Bitton 0-3 Millbrook

Dec 23, 2021

Harry Goldspink. Remember him?

Probably not, because he is the last player to have scored a Western League goal against Millbrook – 708 minutes of game time and eight weeks ago for Cadbury Heath in a 2-1 win on October 16.

Fast forward to Saturday where injury-ravaged Brook saw off second-placed Bitton with their sixth win in seven Western Prem games and remarkably their seventh consecutive clean sheet.

Hot shot Rikki Shepherd scored his 20th and 21st goals of the season and recalled Ben Holter got the other.

The result was all the more remarkable when you discover that manager Mackenzie Brown had to scrape together a team after a series of problems leading up to the game.

Brown said: “Perspective will tell you that is the most rewarding result of the season for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, we had nine players out, which i described as ‘obscene’ to the players before the game, so as you can imagine it’s been a manager’s nightmare this past week.

“We had no Ryan Tetley, Dan Chapman, Ben Applegate, Jason Richards, Ryan Knight, Jake Foster or John Styring and then Sam Morcom and Cam Mahoney both received positive Covid tests on Thursday.

“Anyone who follows us know these are key players, so it was always going to be a huge challenge. But it’s always about those players that are there on the day and thankfully I have a management team and group of players in our reserves squad who are very supportive, even at times to their own detriment.

“Both Ollie Small, who is just 16, and Ethan Hunt made their first starts for us this season. Laurence Murray dropped into centre back for the first time in his life. Thankfully Liskeard’s game was off so Ben Holter could come back in and help and Louis Wilson came up from the reserves to give us a 12th man. All of them were magnificent.

“Without that support from our reserves I would have been polishing my boots on Friday night.”

Bitton, who picked up nine yellow cards, a sin bin and red card in their 1-0 defeat at leaders Tavistock a week ago, were again physical but Millbrook refused to buckle.

Brown said: “You hope to have a good referee; luckily we did, and the lads stood up to the challenge and got their rewards.

“There’s no doubt Bitton have got some excellent players especially in wide areas, so to remain level-headed and focussed on our individual one on ones all over the pitch was key.

“What we have in that changing room cannot be bought, it is built over years of togetherness and whoever puts the shirt on delivers in the same manner and I’m extremely proud of that, and the temperament the lads showed was top level and they got their rewards.

“One of their lads said to me at the end we’d ‘done a job on them’ and we probably did, but I take that as a huge compliment.

“We scored reasonably early and the rhythm of the game fell in their favour because of that, but I thought we were always in control of the game even without the ball.”

Millbrook made the perfect start by taking the lead after 10 minutes when Holter headed in a Tom Payne cross, and they doubled their advantage on the half-hour with an individual wonder goal from Shepherd, who ran from inside his own half to finish with the confidence of a top drawer striker.

Shepherd completed the scoring 14 minutes from time and in the last minute was subject of a challenge from behind by Kai Fisher, who was sent off.

Brown said: “When you have Rikki in your team you have a player who is capable of something magical and his goal to make it 2-0 was exactly that.

“Being more direct and aggressive when one-on-one with defenders is something we’ve been talking about together a lot recently, but I can’t really claim too much credit when he does it from his own half with numerous defenders in his path… a moment of brilliance from a brilliant player.”

Next stop for Millbrook is Saturday’s trip to rock bottom Bridport, who have lost 21 of their 22 games.