Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 3 Plymouth Argyle

   Thursday 17/07/2003   Friendly
John Reidy

As sure as it was Elephants‚ and not 76 trombones‚ that led the great parade when Billy Smart´s circus last came to town‚ so one season follows another. Meteorologically speaking‚ then nothing can stop spring following winter‚ summer following spring. And just as inevitably the festive seasons will arrive. Easter bunnies will abound in spring‚ tinsel will glisten come December. And all these seasons will be preceded by some harbinger. April showers‚ Lent and Advent‚ or in the case of the Football season - pre season friendlies´. Like those little pieces of chocolate that are popped´ free of the countdown windows on the Advent calendar‚ these games are a taste of the feast to come. Or that is the perceived intention. In reality they frequently turn out to be a disappointment‚ a tasteless morsel more likely to create an aversion to the genuine product. Thankfully‚ that could not be said of Tiverton Town´s first dipping of their metaphorical toe into the waters of the new! improved! football season. Plymouth Argyle had brought a very strong squad up to Ladysmead‚ no team of trialists and fringe players this. And having been given that respect by Pilgrims manager Paul Sturrock the Yellows duly showed that they were deserving opponents. The canny Scot had not only sent a decent side he had given them a powerful incentive by declaring that not only were team places at stake but also seats on the plane as the side jetted off to a training camp near Salzburg‚ Austria. A bad performance could leave any of the Argyle players sitting at home with only Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music´ as consolation.

