Somerset County League Premier & First Division Cup

Ilminster Town v Chard Town (abandoned after 38 minutes due to injury with score at 2-0)

THE eagerly-anticipated derby between Ilminster Town and Chard Town was cut short at the 38-minute mark due to an injury to Chard's Danny Cleal, writes Andy Fish.

When the heavy rain that was forecast on Saturday morning arrived right as predicted spot on 9am, it looked very much like the Somerset County League Cup match between the two local rivals would fall victim to the weather.

As soon as the rain had cleared just before 12 noon, the groundstaff and volunteers got to work, applying sand to the pitch and forking the wet areas.

Most of the surface water was removed with a hand powered large water removal system (kindly lent to the club by Ilminster Cricket Club) and when local referee Pete Mawhood came to inspect the pitch he deemed it playable.

With most other local matches postponed, including all three other Ilminster teams and Yeovil Town, news that the Ilminster v Chard match was on spread far and wide with more than 250 spectators arriving at the ground for kick off.

Both sides started cautiously with Chard making the first break forward winning a free kick wide on the right.

A dangerous cross came in but captain Doug Whitfield, leading by example, settled the nerves with a fine defensive header in a packed goalmouth.

Ilminster began to dominate, with Lee Sweet picking the ball up 30 yards from goal before letting fly with a long range effort that hit the post, but the hosts did not have long to wait as good play around the 18 yard box led to Ben Pitman scoring after his low shot found the corner in the 21st minute to give his side the lead.

It was soon 2-0 after Josh Phillips tried to turn in the wet bottom goalmouth before losing his footing, but the alert Sweet followed up and squared for Charlie Rutter, who swept the ball home to the delight of the home supporters.

Chard came back and Liam Cleal had a great chance but Ilminster keeper Jack Rutter (on his 18th birthday) stood up big and strong and blocked the goal bound shot with his legs.

With 38 minutes on the clock, Chard left-back Danny Cleal then collided with one of his own players dislocating his knee.

The ambulance took a long time to arrive and with light failing the referee asked Chard to forsake their 15 minute half-time break, but needing to reorganise at 2-0 down this offer was refused and the match was then abandoned.

Ilminster Town: Jack Rutter, Luke Paul, Darren Hutchins, Owen Burn, Doug Whitfield (captain), Will Spurway, Lee Sweet, Ben Pitman, Josh Phillips, Charlie Rutter, Taylor Jefferson. Subs (all not used): Carl Lazenby, Andy Whitefield, Mitch Hooper, Noah Kyruszynski

Derby matches bring out a strong rivalry with both clubs desperate to win, but what was certainly evident from the day was the strong footballing friendship shown by both committees, players and supporters.

A big thank you to the volunteers who came down and worked on the playing surface, without their help the match (although not finished) would not have taken place.

Finally, all at Ilminster Town wish Danny Cleal a speedy recovery.

Next week both teams will try again with the match being replayed at The Archie Gooch Pavillion - kick-off is 2.30pm.

Chard Town have issued the following update on injured player Danny Cleal: "Danny spent Saturday night in hospital - x-rays revealed no breaks, but most likely serious ligament damage.

"He will have a MRI scan this week to reveal extent of the damage.

"This is another blow to Chard manager Mark Parris' plans as Cleal, who was out of the game for several seasons, was getting back to his best form."