Barnstaple Town go from strength to strength
BARNSTAPLE TOWN have moved to strengthen their home-grown squad as they go from strength to strength on the field.
New signing Jed Harper-Penman scored in Saturday's 4-1 win at home against Welton Rovers – a match that saw a starting XI made up entirely of players born in Barnstaple.
They followed that up on Tuesday night with a 3-2 victory away to Shepton Mallet in their game in hand on Toolstation Western League First Division leaders Bradford Town.
Ryan Turner's second-half winner took Barnstaple level on 19 points with Bradford for 24 hours before they opened up a three-point gap again with a 6-0 win over Roman Glass St George last night.
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Tom Bulley, the manager, said: "It was a fantastic result in one of the biggest games the club has had for a little while – certainly since I've been here. The lads are delighted."
Harper-Penman, the former Plymouth Argyle winger, played for Barnstaple in the second half of last season and has re-signed for the club after starting the new campaign with Truro City in the Calor League.
Bulley has also brought striker Tom Rossiter back to the club after a spell with Ilfracombe Town.
"I'm delighted to have them on board," said Bulley. "Jed has plenty of ability and Tom brings a bit of experience.
"I have a big squad of 25 now, which is great. Competition (for places) is only good for us and there are plenty of games so we are going to need 25 players."
The Barnstaple boys pleased the home supporters in a crowd of 168 – the largest in the league on Saturday – with a third win from four First Division outings at Mill Road.
It was Harper-Penman's older brother, Aaron, who tapped in to give Barnstaple the lead midway through the first half.
His centre-back partner Kieran Jewell, on his 18th birthday, went forward for a free kick to head the second goal after the break.
Turner then rounded the goalkeeper to finish a counter-attack before Jed Harper-Penman did likewise to make it 4-0. Ryan Gay pulled a goal back for Welton.
"It could have been a lot worse for them," said Bulley. "It was a bit of a scrappy game in the first half but it was good to get a 4-1 win.
"We switched off for their goal in the last couple of minutes, which was a little reminder for us that we can't afford to give too many of them away."
Bulley is aware that good goal difference could prove crucial at the end of the season if his side is in a promotion battle.
"It's important we are clinical and take our chances because there are teams here we can score a lot more goals against," said Bulley.
Turner struck his sixth goal of the season midway through the second half to clinch the win on Tuesday after Barnstaple had seen a two-goal lead cancelled out in the first half.
Despite having a strong wind against them they went ahead through Lee Francis and a Scott Sharp header.
Shepton struck back with a penalty and a deflected long-range effort but, in the knowledge they would have the conditions in their favour in the second half, Barnstaple were confident of finishing the job.
Turner seized on a loose ball in the area to beat the Shepton keeper and give his side a sixth win in seven league outings.
Barnstaple travel to Newquay for an FA Carlsberg Vase second round qualifying tie on Saturday before hosting Buckland Athletic in the Devon St Luke's Cup second round on Tuesday.