Photo by Gerry Hunt (@GerryHunt19)

An Owen Howe hat-trick condemned Exmouth Town to a 3-1 defeat at Silver Street against Willand Rovers in the Southern League Division One South.

Levi Landricombe got Town off to a superb start, but the hosts took complete control of the game following the equaliser, and Town struggled to get it back.

A bad second half was made worse after Ace High was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. 

Exmouth, fresh off last week’s superb win against Wimborne, started as they left off last Saturday, and had a big chance after three minutes as Bradley Cox flicked the ball through the Willand defence and into the path of Aarron Denny, but George Burton was on-hand to deny him with a strong save. 

Rovers responded as Howe won a header, which turned out to be a common theme in the game, and found Josh Webber, who tried and failed to catch Andrew Sowden-Bird out at his near post.

The game had a end-to-end flow during the first 20 minutes, with Dave Rowe firing over from outside the box, and Alfie Moulden having his long-range effort saved for the hosts.

Town had a great chance to open the scoring as Denny made an interception from Burton’s pass, and as Landricombe rounded the goalkeeper, he was forced wide and his cross was cut out before it reached the feet of Ben Steer. 

However, you can only keep Landricombe away from the goals for so long, as he officialy marked his return by firing the visitors in front, as he was teed up by his brother Mike Landricombe, and the striker fired into the bottom left corner. 

Exmouth were almost caught asleep from kick off for the second time in successive weeks, but the defence recovered in time to prevent an instant equaliser. 

Unfortunately a defensive mix-up allowed Willand back into the game, as a miscommunication at the back saw the ball drilled in across goal, and met by a sliding Howe, who levelled up proceedings. 

After the equaliser, it became a stop-start game, with players getting booked and both sides struggling to put any substantial chances together. 

That was until the 45th minute, where Webber beat Harvey Field down the line, and the full-back was adjudged to have brought the winger down to earn the hosts a penalty, which was duly converted by Howe. 

This goal seemed to knock Town for six, and they never really recovered from it, as Willand managed the game well and the visitors failed to create many chances, barring a Ben Steer free-kick which was just over the bar. 

Howe was a constant threat to the Exmouth backline, winning every aerial battle that came in his direction and if it wasn’t for Ethan Slater, he would have got his hat-trick as he fired a header which beat Sowden-Bird, but the midfielder was in the right place to head clear off the line.

Unfortunately, the dominant striker was not to be denied, and after Alfie Moulden was brought down by James Richards, he converted once again from 12 yards out. 

It would go from bad to worse for Town as High was dismissed following a second yellow card, meaning Town would finish the game with ten men.

Despite the setback, Town looked to push for another goal, and they almost got back in it as Dean Billingsley received the ball in the box and created some space to shoot, but Burton was equal to it.

That was all she wrote for Town but they have the chance to bounce back as they travel to Kidlington for the FA Trophy 2nd qualifying round.

LINE-UP: Sowden-Bird, Richards, Field (Shipton, 69), Rowe, M.Landricombe, Slater, Cox, Denny, High, Steer (Billingsley, 77), L.Landricombe (Harris, 77).

Subs not used: Walford, Lever

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