Match report

Ilkeston Town 1 - 3 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 28/12/2002   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

It comes round every year at this time. It always makes me think of the title of a Stephen King novel - The Dead Zone. It´s that four day gap between Boxing Day and New Year´s Eve. Jammed between the Christmas festivities and the celebration of opening a new diary‚ it is neither one thing nor the other. A limbo. A time of virtual suspended animation. A time when seldom does anything happen that is of any significance or to provide any form of lift to grey midwinter days. One only has to listen to the news bulletins on BBC Radio to realise that nothing much is happening as Auntie Beeb wheels out all the supercilious ´slow news day´ stories to fill the two minute slots. Not since Santa brought my sons‚ and therefore by proxy myself too‚ a Scalextric set each‚ have I enjoyed the 96 or so hours that separate the two sections of the festive season. Thank goodness then for a football match to lift the ennui. Last year we had the excitement of that remarkable comeback up at Hinckley. Old rivals‚ close in the league‚ there was pre match anticipation rewarded with a game that swung in the last quarter of an hour with the decisiveness of an executioners axe. This season we were off to Ilkeston. Hardly an inspirational prospect‚ particularly since the Robins were anchored at the foot of the table and were undergoing a bout of internal turmoil that threatened to tear the heart out of the club. But desperate for relief from the blandness of late December we made the trip........

There was little to brighten the greyness of the Derbyshire day as the game got underway. A heavy pitch‚ soft but not squelching was going to prove tiring by the time the afternoon was over but at least it wasn´t raining. And there was nothing to chose between the sides as they probed and prodded each other whilst still settling into their own formats. The problems at Ilkeston meant there were several newish faces‚ the injury and suspension crisis at Tiverton caused similar unsettling problems. After the initial moves it was the home side that looked the livelier‚ particularly when Leon Kelly was involved. A big powerful striker he was the one player to impress throughout the match as he continuously caused problems with his strength and speed on the ball. In the 7th minute he ran at debut boy Chris Curran and left the Tivvy loanee struggling as he crossed only for Chris Freestone to be given offside as he blasted the ball past Ben Foster. As Tivvy realised where the threat was likely to come from‚ they tightened up and the game developed into a hard fought tussle to gain control of midfield. The earliest piece of hopeful excitement for the Tivvy fans came after a quarter of an hour when Paul Chenoweth split the Ilkeston back line to send Steve Ovens scampering free. As Ovo latched onto the ball it stopped dead in one of the softer patches of the pitch. Steve recovered his poise but rushed into a shot from all of forty yards out that lacked pace and direction as it curled away from Matt Nurse in the home goal. Three minutes later Steve was away again‚ this time sent by Phil Everett‚ and this time wide on the right. His cross beat Nurse to find the head of Chenoweth whose effort was easily held by the keeper. The Yellows were finding their men well on occasions but overall there was not much pretty football being played. The game‚ like those four days mentioned earlier‚ needed something to inject a little life into it. It came in the 33rd minute. A free kick conceded midway inside the Tiverton half‚ wide on the Ilkeston left. A relatively harmless position one might have thought. A crowded goalmouth but easily defended and headed clear to well outside the penalty area as the hoards moved out. We´d seen it all before at Ladysmead a couple of weeks ago against Chelmsford City‚ though. The ball fell right to the foot of Ryan Price who hammered it back from whence it came‚ through the massed feet and into the corner of the net just inside Ben Foster´s left hand upright. The Robins celebrated‚ flocking round Ford as if he´d delivered up the biggest piece of turkey fat this side of Christmas. The Tiverton fans were stoic. The Yellows always play better after the first goal has been conceded‚ don´t they? And so it proved.

Town upped their workrate‚ stringing together longer unbroken sequences of passes and gaining ground more quickly. They looked hungrier‚ more determined‚ more resolute. And so they began to take control. Perhaps because of the uncertainty at the back caused by the introduction of Foster and Curran‚ the midfield had looked uncreative as they all lay deep‚ particularly noticeable through the role of Scott Rogers who had not been pushing forward as much as in recent games and had been flitting in and out of the action to little effect. The increase in forward motion redressed the balance and it was Scott that pulled the Yellows level. A neat behind the standing foot flick by Jamie Mudge caught the Ilkeston defence unawares and redirected the ball to Chenoweth in mid-field. ´Chens´ slid the ball forward into Scott´s path as ´Spiceboy´ timed his offside trap breaking run to perfection to take it in his stride and close unchallenged on Nurse. No blast against the keepers legs for Scott as the Jamie Oliver lookalike spread himself horizontally in the mud. No‚ another little flick‚ over the grounded glovesman‚ that saw the ball loop cleanly into the net. All square and just enough time to send the ball back to the centre circle to let Ilkeston have another touch before the intermission. Any time´s a good time to score a goal; it´s just that some times are more good than others - to paraphrase George Orwell´s Animal Farm.

