Yetminster Sharks and Team Gryphon played out an entertaining end-to-end contest in Sherborne with both sides leaving with a point after this absorbing encounter. The home side, having clawed their way into a 2-1 half-time lead after conceding an early opener, will have been disappointed to concede an equaliser with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, but ultimately there were very few arguments about the result.
For the Sharks, it was a result well deserved after an excellent all-round performance which helped to lift the Yellow Army off the bottom of the Blackmore Vale League table. There were starring roles played out, particularly by Man-of-the-Match Sam Blatch and the rest of the backline who were incredibly resillient throughout, while Adam Marsh signalled his return to action with an impressive showing in midfield. Aided by the irrepressible Mark Whitmarsh though was Portuguese dynamo David Duarte who claimed a superb brace, a just reward for a monstrous performance which had Gryphon defenders ill at ease throughout.
Duarte's light shone all game long, and with scarcely 10 minutes registered on the clock he proved his mettle, latching onto a beautifully weighted through-pass from captain Stuart Toft on the left flank before skinning 4 Gryphon would-be defenders to calmly slot home and beat Joe Hooper at his near post.
Barely 2 minutes later and Duarte was at it again, breaking free on the left and brushing off former Sharks defender Norton Payne but his low driven effort was well saved at the near post.
On 20 minutes though the home side were level. Payne carried the ball out from the back and split the Yetminster defence with a delicious through-ball which was forwarded on to Chris Parfitt who duly fired home past the out-stretched Craig Woolley.
9 minutes later and the Sharks were behind. In remarkably similar fashion Ashley Guppy broke free of his man and blasted his shot past Woolley to edge the Gryphons in front.
At half-time there was no lack of belief from the Sharks, with Manager Ben Jones asking more from his team, expressing the need to show more desire and be more competitive in centre-field. Yetminster responded magnificently.
Second-half chances were largely at a premium as both sides battled willfully in a bid to seize the initiative. As the game entered the final 20 minutes Jones made his changes. Nathan Ruscoe, Kade Masters and Adam Marsh were withdrawn, with Jones and Kenny Barter entering the fray alongside Mark Read, the veteran making his first appearance for Yetminster in almost 10 months.
The changes seemed to reinvigorate the Sharks and the visitors pressed hard for a late equaliser. Their reward came 8 minutes from time in dramatic fashion.
Gryphon's defence dallied in possession, played the ball all the way home to Hooper who swung and sliced the ball horribly back towards his own net. Duarte needed no second invitation and gambled, beating the flailing Gryphon stopper to the loose ball to turn it home from close range and claim an invaluable point for his side.
Yetminster's gutsy and resillient showing will be a welcome boost after they arrested their recent poor run of form, and will look to carry some momentum into the forthcoming Merthyr Guest Cup clashes against fellow strugglers Provost Barbarians Reserves and Valmiera Glass.