DORCHESTER Sports battled hard to bounce back from last week's defeat to Westland by beating a well-drilled Merley Cobham side 1-0 at the Avenue Stadium in the Dorset Premier League.

Having been hammered by the visitors twice last year, Sports started with a more defensive setup with Jason Read pushed into midfield along with the returning Lewis Amor. There was also a debut for Taylor Hibbs in Sports' goal.

Sports had the two best early chances of the first half, firstly when Gareth Will blazed over from a Luke Gatehouse pull back, before Gatehouse coasted past three players only to sky his shot over.

Merley came back strong towards the end of the half but Hibbs made a good save to deny Matt Groves late on to go level at the break.

The visitors restarted on the front foot and should have taken the lead but Groves blasted wide from close range.

Merley would regret that miss as Gatehouse again mazed his way into the box, was taken down and Jamie Symes made no mistake from the resulting penalty.

Merley made a triple substitution looking for the equaliser but the Sports defence, along with Hibbs, were in fine form blocking and heading clear everything that Merley threw at them to hold out for an impressive battling win.

Speaking to Echosport, Sports' manager Ashley James said: "I'm pleased to bounce back from last week's defeat.

"Tactically I think we got it spot on. They scored 12 goals against us last year in two games, so we went defensive and it was nice to keep a clean sheet.

"We changed it around a bit and nicked a goal in the end that we just about deserved. It was a tight game, but a vital three points and a really pleasing performance.

"With the leaders losing it tightens it up at the top again. We'll keep the pressure on and try to win every game."

James was also impressed with man-of-the-match Read and goalkeeper Hibbs, who made his debut following an injury to Sam Turner.

"Portland gave us permission to let him play, and we'll assess the injury to Sam. Taylor was brilliant on debut. His shot-stopping and coming out and claiming crosses was really positive.

"Jason is 40 and he gets better and better each week. Going into midfield he was superb, battling, heading and tackling. He and Taylor were the two that shone," he said.

Sports: Hibbs, Heal, Lochrie, Peart, Sibley, Read, Amor (Turland 65), Samways, Symes, Gatehouse (Beasley 78), Will (Steele 78)