Uhlsport Somerset County League
Premier Division
Nailsea Utd 1, Ilminster Town 2

IN the last match of last season, Ilminster had to beat Bridgwater Town Reserves to avoid relegation in the Somerset County Premier League – this season there were no such worries as an eighth-placed mid-table finish was already assured, writes Andy Fish.

Going down the slope, hosts Nailsea United shaded the opening exchanges.

On 15 minutes, a great run and shot from outside the box by Brad Miles went just wide, and a few minutes later a delightful ball was collected by Andy Whitefield, who in turn found the advancing Josh Phillips, who had the presence of mind to chip the keeper with panache to make it 1-0.

Ilminster completely dominated the next 20 minutes and a host of chances were created, but good goalkeeping and poor finishing meant that the lead remained at one.

Nailsea had a good left winger but George Pugson, signed from Combe earlier in the season, came up from the reserves for his first team debut and was more than a match for him.

Then, with half-time approaching, Nailsea won a corner and captain Stuart Lee headed in the equaliser.

As the second half progressed it became stretched as the teams, both in the comfort of mid-table, went for the three points.

Dan Smith came on for Taylor Jefferson with 75 minutes on the clock and, with five minutes left, he found himself in the right place at the right time to sweep home Ben Pitman’s shot after good work from Whitefield.

The Blues saw off a late challenge from Nailsea, with goalkeeper Chris May making one great save.

Charlie Rutter was given the man of the match award for shining in an unfamiliar centre-half position.

This was the 14th win of a successful campaign and the Blues’ best finish since the 2004/05 season, when the team finished seventh.

Town have enjoyed some great results this season, including beating champions Chilcompton early in the season, and winning at third-placed Fry Club and fifth-placed Watchet.

The big question is whether the side can push into the top six next season – only time will tell.