Evesham United 2 Didcot Town 2
Southern League Division One South & West
TRADITIONAL slow starters Evesham threw away a two-goal lead against Didcot Town on a Tuesday night of immense frustration at the Jubilee Stadium.
Inconsistent starts to the previous two campaigns cost the Robins a tilt at the title and play-off place respectively and, on the back of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at much-fancied Salisbury, United were keen to put their first win of the season on the board against their Oxfordshire visitors.
Failing to do so had seemed highly unlikely at half time when the Robins led 2-0 thanks to an impressive first half display and appeared to be cruising to victory.
However, the Railwaymen, who were trounced 5-1 by Swindon Supermarine on the opening day, hit back with two second half goals and only some desperate defending enabled Paul Collicutt’s side to collect their first point of the season.
An ultimately disappointing evening for the home faithful could have been worse but Joe Turley came to United’s rescue with a goalline clearance in stoppage time to prevent the visitors from snatching all three points.
Popular goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer was another name added to the long list of Evesham absentees and his place was taken by Sam Gilder who made his league debut.
United were straight on the attack as Lance Smith’s downward header bounced over the crossbar but after 16 minutes the Robins deservedly got their noses in front.
Didcot player/manager Andy Ballard pulled back Smith and, from Elliot Kennedy’s resulting free kick, Nick Stanley directed a well placed header past Leigh Bedwell.
Bedwell was kept busy in making saves from Kennedy, Smith and Paul Fahy before he was beaten again in the 43rd minute.
The Didcot stopper failed to gather Lorcan Sheehan’s cross and, despite the attention of several defenders, Smith was able to sweep the loose ball home and put the hosts 2-0 up.
After the resumption United continued to pile men forward and Bedwell did well to push Kennedy’s drive around a post and Ashley Williams and Smith both glanced headers just wide.
However, on 57 minutes the visitors were handed a lifeline through Ben Whitehead who scored from the penalty spot after Ross Adams had clipped the heels of George Reid in the box.
Suddenly the complexion of the contest changed as United lost their shape and Didcot sensed they could get something out of the game.
Eighteen minutes from time and with the United defence all at sea, Sam Barder netted with a fierce drive past Gilder to make it 2-2 after good work by Ryan Brooks.
Didcot were then denied a perfectly good-looking goal when Gilder punched the ball into his own net but fortunately for him an attacker was surprisingly ruled offside.
The closing stages were panic stations at the back for United as Turley cleared off the line and then Declan Benjamin directed his close range shot into the arms of Gilder, enabling the Red and Whites to hang on for a draw.
Evesham are back in action at the Jubilee Stadium on Saturday when they host Wimborne Town before making the trip to Wantage Town on Tuesday.