Pitching In Southern League
Premier South
Hayes & Yeading United 1, Taunton Town 1

A LAST-GASP equaliser denied Taunton Town the chance to open their 2020/21 Southern League campaign with a victory over Hayes & Yeading on Saturday, writes Sam Dalling.

The points looked to be heading back to Somerset with debutant Toby Holmes having struck to give the Peacocks the lead shortly before half-time.

But with just three minutes on the clock, Omar Rowe stepped up to curl a superb left-footed free-kick around the wall and past Lloyd Irish at full-stretch to give the hosts a share of the spoils.

Much has changed since Taunton’s last competitive outing 192 days ago, and Rob Dray handed out six debuts in West London against a side that had been flying high before the pandemic struck - sitting third in the table before the season was terminated early.

Before kick-off at a bright and blustery SkyEx Community Stadium, a minute’s silence was observed to pay tribute to those who’ve lost their lives recently - including three Hayes & Yeading stalwarts.

Once the game got underway it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges.

The Peacocks had an early penalty shout when Holmes jinked down the left, cut inside and was brought down as he looked to advance into the box, but the referee decided the foul was committed on the edge of the area.

The resulting free-kick was cleared as far Jay Foulston, who stroked his effort over, and just a few minutes later Dan Sullivan flashed a volley wide.

But the hosts then switched to match Taunton’s 3-5-2 formation and that swung momentum in their favour; they built from the back nicely and centre forward Dylan Kearney caused trouble down the right-hand side.

Two minutes before half-time, though, Dray’s troops took the lead against the run of play.

With the prolific duo of Matt Wright and Rocky Neal both having departed, much will rest on the new strike combination of Holmes and Gethyn Hill.

And they got up and running when former Wales youth international Hill found the number 10 with a through ball, Holmes rounding the onrushing goalkeeper to open his account from 10 yards.

The second half was an even affair, Hayes pushing hard for a leveller and the visitors looking to put the result beyond doubt.

Hill went close with a dipping effort from 20 yards inside the final ten minutes but it was heartache soon after, when a Foulston corner was cleared allowing a quick break.

Sullivan picked up a yellow card for a foul in a central area just outside the box as he attempted to recover, and that gave Rowe the chance to secure a point for the home side.

Taunton Town: Lloyd Irish, Jamie Short, Jay Foulston, Ben Adelsbury, Nick Grimes (c), Jake Wannell, Joe Guest, Ollie Chamberlain, Dan Sullivan, Gethyn Hill, Toby Holmes (Owen Howe 66). Subs not used: Jake Mawford, Dan McBeam, Jordan Copp, Ross Staley.

Next up for Taunton is a home tie with Wantage Town in the FA Cup (Tuesday, 7.45pm), followed by the visit of Walton Casuals to the Cygnet Health Care Stadium for their next league match (Saturday, 3pm).