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League rivals pitting their wits against each other in cup clash

By Herald Express  |  Posted: January 17, 2013

By NEIL HOCKING

  • MOVER: Above, Ben Harper (right) is moving to Watts Blake and Bearne from Islington Villa; left, Cricketfield Road last weekend

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UPTON Athletic and Watts, Blake and Bearne take a short break from league action to kick-off the 2013 divisional cup season at Cricketfield Road on Saturday.

The George Belli Cup pits together two of the most successful SDFL sides of recent seasons, with both mounting serious challenges for the league title after experiencing both ups and downs so far.

On the up side, both sides sit level on points in the league and within striking distance of Buckland Athletic and faltering leaders Brixham AFC, with both having recently secured important victories at Wall Park.

On the down side, both were dumped out of the Herald Cup at the Third Round stage with Athletic losing at Loddiswell and WBB sent packing at home to champions Kingskerswell and Chelston.

And while Upton have had their share of league disappointments too, including losing at home to newly-promoted Kingsteignton Athletic, WBB were on the wrong side of a 3-0 scoreline when the two sides faced one another at Abbrook Park on the opening day of the season.

So, all things considered, the scene is set for a finely-poised SDFL classic, and one Upton manager Colin Bastow is relishing: "We're looking forward to it," said Bastow.

"We've been on a good run which we would like to keep going in the cup.

"And we've got the bonus of a full-strength side, so everyone's available."

Watts, Blake & Bearne will be hoping to be in a position to give young left-sided midfielder Ben Harper his debut on Saturday.

The former Ilsington Villa player was due to complete his transfer on Monday night.

Defender and co-manager Lee Breslan will be serving the last of a three-match suspension but otherwise, the Claymen expect to have a full squad to select from.

"We can put right what we got wrong at the first game of the season," admits manager Neil Snell.

"Like I said at the beginning of the season, I'll be happy if we can finish in the top five and we can pick up a cup, but it's a long way to go."

While Upton, along with most of the league, had to bear more disruption last weekend due to the weather, Wattsies returned to winning ways with a resounding 4-1 victory on a heavy pitch at Brixham.

Wall Park may be Peninsula ready, but the newly formed side are beginning to drop too many points there.

Glenn Palmer got WBB underway after 10 minutes, the Claymen extending their lead in the second half through Nick Cousins, as Brixham pressed to equalise.

The irrepressible Jay Morgan managed to add another goal to his tally to bring Brixham back into the game, but WBB put in a strong final 20 minutes with super-sub John Devine and Palmer again on target to seal the points.

WBB now sit four points behind the leaders with three games in hand over them.

"Brixham are a very good side but we were a lot better on the day," said Snell. "We took our chances and every player, from the goalkeeper down to the third sub, was outstanding."

In the only other Premier game to survive the weather, Stoke Gabriel Reserves completed the double over Newton Abbot Spurs Reserves who have now lost six in a row.

Stoke took the lead from a corner driven in by James Horn and firmly headed home by Joe Thompson.

Stoke extended their lead before the break when a low cross was finished with aplomb by Dave Worthington.

In the second half, and with the condition of the pitch deteriorating, Spurs came back into the game, Matt Joy finding the net with 10 minutes left on the clock.

But the home side were not to be denied, and with three minutes left, Jack Pollard made the most of a defensive mix-up to make the score 3-1 and secure Stoke's first home league win of the season.

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