BRIDGWATER United returned to league action with yet another away trip, this time to Ilfracombe Town.

Visits to Marlborough Park are always challenging and this one was no exception as both sides struggled with a bumpy pitch and a blustery wind.

The Bluebirds, buoyed by their resounding 3-0 win against near neighbours Barnstaple Town in the Devon County Cup earlier in the week, soon found the visiting Robins a different proposition as they struggled to gain a foothold in the game.

Within minutes, Tom Llewellyn’s shot from 25 yards was deflected by a defender, missing the far post by inches.

Despite the difficult conditions, it was all United as they pushed forward at every opportunity in search of a breakthrough.

After a neat flick by Morgan Williams, Sam Towler thought he had opened the scoring with good first-time finish, only to see the flag up for offside.

On 20 minutes, with the early tempo of the game slowing somewhat, the hosts created a half chance but failed to trouble Jake Viney who, until that point, had not been involved at all. 

The United front two of Jack Thorne and Jay Murray had already created plenty of consternation for the Bluebirds defence and it was no surprise when Thorne slid the ball through to his strike partner who drove home to give his side a well-deserved lead.

Several further half chances were created as the interval approached, but none that that overly troubled the busy Ilfracombe ‘keeper.

The visitors’ dominance of the first 45 minutes was certainly not reflected in the narrow 0-1 halftime scoreline and it was no surprise that United started the second period confidently and with increased tempo.

It was not long before a break down the right saw Murray and Thorne interchange passes, only for the latter’s seemingly goalbound effort rebound from the bar.

Clearly encouraged by the positive start, Williams pushed forward only to see his venomous 25-yard strike tipped over at full stretch.

Thorne was quickly back in action and causing havoc down the left channel as he was thwarted by the legs of the overworked McCormick in the Ilfracombe goal.

With the advent of multiple substitutions by both sides, the game subsided into a midfield stalemate with neither able gain control.

In fact, the hosts' change of shape in the final 15 minutes thwarted United’s attempt to secure the goal that would likely have secured the game in their favour.

As the final whistle approached, captain Mark Armstrong sustained a head injury in a 50/50 challenge which caused the game to be halted as he received support and was helped from the pitch.

Having used all substitutes, The Robins were forced to play out the final 13 minutes with just 10, which were navigated without too many alarms.

In fact, the final action of the game saw Jack Taylor close down a defender and slip the ball to George King who saw his shot well saved by McCormick.

This was a hard-fought but well-deserved win by United who move up to third in the table, three points behind the leaders, Falmouth Town with a game in hand.

Bridgwater United

Jake Viney, Jake Llewellyn (Capt), Ross Edwards, Jason Quick, Dave Thorne (George King, 62): Morgan Williams (George King,74), Harry Horton, Tom Llewellyn (Mark Armstrong, 82), Sam Towler (Jack Taylor, 58), Jack Thorne, Jay Murray (Josh Phillips, 85).

Ilfracombe Town

Laurence McCormick, Ed Jenkins, Harry Taffs, Sammy Wright, Cory Roach, Finn King-Smith, Jack Margarotto, Jack Jenkins (Capt), Tyler Evans-Loude, Dan Wilson, Aidan Barrow.

Substitutes: (All used) Dylan Evans, Callum Hutchings, Kyle Paine, Charlie Roach