It was objective achieved for the Peacocks after another three point haul consolidated second place as the jostling for positions in the play-off looks to be going to the wire. The shock of conceding the opener was soon forgotten as Town responded with four goals before the break to effectively settle the outcome against the Robins whose defeat condemns them to finish bottom of the South and West Division.
Mindful of the Easter Monday clash with Bideford, manager Leigh Robinson opted to rotate his squad, with five players who had started the previous game against Hereford reverting to the bench or rested. Despite the deceptively blustery conditions and bobbly pitch, Town made a sprightly start and offered the first attempt when Pierce Mitchell’s throw-in was flicked on and Matt Buse emerged from a crowd of players to fire over the bar.
It was the home side though who grabbed the early breakthrough after 11 minutes. Tyne Govier whipped in a low free kick from the right and Elliot Ripley jumped to loop a header over the stranded Lloyd Irish from 12 yards. The goal provided the hosts’ only real bright moment of the opening 45 minutes as the Peacocks put their foot on the pedal to dominate the rest of the half. Ollie Chamberlain helped on a ball from the right which found Josh Searle unmarked but he fired against the post as Town nearly hit back with an immediate response while Craig Duff and Shane White both tried their luck with a close range volley and 25 yarder respectively.
The increasing pressure paid off on 19 minutes when Town won a penalty after Kurt Robinson had handled a Mitchell cross, and Duff fired home the equaliser with the minimum of fuss. Duff then broke the offside trap to find Chamberlain whose shot was blocked, as was Matt Wright’s follow-up, with Bridgwater also living dangerously at times from several corners.
Robins’ keeper Ashton Granter parried a Buse strike after the Town midfielder had latched onto Wright’s pass while a route one approach nearly paid dividends, a Lloyd Irish goal kick being headed on by Wright to Duff whose back heel set up Mitchell but his drive found the side netting. The one way traffic continued when Owen Irish headed wide following a White free kick before a three goal burst in six minutes just before half time put the visitors in total command.
Chamberlain’s pass over the top released Duff down the right and he picked out Searle all alone in the middle who rifled home into the unguarded net after 38 minutes. A corner four minutes later then produced the third, Wright’s header from a White corner being blocked and from the returning cross Wright stretched his neck to direct a header over the hesitant Granter. Finally, Duff notched his brace a minute before the interval when he slotted home on the near post after Wright had flicked on an Owen Irish centre.
Backed by a substantial and vocal travelling support, the Peacocks remained in control upon the resumption although the number of opportunities was down on the first half. Another effort, this time an Owen Irish header, hit the woodwork but referee Roberts had already blown for an infringement whilst Searle drove a shot the wrong side of the post and Buse was then unlucky to see Granter get his fingertips onto his curling effort from the left side of the box, the ball spinning against the upright.
The escape was short-lived though as Wright planted home number five on 68 minutes, delivering a great header into the net from Chamberlain’s perfect cross from the right to register his 28th goal of the campaign. To their credit, Bridgwater heads did not drop and they continued to make a go of it, Matt Connick’s jinking run ending with a shot just over the top before he fired a half volley straight at Lloyd Irish.
Man of the Match Duff narrowly failed to claim his hat trick when his strike crashed off the crossbar from Craig Veal’s assist while Jordan Rogers, just on for double scorer Wright, saw his prod deflected wide and Owen Irish nodded off target from Searle’s free kick as the derby drew to its conclusion.
By Andy Power
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Josh Searle, Owen Irish, Alex Hoyle, Ben Palmer, Ollie Chamberlain (Brett Trowbridge 87), Shane White (Craig Veal 65), Matt Wright (captain) (Jordan Rogers 77), Craig Duff, Matt Buse. Unused subs: Ross Staley, Ed Palmer
Bridgwater: Ashton Granter, Josh Champion (George Kellow 65), Tyne Govier, Kurt Robinson, Tom Richens, Elliot Ripley, Mike Duffy, Harry Horton (captain), Syd Camper, Matt Connick, Jake Llewellyn. Unused sub: Dave Pearse
Referee: Lee Roberts (Plymouth)
Assistants: Ryan Cornelius (St Austell), James Strout (Port Isaac)