Weymouth can’t stop classy Crusaders
|WEYMOUTH’S quest for the Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division title took another hefty blow as they failed to stop Hungerford Town continuing their scintillating home form at Bulpit Lane.The impressive Crusaders, who are unbeaten in all competitions since the end of November, proved too much for the Terras to handle on the night, with top scorer Mark Draycott and James Pilling finding the net either side of half-time to see off Jason Matthews’ charges.
On a night that was so vital for the Terras, their preparations even took a blow before the warm-up.
Some of the Weymouth players got stuck in traffic on the way to Bulpit Lane, meaning they got to the ground around 40 minutes before kick-off with most of their pre-match planning dashed.
With all of his squad eventually assembling, player-manager Matthews made three changes from his starting XI that lost against Chippenham Town last time out, with Tim Sills, Alec Fiddes and the suspended Ashley Wells all making way.
That meant that Sam Poole came in at centre-half with Calvin Brooks switching to right-back. Jamie Reid and the returning Chris Shephard also came back into the team.
Battling down the slope in the opening period, Adam Kelly picked up an early caution from match official Will Bull for a late challenge, as both teams looked to work each other out.
And in what has been a fairly consistent factor in Weymouth’s troublesome form of late, the Terras’ once again conceded an early goal.
Crusaders’ dangerman Draycott peeled to the back post and headed past Matthews into the net with just nine minutes on the clock, leaving the visitors with it all to do.
George Rigg then fired wide in search of an instant equaliser, and Shephard showed his craft on his return playing in Stewart Yetton, who tested Paul Strudley in the hosts’ goal for the first time.
Shephard’s corner then found Steve Colwell, who met the ball with power, but failed to keep the ball down as Weymouth continued to react well to the early blow.
Draycott and Jamie Laird then both needed treatment after a clash of heads, as Matthews’ troops applied pressure just before the break.
A Shephard free-kick was cleared for a corner, from which, Poole claimed he was brought down in the area, but man-in-the-middle Bull had no interest in his half-hearted appeal.
Yetton then shot at goal on the counter which some of the visitors believed struck an arm.
With his side a goal to the good, Draycott was then unable to finish after powerful striker Charlie Mpi broke clear, in what was a huge let-off for the Terras, who were on the ropes shortly after the break.
Shephard then combined well with Colwell to drive the ball at goal from distance, but Crusaders’ gloveman Strudley was comfortably behind it.
In what was literally an uphill task for Matthews’ men during the second period as they worked their way up the slope, they were given another let-off as Pilling caught Colwell in possession and rattled the crossbar.
In a frantic two-minute spell, moments later, Brooks got forward and powered a header that looked destined for the net, but for a top-drawer save from Strudley to deny him, and Yetton put a header wide from the resulting corner.
Sills was then thrown on in place of Exeter loanee Connor Riley-Lowe in a bid to grab a goal, but Matthews had to be at his best to deny Mpi, who burst into the Terras’ box to fire at goal.
And in looking to surge forward and grab a point, the Terras were then destined for defeat three minutes from time.
After losing possession in midfield, the visitors were powerless to stop Pilliing being slid through and he made no mistake to seal all three points, and condemn the Terras to four defeats form their last five games.