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Bluebirds' manager chirpy after clean-sheet

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 23, 2013

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Player-manager Ross Middleton welcomed a clean-sheet as his Ilfracombe Town team ensured they got the better of Devon rivals Willand Rovers in the Toolstation Western League this season.

The Bluebirds followed up a 2-0 win in the away match in August with a goalless draw at Marlborough Park on Tuesday. It was a poor game but Middleton, whose team entertain Cadbury Heath today, was pleased to shut out Willand after last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Melksham Town.

"It was a well-earned clean sheet," he said. "There was a lot of huffing and puffing; it was a good old derby.

"We couldn't get the win but we have taken four points off Willand in the derbies this season. We had four players missing on Tuesday – James Mayne, Kane Dryden, Steve Holland and Stan Paxton – and still had a good, solid Western League team that should win most games."

Gary Skinner and Craig Allan impressed in defence for Ilfracombe, although Allan will have nightmares about the free header he put wide in the 71st minute. "He usually puts them away. I'm sure he won't sleep all night after that," Middleton said.

"Gary and Craig were superb," the Town boss added. Gary was winning everything. "We swapped him with Karl Baggaley and he played brilliantly at centre-half."

Paxton, the former Barnstaple Town player who has joined from Bridgwater Town, was Ilfracombe's best player at Melksham.

Middleton predicted a bright future for his new recruit. "He started up front on Tuesday and went to centre-half for the second half," the Bluebirds' boss added. "He will be a big signing for us."

Willand manager Clive Jones has set his sights on 12 more wins for his side between now and the end of the season as they look to climb the Premier Division table.

The Silver Street side have only won six League games all term, but a run of three victories from their last five outings has left Jones targeting a mid-table finish.

Rovers travel to Gillingham Town today and Jones said: "It's a big week for us. We've got 19 League games to play and we've got to be looking at winning 12 of them. That's the target I've set. Whether that is realistic, I don't know. We had a poor first half of the season, but these are the games we have got to win."

Barnstaple Town, who are stranded at the bottom of the Premier Division, go to Bitton today while Buckland Athletic, who lost 1-0 at home to Bitton on Wednesday, visit second-placed Brislington.

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