It was clear from the opening whistle that‚ having been back in training for a couple of weeks and with a couple of games tucked under their belts‚ Argyle were already on song. They attacked and Tivvy defended. Not for long though as the Yellows quickly found their own rhythm and began to probe forward. The visitors were clearly working better as a unit and when in possession were more able to keep the ball and paint pretty patterns and triangles with it as they built forward. But for all their greater share of possession they were unable to find a route through the Tiverton defence where there was inevitably a Yellow leg reaching for the touch that would disrupt‚ if not stop‚ the Pilgrims progress. And the enthusiasm of the home players was obvious from debutante keeper Stu Fraser to No.11 Paul Chenoweth. So much so that the first scoring opportunity of the evening fell to a Yellow shirt. Seven minutes in and Jamie Mudge robbed Plymouth´s Paul Wotton in the middle of the field and burst towards goal. Closing on Romain Larrieu‚ Jamie poked the ball just a little too far forward and set himself an impossible task to win the race with the French keeper who dashed off his line to clear up field. Jamie‚ though‚ was looking lively and was three minutes later found space to collect Chenoweth´ forward chip‚ turn inside David Worrell and fire in a low shot that was the first at either end to actually need the attention of a goalkeeper. At the opposite end Marino Keith let fly with a shot from 25 yards that was still rising as it cleared Fraser´s crossbar and the first corner of the game fell to Argyle. The pressure on the Yellow´s rearguard was beginning to build and Richard Pears and Mudge were having to drop deeper and deeper to see the ball. Pears was having a tough time‚ being given as much space to move as a juggernaut caught in a M25 tailback. Wherever he went‚ whenever he received the ball‚ there was a green shirt up close. With the visitors continuing to make almost all the attacking moves it was hardly surprising that they eventually found the way through to take the lead on the half hour. It came from a set piece‚ a corner on their right. Looped over close in it left the Tiverton defence lead footed and Keith in the clear to head home unchallenged.
In fairness to the Yellows they did not allow their heads to drop. They continued to compete‚ to challenge for every ball‚ to give everything that they had. Unfortunately they didn´t have enough to hit back and Argyle‚ boosted by the goal‚ looked decidedly comfortable and capable of increasing their lead. Some of Town´s challenges were beginning to look anything but friendly‚ but then the will to compete fiercely but fairly is an integral part of what football is about. The referee thought that some of the tackles were beyond the dividing line between fair and foul and from one such decision Ian Stonebridge almost increased the lead in the 39th minute. Worrell lifted a free kick forward from the halfway line. David Friio headed down under pressure just inside the penalty area and Stonebridge‚ following in‚ chipped the ball cleverly over the defence and Fraser. Unfortunately the young veteran´s effort also cleared the crossbar. Tivvy´s only dangerous moments came with a couple of moves down the left where Danny Haines was looking like the only source of a Yellows penetration. There could be little complaint about the 1-0 half-time scoreline.
What a surprise! Not a single half time substitution! Perhaps the respective managers had drawn up a pact to play the game under the normally accepted rules of the game. Town started the second half in far brighter and far more enterprising style. Within a couple of minutes the scores could well have been level. Steve Winter lobbed in a cross that was met by the head of Kevin Nancekivell who delivered a looping header. Unfortunately for Kevin he was an inch or two out and the ball bounced off the underside of the bar‚ hit Larrieu on the way down and hovered tantalisingly on the goal-line before being scooped clear from just inside the upright by a Plymouth boot just seconds before Within a couple of minutes the scores could well have been level. Steve Winter lobbed in a cross that was met by the head of Kevin Nancekivell who delivered a looping header. Unfortunately for Kevin he was an inch or two out and the ball bounced off the underside of the bar‚ hit Larrieu on the way down and hovered tantalisingly on the goal-line before being scooped clear from just inside the upright by a Plymouth boot just seconds before a Tivvy foot could get there to poke it into the net. Things were far more even for that first twenty minutes after the break. Argyle still had the edge but only by dint of their higher skill rating. For fitness‚ effort‚ commitment‚ Tivvy were their match and when on the 65th minute they hit an equaliser it was deserved. The advantage of a keeper that can kick was demonstrated as Fraser´s goal kick was touched forward to Jamie Mudge‚ well inside the Argyle half. Jamie headed for goal - there was nowhere else to go. Shrugging off the attention of two Plymouth defenders he was once again closing on Larrieu. This time there was no mistake as The ball was curled cleanly under and past the advancing keeper and nestled in the net to herald the first yellow goal celebration of the season
Sadly it was to be a short lived festivity. Argyle hit back‚ though typically it took a mistake to present them with the opportunity to restore their lead. Nathan Rudge found himself in trouble on the ball. Rather than smack it away - even for a throw in - he tried to play the ball across the penalty area to the opposite flank. Keith pounced‚ intercepted the ball‚ and headed into the Penalty area. Rees lunged and got his foot to the ball. Keith toppled over the Welshman´s outstretched limb. The referee blew for the penalty. Justified or not the kick was given and it was pointless to collect a yellow card for the choice of words used in protest. Hopefully the Tivvy skipper will do as he did last season and learn to curb his language by the time the real´ season starts. Wotton despatched the spot kick and we were back to where we had been just five minutes earlier. Again The Pilgrims responded to having the lead by upping their came. They oozed confidence‚ an impression no doubt increased by the fact that the Tivvy heads did seem to drop at falling behind for the second time. Argyle once more looked comfortable and unthreatened. They were content to play the ball around and wait for the chances if they were to come. Twice Fraser was called to make brave saves from substitute Andy Watkins to keep the scoreline respectable. Until the last minute. Another burst of Argyle pressure, another corner. Like the one that lead to the opening goal it was lofted in close. Out of the area it was cleared, back in it came, high. Away again. In again but this time to ground and the foot of Marcus Martin. Martin crashed it home and the final score was 3-1.

There were many plusses to be gained from the evening. The players have obviously kept themselves in shape and their fitness can not be doubted. There was no lack of commitment or endeavour. Understanding between the players would appear to have been maintained. Stuart Fraser is obviously a brave and competent keeper. We will have to wait to find out more about his handling as he was not given the chance to display his holding abilities. Shaun Goff had 20 minutes on the field and didn´t look out of place. Tuesday´s trip to Mangotsfield might give us more to go on, after all they are closer to us in the Pyramid!

Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter (David Steele,78), Danny Haines (Shaun Goff,72), Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Chris Holloway, Richard Pears (Steve Ovens, 72), Jamie Mudge, Paul Chenoweth.
Subs not used: Luke Vinnicombe, Ben Harris, Marcus Gross.

Plymouth Argyle: Romain Larrieu, David Worrell, Eric Gilbert, David Friio (Marcus Martin,83), Paul Wotton, Graham Coughlan, David Norris, Tony Capaldi, Marino Keith, Ian Stonebridge (Andy Watkins,52), Steve Adams.
Subs not used: Matt Willis, Luke McCormick, Ryan Trudgian, Lee Coxan.

This report ©2003 John Reidy

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