Stoke Gabriel FC: Non-league side concede 122 goals in 10 games

Stoke Gabriel FC
The village of Stoke Gabriel is on the outskirts of Paignton in Devon

If you think your team has had a bad start to the season, spare a thought for Stoke Gabriel FC.

The side in South Devon has played 10 games and lost all 10. They have scored just two goals and conceded 122.

Unsurprisingly they are bottom of South West Peninsula League Premier Division East in the 10th tier of the English football pyramid. No team in England has had such a bad start this season.

"A lot of people felt Stoke Gabriel weren't going to put a side out in the Peninsula League," chairman Gary Page told BBC Radio Devon prior to their home game with Plymouth Marjon.

"From a club point of view we wanted to play at the highest level and make sure we continue to play at the highest level."

Stoke Gabriel's 2020-21 results
5 Sept - lost 15-0 to Torridgeside26 Sept - lost 13-0 to Cullompton Rangers
12 Sept - lost 13-0 to Crediton United30 Sept - lose 18-1 to Bovey Tracey
16 Sept - lost 8-0 to Newton Abbot Spurs 3 Oct - lost 9-1 to Elburton Villa
19 Sept - lost 14-0 to Torrington 7 Oct - lost 3-0 to Ivybridge Town
22 Sept lost 15-0 to Millbrook10 Oct - lost 14-0 to Plymouth Marjon

Stoke ended last season 16th in their 20-team division having won seven games before the league was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the intervening six months or so, the club has seen players, coaches and committee members move on.

It means much of their side is made up from the club's under-18 team, who are playing against seasoned non-league players. Judging by the scorelines, the opposition have given little quarter to their young challengers.

The club hasn't had a great deal of luck either - they were just 4-0 down to Plymouth Marjon at half-time on Saturday, but conceded three times in the first five minutes of the second half.

Stoke threw on all three substitutes, but shortly after one of their players collided with a pitch-side barrier and had to go to hospital with concussion. Playing with 10 men for the final half hour, they conceded seven more times to lose 14-0 - their third-worst loss of the season.

"What can you do? We have to work with what we've got," said manager Mark Richardson, who took over four games (and 50 goals conceded) into the season.

Goalkeeper 'has been absolutely outstanding'

Stoke Gabriel FC
Stoke Gabriel, who are known as 'The Railwaymen', were formed in 1905

The club has put out a call on social media for experienced players to join the club and help the youngsters, and so far three new faces have joined the team.

But according to Richardson, somewhat surprisingly, his star player has been the goalkeeper.

"He has been absolutely outstanding all season," Richardson said of teenage stopper Josh Organ - who saved a penalty on Saturday.

"He's had three man-of-the-match performances and for a 17-year-old lad, he's been absolutely marvellous all season."

Stoke have had their moments - last Wednesday they were only beaten 3-0 by Ivybridge Town.

"They thought they were going to come here and get double figures," said Page. "We stood strong and at half-time we went in 0-0. In the end we lost 3-0, but we could have been 3-2 down."

With a few new signings already in the squad, and more hoped for, Stoke Gabriel's chairman is optimistic his side can turn their fortunes around - although they will have to go some to reverse a minus-120 goal difference.

"If we end up mid-table this season we'll be quite happy," Page says. "We're not looking to win any leagues, we're not looking to win any cups, although it'd be nice if we won a cup.

"As long as we stay in this league and stay in the league for next season, we'll build and get stronger."

With 28 games to go and just a three-point gap between themselves and the next lowest-placed sides in their league Stoke's season is far from over, although their defence might just need some tightening up.

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