For the first fifteen minutes of the second half there was little doubt that Tivvy were having the better of things. Kelly had been subdued and there was little being offered in the way of attacking play by the remainder of the Derbyshire outfit. Having said that‚ they were defending well‚ though there were signs that the pitch and constant chasing of yellow shadows was taking its toll. Jamie Mudge began to look more threatening after struggling against big strong defenders early on. Clearly earmarked as Tivvy´s dangerman - hardly surprising when one looks at the division´s scoring charts - he had been closely marshalled in the first period‚ but his pace‚ agility and ball control began to tell. The home side did manage to hit a purple patch and pressure the Tiverton area for a solid three minutes (61 to 63 inclusive) but even then they were aided by the fact that Tivvy were hacking wildly clear rather than playing the ball out to Mudge or Ovens lurking ready to make their runs. When the breakout did eventually come it was only halted by Jamie being unceremoniously upended. Inevitably the fatigue caused an increase in the ´foul rate´ and that in turn induced the incident that was to turn the game inexorably in the Yellows favour. A late tackle on the halfway line by Ford on Chenoweth. Scuffle as Ford climbs off the smothered Chens. Fine‚ every reason for a few words from the referee‚ maybe even a yellow card or two. Until Ford lets fly with a mouthful of saliva. How anybody can criticise a referee for immediately showing red‚ I cannot understand. I can only assume that those fans calling the man in black a disgrace did not see what I‚ the referee‚his assistant‚ the two managers‚ the subs and everybody else within 10 yards of the incident saw.

The Yellows soon took advantage of the extra man. The already fully stretched Ilkeston defence ran out of elasticity. Five minutes after the reduction in the number of Robins on the field Steve O escaped at full throttle down the right flank. He thundered in a cross. It was beaten back out to him. The second ball was floated to the far post. Striker wing back Everett just loves those balls and thumped it into the net. Offside claimed the defenders. The referee looked. The flag stayed down and Ilson were heading for another defeat. Any doubt about that fact was dispelled when an over enthusiastic tackle was rewarded by a second yellow for Carl Heggs in the 78th minute. Not that they gave up‚ credit to them for that. Kelly proved that he might be impressive on the ball but was not so in front of goal as he skied a perfect opportunity in one of the rare attacks by the home side. Tiverton were content to play keep ball and for the most part did it efficiently. A final effort from the home side in the last minute saw them force two corners‚ the second the result of a brilliant save by Foster. But that second corned was cleared cleanly by the head of Rogers to Mudge‚ waiting unmarked for just such a ball. Jamie picked up the ball between the penalty area and the centre circle and made a bee line for the other end. One last defender managed to force him wide but James sprinted round him as he reached the goal-line on the right and unselfishly laid the ball at ground level across the face of the goal, out of reach of Nurse, to give substitute David Steele his first touch since coming on two minutes earlier. David steadied himself and slid the ball into the gaping net. On this occasion there was enough time for Ilkeston to have half a dozen touches before retreating to the dressing room. It wouldn´t have made any difference if they´d had time for a hundred, they had been efficiently, if not inspirationally beaten. And Jamie Impey? Didn´t really notice him!

Roll on the exit from the Dead Zone on New Year´s Day.

Tiverton: Ben Foster, Phil Everett, Danny Haines, Jason Rees, Chris Curran, Rob Cousins, Steve Ovens, Chris Holloway, Jamie Mudge, Scott Rogers, Paul Chenoweth ( David Steele,88).
Subs (not used): Steve Winter, Marcus Gross, Martyn Grimshaw, Paul Edwards.
Cards: None.

Ilkeston: Matt Nurse, Ian Robinson, Andy Lodge (Emeka Nwadike,46), Jamie Impey, Matt McKenzie, Tony Brown, Ryan Ford, Charlie Hartfield (Ashley Murdoch,85), Chris Freestone, Leon Kelly, Carl Heggs.
Subs (not used): Carl Lawrence, Tom Williams, Matt Fletcher.
Cards: Yellow: Brown, Heggs.
Red: Ford, Heggs (2nd Yellow).

Referee: Mr M Bell (Rotherham).

This report ©2002 John Reidy






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