Terras up in style
By Brian Copp
WEYMOUTH recovered magnificently from the shock of being a goal down at half-time to clinch promotion to the Beazer Homes Premier Division.
And it proved to be such a great day for Weymouth’s big-hearted central defender Gary Fullbrook, who received the Player of the Year Trophy before the game.
Fullbrook, back from injury and making such a big difference in the defence, both laid on the equalising goal for Tony Cook in the first minute of the second half and then steered Weymouth back on course for promotion by heading the Terras into the lead.
It was a vital goal from which the Terras never looked back, giving them encouragement so badly needed at the time to stage a grandstand finish to the season.
They scored twice more through Steve Clifford, who was selected as man-of-the-match, and Cook again.
They were denied several other goals by a great performance in the Erith goal by Engin Salih. At times he was brilliant with his quick-reaction saves.
Manager Len Drake was well satisfied, but stressed that the wind which was against his team in the first half, was a lot stronger than many realised.
This was why he had stuck to having five at the back in the first half.
“We wanted to push forward with the wind in the second half,” he said, “and the turning point certainly came when we scored in the opening minute.
“We didn’t panic when we were a goal down. The atmosphere in the dressing room at the interval was terrific. The players felt they could come back and they were right.”
Salih showed his ability in the fourth minute when skipper Steve Pugh put Clifford away. The centre forward beat three defenders and unleashed a fierce shot on the run but the goalkeeper did well to dive and turn the ball aside.
In the 28th minute however, the visitors went ahead when a free kick was deflected to Mark Hobbs, who promptly beat Steve Weaver, with a low shot.
Weymouth and 2,176 fans were clearly shaken. For a while, the Terras lost their way and the third highest attendance in non-league football on Saturday must have wondered if Weymouth were going to miss out.
But what a great come back the Terras made.
Immediately after the restart Cook took a through pass from Fullbrook to place the ball out of Salih’s reach.
Alex Browne managed to get back and rescue Weymouth with a last-ditch tackle when Erith substitute Kenny Hoyte broke through, but in the 58th minuite Salih made a brilliant one-handed save from a downward header from Clifford.
From the corner Fullbrook became a hero to out jump the Erith defence and firmly place a header into the roof of the net – and the Weymouth fans went wild!
Then in the 68th minute, Clifford beat a defender on the edge of the box and beat Salih with a well-placed low shot.
And the fans showed their delight again when Cook scored a fourth goal in the 77th minute, after King had headed on to send Jorge Diaz on a run down the right wing from which he crossed and Cook applied a perfect finish.
Goalkeeper Weaver, who celebrates his 20th birthday today, said: “The lads have worked hard. Everybody was writing us off after Christmas when we had so many injuries. But we have come back well. Weymouth are the best side I have ever played with.”
And so obviously pleased was the long-serving physiotherapist Bob Lucas who declared: “We have had a player of the year award, but as far as I am concerned we have 15 players of the year!
Weymouth: Weaver, Fullbrook, Gibson, Ryder, Pugh, Browne, King, Diaz, Shaw, Ckifford, Gook. Subs. Flint, G. Smith.
*Weymouth’s gate of 2,176 was beaten only by Conference clubs, Colchester United with 7,000 plus and Wycombe Wanderers 6,000 plus on Saturday.