MALVERN Town were denied victory on their first game back in the Southern League for 14 years on Saturday as Bideford AFC struck late to secure a point in a 2-2 draw at the HDAnywhere Community Stadium. 

Malvern keeper Keiron Blackburn had saved an early penalty before Jack Watts' first-half brace gave The Hillsiders a 2-1 advantage at the break, scoring either side of Javan Wright's equaliser.

Town looked as if they were going to mark their long-awaited return to Step 4 with all three points as the game approached the final ten minutes, but Tyler Yendle's header rescued a point for the visitors. 

It was 2009 the last time Malvern had taken to the field in a Southern League fixture and almost 300 packed into the ground for the first game back to see if Malvern could bounce-back from their heartbreaking mid-week FA Cup exit to Rugby Town. 

But after a quiet start, Malvern keeper Blackburn gave away a penalty for the second game running to hand Bideford the chance to take the lead. But the Welshman redeemed himself with a top save 

Malvern Gazette: Keiron Blackburn made the save from Bideford's Charlie MaddenKeiron Blackburn made the save from Bideford's Charlie Madden (Image: Cliff Williams)

Rejuvenated from that let-off, Malvern responded well and in the 32nd minute, they took the lead when striker Watts, signed from Stourport Swifts in the summer, lashed home after weaving his way into the box. 

Bideford were not behind for long, however as only five minutes had passed before striker Wright stabbed home following a corner. 

But Malvern would go into the changing rooms ahead as Watts turned home from close range to re-establish the lead at 2-1. 

Malvern Gazette: Jack Watts celebrating after putting Malvern Town aheadJack Watts celebrating after putting Malvern Town ahead (Image: Cliff Williams)

Watts had a good chance to complete his hat-trick after the restart but he lifted the chance over the bar before Blackburn was quick off his line to deny Wright.

Jordan Annear and Joe Bullock both went close to extending the lead and the dangerous Watts wasted another opportunity for a hat-trick in a game where he could have had four or five. 

And in the end, Malvern were made to pay for their inability to put the game to bed as Yendle thundered a header past Blackburn to make it 2-2. 

Jack Horrell did have a final chance for Malvern in stoppage time, but he could only blaze over the bar and with that, the game ended all square.