Leaders Hengrove are humbled as Shepton Mallet stay in the hunt
Hengrove Athletic 1, Shepton Mallet 2
After a month without a game, Shepton Mallet's campaign resumed in fine style with a convincing win at runaway Toolstation Division 1 leaders Hengrove Athletic.
The final scoreline flattered the home side, as Shepton were the better side throughout with the win keeping them in touch with the other sides battling it out at the top of the table.
Manager Andrew Jones introduced two new signings, goalkeeper Ed Quelch and full-back Ben Osman, with Robbie Maggs restored to the side up front after his return from a spell playing in Belgium.
Shepton were quickly into their stride and took the game to the hosts. Maggs had a shot blocked by Hengrove's Sam Williams early on, and Liam Watson headed a good chance wide.
Midway through the half, Quelch saw his first meaningful action when he rushed to the edge of his penalty area to beat Ben Crewe to a long punt up field.
At the other end, Quelch's counterpart and former Shepton keeper Liam MacFarlane was kept busy, saving well from a powerful 20-yard effort from Raiff Gwinett, before then keeping out shots from James Vincent and Watson.
Vincent and Gwinett had further efforts just before the break, but the last action of the half saw Hengrove take the lead against the run of play, with skipper Ricky Charlton's shot taking a wicked deflection to give Quelch no chance of saving.
Undeterred by the setback, Shepton started the second period strongly and were level within five minutes when Osman hit a low shot from 35 yards that found the bottom corner with MacFarlane unsighted.
Shortly before the hour mark, the contest was settled in the visitors' favour. Firstly, Quelch made a tremendous point-blank save to deny Ricky Briggs and they attacked immediately.
A throw-in down the right was headed into the path of Ben Cleverley by Watson and Shepton's leading scorer volleyed home the winner from 12 yards.
Apart from a Charlton shot that went wide after 70 minutes, Shepton continued to hold the upper hand until the final whistle and Maggs, Cleverley and Osman all had chances to increase their lead.
Tim Thompson made a vital block to keep Hengrove out with a minute to go, while Quelch saved well from Ben Bament in stoppage time as Shepton registered probably their best win of the season.