BRIDPORT are “pumped” to play runaway leaders Ivybridge Town in their hotly-anticipated South West Peninsula League Premier East summit at St Mary’s Field on Saturday (3pm).

Ivybridge have been the class act of the 2023/24 season, extending to 20 points their lead over Crediton United, who possess three games in hand.

Bridport are close behind in third place, also with three spare matches, but trail the Ivies by a whopping 26 points.

Ivybridge have suffered just one loss and one draw in 22 games, winning the other 20 in what is building up to be a formidable cruise to the title.

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Bridport lost the reverse fixture 2-0 in Devon but Bees’ boss Chris Herbst was left to ponder missed chances at 0-0 before the hosts claimed all three points.

He told the Bridport News: “I just go back to the game where we played them. When it was 0-0 we had chances. If we took one of them it might’ve been a different outcome, but they’re a very good outfit.

“We have to be at our best to be anywhere near getting the win off them, especially with the injuries we’ve got as well.

“But if we can take what we had last Saturday into this Saturday, the togetherness, will to win, fighting for everything, every personal battle, then we’ve got a good chance of getting something.”

Asked what makes Ivybridge such a daunting prospect to play against, Herbst pointed towards the Ivies’ engine room.

He said: “They’re well-oiled. They know what they’re doing, they’re physical but they’ve got some really good technical players.

“Midfield is their strongest point and they kept the ball so well. If we’re not on it and don’t compete, we’ll be chasing shadows all afternoon.

“As soon as they get that chance, they’ll take that chance. That’s why they’ve been so consistent over the season, whereas we miss.

“They’re so clinical in games. I’ve seen on Saturday they won 1-0, with a penalty, but they still won 1-0. They deserve it, they’ve been consistently the best team and it’s showing on points.”

And there could prove to be a sprinkling of added spice, with Herbst pointing towards what he felt were premature celebrations from Ivybridge back in November.

He said: “The lads are all pumped for it, what a big test. They’re going to be champions, I’d say, so we need to get some points off them to slow it up a bit.

“All the boys want to do it. When we played them last time everyone was gutted and they were singing: ‘Championes’. I said to them: ‘Bottle that up and next time when we play them we’ll put that right’.

Bridport have no fresh injuries to their squad and could welcome back midfielder Will Gape and the versatile Darren Lock into their roster, although striker Sol Ayunga (ankle) remains out.

Herbst added: “It’s the same side as Saturday but hopefully Gapey should be OK to get back in the squad.

“Darren Lock should be back but Sol’s two weeks away, which is a shame. Other than that, it should be OK.”

Following this league game, Bridport move on to the re-arranged Dorset Senior Cup semi-final with Hamworthy Recreation on Tuesday night (7.45pm).