willand gloves-man George Burton stranded on the edge of his box. Roberts did well to bring the ball under control but caught it wrong as he turned to pull the trigger.
The lively start to proceedings returned its opening goal on 17 minutes when Douglas Camilo tucked home from the penalty spot. Aplin guessed the direction correctly but the ball narrowly eluded his fingertips as he dived down to his right.
Willand settled from here and began to enjoy long periods of possession as they stretched the Moorlanders’ defence. Will Richards doubled the Southern League outfit’s advantage on the half-hour mark with a fabulous, curling effort from the edge of the box that got the better of Aplin as it sailed into the top-left corner.
A third goal was not far away for Willand as Ryan Guppy finished off a delightful team goal. Incisive passing tempted the defenders forward and offered Guppy the chance to play a slick one-two with Richards, leaving 27-year-old Guppy to slide the ball in off the far post when bearing down one-on-one with Aplin.
Camilo added Willand’s fourth of the night on 42 minutes. A long ball forward yielded appeals for offside, but they were waved away as the sprightly winger bore down on goal and coolly tucked the ball past Aplin.
It was five on the brink of halftime as young forward Lewis Hill received a wicked ball across the box from Camilo and only had to tap it home at the far post to round off a five-star first half for the visitors.
Bovey Tracey got one back soon after halftime. Perring stood over a free-kick wide on the right flank and looked set to float a cross towards the awaiting cluster of bodies on the far side of the penalty area until he spotted marauding goalkeeper Burton creep away from his line. On his favoured left foot, Perring caught the ‘keeper off-guard and fired into the vacant goal.
The hosts ramped up the intensity and looked likely to net a second as a number of half-chances fell just shy of the all-important final touch. But Bovey started to tire, and Willand capitalised as Adam Kelly added a sixth goal nine minutes from time.
Upon full-time, Bovey boss Will Small said: “There were some positives to take from the second half – the first half was just a case of blowing the cobwebs away.
“There were a lot of new faces – I think nine new faces – in the squad tonight, so I think there was a lot of people just getting used to each other’s names and learning who each other were.
“We had a lot of young lads playing – three 16-year-olds, and a 17-year-old in the second half – and they didn’t look out of place at all. I think a couple of them were probably our better players in the second half.
“At 5-0 down at halftime, it’s pretty demoralising for the lads but we had to go out to try win the second half and see what we can do. We were unlucky not to win the second half and I think in the first half, at 0-0 for 20 minutes, we were probably the slightly-better side.
“We missed an open goal to go 1-0 up and then you get punished by teams like this. We were trying to play out from the back and we got caught out on three occasions and gifted them goals. We have lots of lessons to learn but there were positives to take from the second half.”
Small was eager to praise the contributions of the young players during the second half, some of whom donned the senior squad’s colours for the first time.
“Those guys are two leagues above us, so they’re more experienced and their budget is going to be a lot higher. The young lads who’ve never played men’s football until today didn’t look out of place, so it just shows that if they can hold their own against a team two leagues above, they’re more than going to be able to hold their own in our league when it comes to start of the season. It was great to get them together on the pitch for some experience and, moving forward, they’ll only grow with each game.
“We’ve had a couple of training sessions, and two-or-three [young players] have been involved in those training sessions and fitted in really well. The lads have all been really impressed and said about their ability and how good they are. I’ve got a close relationship with the under-18s manager, which you need, and between us, we are trying to promote and get as many of those young kids into the men’s sides as we can, so it bodes well for the future that those under-18s, who are only 16 at the minute, are getting men’s football now.”
One youngster who impressed during the second half was Jerry Revell. 17-year-old Revell appeared regularly on the team sheet throughout the 2021-22 campaign, but did not see much time in the thick of the action. As he grows into the men’s game, it seems Small is keen to change the role he plays within the team.
“Jerry is going to be massive for us. We keep saying his attitude is what stands him apart from everybody else – he keeps coming, whether he’s getting on or not. Last season, he was getting a few minutes here and a few minutes there, but he has got all the right ingredients; he’s raw, he works hard, he’s a nuisance, he’s got a great physique, he’s quick, he’s good in the air and there is a lot more to come from him yet. He will be a big player for us this season, definitely.”