Paulton welcomed Bideford to the First4Pools Stadium at Winterfield Road.
Home goalie Aaron Sainsbury’s striking all yellow kit was arguably the brightest thing about this performance.
Despite some late pressure, Paulton lacked the fine teamwork shown last week against Evesham, and allowed a defensively strong Bideford side to leave Winterfield Road with the points. The game was a fairly low – key affair lacking quality on the ball, and two good defences were successful in stopping any inventive forward play.
All three goals came from errors. After an even start, Sainsbury saved twice from Bideford’s Joe Charles while David O’Hare just failed to convert Ed Butcher’s free kick. Butcher was again a real threat on the left flank and was unlucky to be called offside after excellent work from Liban Ibrahim.
But after 15 minutes, a Bideford free-kick unexpectedly rebounded to Jack Ball who was able to stride forward and beat the stranded Adam Seedhouse-Evans in the Bideford goal to give Rovers the lead.
Sainsbury had already made one rushed interception when, in the 21st minute, a mighty headed clearance from Bideford’s Kai Fisher caught the Paulton defence out. In a challenge for the ball, Matt Buchan got the better of Sainsbury and managed to guide the ball into an empty net to equalise.
Immediately after, Bideford winger Joe Charles spurned a great chance by shooting wide, while Sainsbury saved again from Lewis Wilson. In the 31st minute, Bideford edged in front when James Mayne ran unchallenged down the right wing and crossed for Buchan to fire the blues into a 1-2 lead.
Rovers tried hard to get back into the game and Butcher, Ball and O’Hare all made strong runs, Will Harvey shot just wide of the post, but clear chances were few.
In the second half, Butcher’s skilful forward play remained Paulton’s best hope of success, but, again, too many long clearances from defence were easily dealt with by Bideford’s big defenders.
On a windy day, it was a pity that Ibrahim and George Fowler didn’t get more opportunities to develop a more measured approach through midfield.
Alfie Clarke and Joe Paradise all entered the fray and gave Paulton more momentum and yet it was Bideford who continued to fashion the better chances. Only fine tackles and interceptions by Clarke and Paradise prevented Rovers falling further behind.
Leighton Thomas made a welcome late appearance and Rovers applied sustained pressure for the first time. Four corners in quick succession gave Rovers hope. But Butcher fired a final opportunity over the bar, and with it any hope of recovery.
Paulton man of the match: No outstanding contenders today, but James Byrne Rovers player of the match was dependable and progressive as ever.