Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Tamworth

   Saturday 08/02/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Deep in a bunker in the darkest forests of East Prussia‚ at approximately 02.00hrs on 20th July 1944‚ according to author Hans Helmut Kirst‚ a certain former house painter harangued his closest disciples with the irrational logic of the madman he undoubtedly was. Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary - Russians from the East‚ Rommel being forced back to the beaches of North Africa - Adolf Hitler still believed in the infallibility of his Reich and his ability to secure ´final victory´. ´We shall win because we must win´‚ entoned one General. ´Victory or annihilation´‚ murmured the Fuehrer‚ adding‚ ´But we shall only merit defeat if we have not deserved victory´. Change the names‚ rearrange the faces‚ alter the scenario‚ and reading the Tiverton programme for the visit of top of the table Tamworth you could well imagine similar remarks being made among the power wielders at Ladysmead in the days preceding this battle. The hour of trial was at hand. If Tivvy were to survive as realistic challengers for final victory in the race for the title then this was a battle they HAD to win. But‚ like with the German people‚ though there was agreement on the need‚ doubts were beginning to manifest themselves among the rank and file as to the ability of the Yellows to actually carry out the task with which they were faced. Blind faith would not be enough.................The pre match media had made much of the improved fitness of young Jamie Mudge after a week of full time training under the ´new´ regime back at Exeter City‚ and of the likely suitability of the playing surface to Steve Ovens style of play. Red Herrings to keep the opponents guessing? Perhaps‚ but whatever the reason‚ when the line up was announced it was to the exclusion of both; Pears and Everett being preferred as the front men.
There could be little complaint from the Yellows fans at the choice in the opening minutes - nor about motivation of the players as they entered the fray with a determination to fight for their survival and aspirations. Town went straight on the offensive and drew first blood by winning a corner after 60 seconds. Just how sticky and unpredictable the surface was‚ was quickly indicated when from the clearance Jason Rees saw his back pass to Ben Foster put the keeper under pressure from the forward charging Avun Jephcott. Foster‚ though‚ kept his cool‚ neatly side-stepped the advancing Lamb and hoofed the ball upfield. There must be something about the Devon air that affects the kicking ability of Tiverton keepers - albeit it never seemed to affect Steve Collis during his sojourn with the club - for in the next piece of goalmouth action Foster leapt high to grab a free kick but hit his clearance right to Darren Collins‚ leaving his defenders to win the ball back and restart the Yellows forward movement. Pears made a dash down the fight flank‚ sent in a telling cross that had a Tamworth defender slicing the ball away for another corner. High into the middle and Chris Curran beating Tamworth´s keeper Darren Acton to the ball but his header flashing wide. It was a wide open contest but it has to be said that Town were more than holding their own‚ indeed they were definitely having the better of things. Despite the surface they were spreading the ball around well‚ finding their men and generally building flowing moves. The trouble was that they were not actually getting through‚ not creating the clear cut scoring opportunities. When they did get into the box there were inevitably a host of red shirts surrounding them‚ as in the 13th minute when there was a goalmouth cramble with more than its share of push and shove that was terminated by the referee awarding a free kick to Tamworth. Town found another gear and increased the pressure until they were in a position of total domination. Another right wing dash by Pears‚ another cross‚ again deflected for a corner. An incisive‚ more direct move started out of defence by Cousins sending Pears down his right hand groove‚ into Nancekivell. ´Nance´ lost out but battled for the ball - unfairly said the man in black and Tamworth took the free kick.
For all their possession‚ territorial advantage and effort‚ Town had nothing of consequence to show and it was the visitors that were finding the clearest chances to break the deadlock. Nick Colley made a run down their right and forced in a cross that Jephcott really should have buried but his header rocketed past the upright from two yards out. A low drive from former Exeter City favourite Mark Cooper´s free kick found its way through the wall but was safely and easily gathered to the chest of Foster‚ whilst at the other end Pears‚ wide on the right again‚ saw Phil Everett connect first time with his cross but scoop the ball way over the top. Even Rob Cousins joined in the barrage‚ firing a weak headed clearance high out of the reach of Acton. With half an hour of play completed one would have thought that the pitch would have revealed all its tricks but Rees was again caught out by a sticky patch and Collins nipped in to beat Curran to the ball and blast in a shot that Foster did well to hold cleanly at close range. And then Tiverton came as close to a goal as they were going to before the break. Pears bundled his way into the penalty area by its right hand corner‚ broke clear of the attention of his challengers and fired in a drive that had Acton spread-eagled but unable to hold. The rebound fell right back to Rico´s foot and he coolly lobbed the ball goalwards over the scrambling keeper. It was dropping into the net....until a head above a red shirt reached it. Action not over. The clearance lacked power and dropped towards the left hand side of the goal area where Nancekivell perfectly weighted another header that looped up and towards the target before coming into contact with the hand of the hastily recovering Acton whose touch was just enough to see the ball lifted over the crossbar for another corner for the home side. As Tiverton pushed forward so Tamworth were getting more chances on the break. Collins again tested Foster‚ the young keeper pushing the drive two handed round the base of his right hand upright and Jephcott missing another golden opportunity as he broke onto another underhit back pass‚ rounded Foster but blasted wide with the goal at his mercy. Half time. Score low - even non existent. Entertainment high. Few complaints.
