A brace from Ethan Feltham completed Western League side Clevedon Town’s thrilling 3-2 pre-season victory over Bovey Tracey AFC on Saturday.
Feltham’s double came either side of an effort from Sam Iles as Clevedon came from 2-0 down after falling behind to goals from Bovey Tracey’s Mitch Thomas and Oli Aplin.
Bovey Tracey stormed into the lead on eight minutes. Lloyd Tucker’s cross from the right flank eluded any touch in the vacant danger area but was gathered at the byline on the far side by 21-year-old Finn Roberts. Roberts lofted a neat cross back into the middle as Thomas arrived on the scene to nod the hosts into their first lead of pre-season.
The Moorlanders kicked on with a strong foothold on the game, and reached the first-half drinks break well on top of their Western League guests. Bovey ‘keeper Dom Aplin produced a pair of routine stops to keep the lead intact.
On the half-hour mark, Clevedon saw a gilt-edged opportunity go begging as Mitch Osmond’s free-kick sailed over the crowded penalty area and found an unmarked Elliot Nicholson diving in at the far post. At full stretch, Nicholson managed to reach the delivery, but an unfortunate connection with the wing-back’s shinpad saw the ball scooped off the line.
Bovey doubled their advantage on 40 minutes as Oli Aplin spectacularly headed home to convert a swift counterattack. On the edge of his own 18-yard box, Will Allen fired a fabulous ball over the top of the defence for Tom Burt to chase wide on the right. Burt lashed a perfect, early delivery across the box for Aplin, who beat his man in the air and powered a strong header beyond a hapless Luca Smith.
But the scoring for the first 45 was not over as Clevedon halved the deficit on the stroke of halftime. A quick free-kick caught the hosts napping, and Feltham was on hand to receive the ball and squeeze it home at Dom Aplin’s near post.
Clevedon started the second half well and within five minutes had worried Aplin in the Bovey net as Callum Kingdon collected possession with his back to goal and turned well before pulling the trigger from 30 yards. Aplin was wrong-footed and scrambled back across goal before breathing a sigh of relief as the ambitious effort curled wide.
Town’s fast start following halftime yielded its reward in just five minutes. A mix-up among the Moorlanders’ defensive ranks tempted Aplin forward to deal with the loose ball, but experienced left-back Iles was wise to it and poked past the oncoming shot-stopper.
The Seasiders completed their comeback 15 minutes from time when Feltham chalked up his second of the afternoon. A miscued header caused the ball to slip away from the possession of Lee Hildreth, and opportunistic striker Feltham capitalised on the mistake with a deft flick to push the visiting noses in front.
Late pressure from Bovey opened up several half-chances, but the fatigue began to show amongst the lower-league hosts and Smith went untested in the dying minutes.
Bovey Tracey manager Will Small was pleased with how his side held themselves against higher-level opposition.
“[It was a] really good performance,” Small said. “At halftime, we went in and I said to the lads that there was nothing negative we could say. We switched off for 30 seconds at the end of the half and conceded a sloppy goal, but that’s what pre-season is all about – getting those mistakes out your system and learning from them.
“But we have gifted them three goals today – all individual mistakes and things that shouldn’t happen, but the lads have all put their hands up and admitted that. Apart from that, we were the better side for much of the game and we looked ruthless when we were going forward. We created some good chances and scored two very good goals, so there are lots of positives to take.
“We can take confidence from the fact that [Clevedon] are in the league above and finished seventh in the league last year. We finished bottom half of our league but we have a lot of new faces in there – a couple of the lads have come back having been working away, so the effort and the attitude was spot-on today, and if we can take that into the next games moving forward and then into the season we will be in a good place and ready for when the season starts.”
Both of Bovey Tracey’s goals came from floated crosses finding heads in the box, and wingers Finn Roberts and Tom Burt had a lot of joy on the flanks as much of the threat to Luca Smith’s goal came about from wide play.
“Our warm-up drill before the game was to get it out to the wide men, they get the ball in the box and we get runners in there, and that’s exactly where our two goals came from.
“We have pace out wide – Finn [Roberts] has a great left foot and Burty [Tom Burt] has a great right foot, so delivery is very good. We know what Oli Aplin is all about; you get him in front of the goal and he will score when he’s in the box. Mitch Thomas has that extra bit of quality, he arrived at the right time and it was a great ball. We had a great goal for one and a great assist for the other.
“[Wing play] is definitely something we think is one of our strengths.”
“Lewis [Perring] originally played left-back. I know he likes to go forward and he’s an attacking luxury but, at left-back, you won’t find many better than Lewis – he’s solid as a rock back there. He reads the game, plays it at his own pace and offers you something going forward as well. He’s far more disciplined when he’s playing at left-back than he is when he’s playing at left-wing, as everyone saw today. Lewis had a very good game today – a lot better than midweek, and I think he would admit that himself.”