Evo-Stik South West

Taunton Town 3, Didcot Town 1

THREE first-half goals were enough for Taunton Town to see off the stern challenge of Didcot Town and move eight points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik South West table.

Pierce Mitchell, Ollie Chamberlain and Dan Sullivan found the net for the Peacocks, with George Reid's late consolation not enough to set nerves jangling as Taunton saw the game out.

The Peacocks handed a debut to new signing Keith Emmerson in the back three, with Shane White back from suspension and shoehorned into a left wing-back role in the absence of Ben Palmer, who this week signed for Bideford.

The early stages were dominated by Didcot, though the visitors from Oxfordshire failed to convert their possession into clear-cut chances.

Felipe Barcedos should have done better when played in, but the striker took too long over his effort and allowed Ben Adelsbury to nip in and take the ball off his toes.

Taunton began slowly, with the leaders' best opening coming when Chamberlain's effort from Ryan Brett's cross came off the inside of the post - players and supporters claimed it had crossed the line, but the flag was up in any case.

There was no such contorversy just before the half-hour, when Chamberlain's pass found Pierce Mitchell in space on the right and the wing-back confidently did the rest, firing low across Bedwell into the bottom corner.

Five minutes later Chamberlain doubled the lead, latching on to Sullivan's flick and taking a lovely touch inside the defender before bending a shot into the far corner.

It was 3-0 shortly afterwards, as a mistake by Adam Learoyd let in Sullivan - the striker still had work to do, but did it with a minimum of fuss as he dispatched past Bedwell with a finish not dissimilar to Mitchell's earlier effort.

Town, who were rather flattered by the first-half scoreline, could have had a fourth shortly after the restart when Sullivan's low ball across the face of goal narrowly evaded the lunges of both Matt Buse and Matt Wright in the middle.

Mitchell fired wide from 25 yards in pursuit of his second of the afternoon before Lloyd Irish was called into action at the other end, getting down smartly to his right to keep out a Barcelos snapshot.

The Peacocks goalkeeper could do nothing about Sam Barder's effort two minutes later, and was relieved to see the ball deflect off the outside of the post and out for a goal-kick.

Didcot refused to give in and, after substitute George Jeacock came close with a cross-shot which bobbled inches wide, George Reid nipped in to convert a near-post cross as Irish was denied a clean sheet.

In truth, the consolation goal was the least Didcot deserved after a valiant display, and they could have had another had Sam Elkins done better with a free-kick, which was fired into Hamilton Park, or a far-post header which drifted just wide.

Town sub Les Afful could have added gloss to the scoreline but paid the price for a heavy touch when clean through and saw his effort smothered by the goalkeeper as the game ended 3-1.

The man of the match award went to Chamberlain for a typically busy display in midfield, while Mitchell impressed down the right.

Debutant Emmerson had a solid first outing, adding physicality and organisation to the backline - the defender looked as though he relished the scrap the conditions provided, and the only blemish came late on when he was booked for a late lunge.

Taunton's afternoon got better after the final whistle with news of a shock defeat for Salisbury at home to struggling Barnstaple Town - the Peacocks now hold an eight-point lead going into next Saturday's home match against Bishops Cleeve.

Taunton Town: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Shane White, Ben Adelsbury, Keith Emmerson, Toby Down, Ollie Chamberlain, Ryan Brett, Matt Wright (Craig Veal), Dan Sullivan (Les Afful), Matt Buse.

Subs not used: Tom Stone, Chris McGrath, Michael Meaker