Ten minutes in the dressing room can make a world of difference. Danny Haines‚ who´d taken a knock in the first half stayed behind and was replaced by Paul Chenoweth. That had little or nothing to do with the change in the flow of the game. The Lambs seemed to have sensed spring in the air and were a lot more frolicsome. Within a minute Jephcott had brought Foster into action with a shot on the turn and apart from yet another corner Town won just about nothing in the opening eight minutes of the second half as Tamworth forced them back into their own half almost continuously. Why‚ you may ask, do I use eight minutes as a mark? It was the time of an incident that might well be considered the turning point of the game and came as a direct consequence of the continuous pressure that the Yellows found themselves under. Collins, wide on the Tamworth left, embarked on a cross field run dragging the Tivvy defence with him. As he approached mid field he neatly back healed the ball into the path of Jephcott. The leggy striker stumbled over the ball in a tackle from Scott Rogers and as the Lambs striker hit the deck over the ball, the boots of Rogers and Chris Holloway attempted to dig the ball clear. In the melee that ensued Holloway was judged to have stamped on Jephcott and was shown a ´straight´ red, having already had a view of the yellow in the first half. Down to ten men it was backs to the wall for Town as they adjusted. Foster was the busier by far of the two keepers without being as seriously tested as he had from the breakaways in the first half, as Tivvy concentrated on absorbing and hopefully blunting the Tamworth onslaught. But the Staffordshire side had captured the cosh and Town were firmly under it. The line held until the 71st minute. It looked harmless enough at first. Another cross from the Tamworth left, apparently well covered by Nathan Rudge. But the clearing header was not what it should have been. It was a poor connection, lacking power and direction. In fact if it had been a forward nodding the ball down into the path of Collins it would have been perfect. Collins shot. Beaten away but only as far as Jephcott. Three attempts it took before the lanky striker managed to force the ball through a gap and into the net. Scrappy - but they all count.
Tiverton had to chase the game and Jamie Mudge was pressed into service in place of Pears. Unlike in the corresponding fixture three weeks ago the change brought no tangible reward. True, Jamie caused problems with his running at the defenders, and that in turn bought Tivvy back into the game, but the necessity of pushing forward would probably have done that anyway. With fifteen minutes remaining one of Jamie´s runs was unceremoniously halted as he burst into the penalty area. The shouts were for a penalty. Certainly the young man ended up in a heap well inside the area. The referee waved away the claims, indicating that the offence was committed outside the box. Mudge took the kick himself, drove the ball at the wall and took a second poke as the rebound came back to him but the ball was scrambled away. Five minutes on and Mudge and Everett combined well on the right but Jamie´s final cross was deflected away for another addition to the mounting tally of Tiverton corners, from which Curran once more headed wide. And that was to be the picture for the remainder of the game. Tiverton´s ten men exerting all the pressure as they had in the first half and reaping the same reward. Everett, Rudge, Mudge; all had chances that were either saved, deflected or off target. And even when Phil did look as if he´d pulled the cat out of the bag in the last minute, Acton somehow managed to grab the ball on the line to deny him. One of those days.
Ten hours after that early morning event back in 1944, a bomb planted by Colonel Clause von Stauffenberg exploded in the conference room of Hitler´s lair but failed in its intended objective. Everything had been meticulously planned, everything had been perfectly executed. The result was still failure. A little like this Tiverton performance. General Beck, one of the conspirators responsible is said to have remarked, ´necessitate abnormal measures.´ I wonder if we will see any abnormal measures on Wednesday evening in Wiltshire, or whether any hopes of ´final victory´ have finally evaporated?

Tiverton Town: Ben Foster, Phil Everett, Danny Haines (Paul Chenoweth,46), Chris Curran, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, (David Steele,68), Chris Holloway, Jason Rees, Scott Rogers, Richard Pears (Jamie Mudge,72).
Subs (not used): Steve Ovens, Paul Edwards.
Cards: Yellow: Holloway (34), Rees (44).
Red: Holloway (53).

Tamworth: Darren Acton, Robert Warner, Paul Hatton (Jamie March,80), Dave Robinson, Mark Turner, Mark Cooper, Nick Colley, Greame Atkinson, Darren Collins, Avun Jephcott (Mark Hallam,83), Richard Follet.
Subs (not used): Steve Evans, Mark Sale, Neil Barnes.
Cards: Yellow: Collins (21).

Referee: Mr M Strong (Watchet, Somerset).

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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