Watts produces superb saves to salvage point for Ledbury Town

TEENAGE goalkeeper Elliot Watts produced a couple of superb saves to salvage a point for Ledbury Town in a hard-fought Herefordshire derby.

It was the 16-year-old’s first clean sheet in West Midlands League Division One and frustrated rivals Bartestree, who are pushing for a promotion spot.

Watts, a Hereford Sixth Form College student, leapt to punch away a goal-bound header with 10 minutes remaining and a late goal-line clearance by Pat Locke also kept out the hosts.

Watt is Ledbury’s first choice goalkeeper having taken over the role from Lewis Skyers.

“Lewis has done very well and is playing for the blind team and his are big boots to fill,” said Watts.

“I was very nervous at the start and it has been a big step up for me because I started off with the reserves at Ledbury.

“I am trying not to think too much about it – and try to concentrate. Paul Mann has given me the opportunity and it’s up to me to prove myself.”

He added: “I was on my toes all the time but there were a lot of opportunities made by Bartestree towards the end of the game.

“I was happy with my punch towards the finish – I thought it was best that I punched the ball rather than tried to catch it.

“I have had three sessions with goalkeeping coach Allan Hawkins – and it’s been going really well and I am enjoying it.”

Ledbury boss Paul Mann said: “Elliot came to me at the start of the season and said he wanted to play in goal. Lewis Skyers is away with the blind team and he can’t make every weekend. “He’s brave for a young lad and he’s one for the future.”

Bartestree manager Dave Cadwallader said: “The keeper was Ledbury’s best player and he made some great saves in the second half.”

Mann was the happier of the two managers after Saturday’s draw which saw several strong challenges but lacked the explosive nature of the sides’ meetings last season.

Bartestree clipped the outside of post with a speculative effort in the opening minute of the second half and Tom Parry charged down an attempted clearance from Watts.

Bartestree enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second period, with Watts making a fine acrobatic punch to keep out Parry’s header with eight minutes left.

Ledbury kept their shape and Herbert had the visitors’ best chance, sliding a shot narrowly wide of the scrambling Bartestree goalkeeper Jon Hopkins.

Earlier, Herbert almost broke the deadlock in a quiet first-half when he scuffed a shot wide of the target in the 36th minute.

Bartestree played some nice passing football but Watts dealt with a couple of dangerous corners and Parry blazed a shot a foot over the Ledbury bar.

Mann said: “We have worked hard on our defensive side of the game.

“I thought that, as a unit, they did exactly what we expected of them against a very good side.

“I always enjoy it and it’s tough but the lads have responded well. People who know me know that I like my players to work hard and give 100% and that’s what they did.

“If we end up half-way, I would be happy with that this season.”

Bartestree boss Cadwallader said: “We changed formation and started very well in the second half. We had a lot more possession and we opened up the game by pushing Darren Andrews forward and he creates chances if he gets the ball at his feet.

“We have got to take our chances and score goals. We made some wrong decisions and we have got to be more clinical.

“We defended superbly through Danny Hill and Marc Avery and Mark was our man of the match.

“We will take a point – we haven’t lost – and the lads played well in the second half.

“A draw wasn’t too bad considering we had seven players out.

“Hopefully, we will be in the top three and in with a chance of promotion at the end of the season and then it will be in the hands of the league to make a decision.”

Mann added: “AFC Bridgnorth are head and shoulders above everybody this year but Bartestree are as good as anyone we have played this season.”

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