Winchester city 2 Bideford 2
Winchester opened the 2021/22 season with a 2-2 draw against Bideford, with captain Jamie Barron levelling the scores for the home team with virtually the last kick of the match.
It was the third draw in four Southern League games at Winchester's ground and Bideford have bot lost here since the F A Vase semi final of 2003/04. The game followed a similar pattern to Bideford's most recent visit to this ground in the 2018/19 season with Winchester taking the lead in the first half, Bideford drawing level by half time and taking the lead in the second half and Winchester equalizing to earn a point. However that match was played in torrential rain, whereas the weather was much better on Saturday.
Winchester were without midfielders Max Smith and Ollie Griggs were unavailable for this match and Alex Haynes and Dan Bradshaw were bought inti the midfield. Otherwise the starting line-up was the same as for the Eastleigh friendly match except for Rob Flooks replacing Joe Hayward as centre back, with Hayward being one of the substitutes. Both Bradshaw and goalkeeper Charlie Philpott are also on Eastleigh's books and Bradshaw in fact played for Eastleigh against Winchester in the pre-season friendly. Striker Greg Peel was making his league debut for the club, but most of the Winchester players were familiar names to their faithful supporters.
In order to boost the team spirit the newcomers to the squad had to perform their brand of karaoke in front of their team mates and this has been made available for viewing.
As for the game itself Philpott made an excellent save from Javan Wright who was set up by Craig Duff, but it was Winchester who took the lead in the 20th minute when Jack Arthur came out of his goal to deny Simba Mlambo, but Mlambo was quicker to the ball and with Arthur out of position was able to slot home. However Bideford drew level on the half hour when Craig Duff got on the end of Mattie Buchan's cross from the left. Before half time Bideford nearly scored a second when an important interception by Winchester defender prevented Duff having the goal at his mercy.
Winchester made a good start to the second half with Mlambo having a header saved following a Josh McCormick cross and had another header wide. However it was Bideford who took the lead in the 76th minute when following a free kick from Jack Calver was headed by Duff into the path of James Mayne who got a decisive touch.
In the 86th minute Javan Wright received a 2nd yellow card in an incident in which he was also injured and made their task of holding out for victory harder, but they looked to have done so until in the 6th minute of added on time a long throw from Danny King saw Kieran Douglas's header hit the post with captain Jamie Barron following up to score. In the second half Greg Peel and Dan Bradshaw were respectively replaced by Adam Grange and Tom Vincent.
After the match manager Craig Davis said that the point was the least the team deserved for their second half performance and gave his players great credit for continuing to keep going against a team who have proved difficult opponents in the past. The Bideford manager Sean Joyce has been in the post for over 20 years and has played in the football league as a midfielder for Doncaster, Exeter and Torquay.
On Saturday Winchester are at home to Chichester City in the F A Cup.