Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Crawley Town

   Wednesday 12/03/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

It has been a long month (plus) since Tivvy last took the field up at Keys Park‚ Hednesford. To relieve the comparative ennui of the first weekend I was able to revel in the stomping underfoot of a flock of Gulls (and the odd stray pigeon or two) by the rampant Ox down at Plainmoor‚ but otherwise things on the football front have certainly been quiet. So much so that one evening I even got into an argument....with myself! The dispute was over which constituency a certain well known figure represented in the House of Commons. I was eventually able to win the debate‚ thanks to an information hoarding habit that has seen me keep The aily Telegraph Results supplement from recent General Elections. Browsing for the answer to my query‚ I became fascinated by some of the fringe parties that had put up candidates. In some ways they are the ´non-league´ teams of our political system. One in particular bought a nostalgic‚ whimsical smile to my face. The Natural Law Party. I never quite understood their manifesto. It is a puzzlement to me how yogic bouncing‚ that eccentric‚ cross-legged‚ pogo-ing exercise‚ could possibly lead to eventual levitation; and even if it did‚ what effect such hovering could possibly have on the political‚ social or economic life of Britain. If anything‚ I considered‚ there were several Natural Laws that I would quite happily see dismissed into oblivion. The Law that decrees that a dropped slice of bread will always land butter side down and would only be dropped when you´re wearing suede shoes. Or the Law that ordains that when you´re in a hurry the bus will be running late‚ and then two will come along in close proximity. A bit like this season´s fixtures for Tiverton Town‚ was my realisation‚ getting back onto a more familiar thought-wave; an end of season glut. Wednesday evening approached and found me hoping that this time the slice would land yellow side uppermost - and at last Mother Nature behaved herself and it was ´game on´.........
There was a strange(ish) look to the Yellows line up‚ and not only because they had not been seen in action for such a long time. Disciplinary records and injuries had reduced the squad to the bare bones. Crawley‚ too‚ were not without their problems but they at least have the benefit of a reserve side to call on. Never-the-less ´new´ manager Francis Vines was compelled to name both himself and the club´s Managing Director Steve Duly on the bench. It was the comparatively green Reds in blue that started with the greater enthusiasm‚ no doubt fired by their desire to grab their opportunity to stake a place in the team for the remainder of the season. Tivvy looked rusty as the visitors quickly established the upper hand and pushed forward. Although their line up suggested that Crawley were going to play with a lone striker it soon became plain that they were going to be offering that one man plenty of support from mid-field. Warren Bagnall was the target man; Ernie Cooksey driving forward from behind him; youngsters Connor McCurdle and Scott Kirkwood providing pace and crosses from out wide. It was a game-plan that was to have the Yellows struggling to find any shape for the first 45 minutes and was responsible for almost all the scoring opportunities that occurred in that period. The first caught breaths for the home fans came just 4 minutes after the opening whistle. Having already shown that they could find their way down their left flank or through the middle‚ the Reds experimented down the right and found that option was also open to them. McCurdle found space and whipped in a cross to the far post‚ Bagnall rose and headed down into the path of Cooksey who was left holding his head as his volley flew skywards off of the crossbar. Cooksey was getting involved in everything and it came as no surprise when in the 10th minute he was upended by Nathan Rudge to earn the Tiverton man a yellow card to go with the pre-match presentation bottle of ´Champers´ as February´s Player of the month. It was indicative of how Tivvy were struggling to contain their visitors and in the superstitious 13th minute the Yellows could well have been feeling themselves lucky as Bagnall beat the offside trap‚ won a race with Ben Foster to round the keeper just outside the penalty area‚ and was denied the opportunity of a shot at the empty goal by the timely intervention of Rob Cousins who hacked the ball for a throw in. Sure enough the pressure told. Bagnall again chased a long one through the middle in the 19th minute‚ deflecting it past Jason Rees - the last man - and with the Tiverton captain and other defenders statically appealing for handball‚ rounded the desperately sprawling Foster on the edge of the penalty area to slot the ball into the vacant net. It was no more than the Sussex side deserved‚ even if there was some justifiable doubt about the execution. Rees continued to protest voraciously and saw yellow for his efforts.
Hopes that the goal might‚ as has so often happened in the past‚ kick start Tivvy were soon dispelled as Crawley defended their lead in the best possible fashion - by continuing to press forward. Four minutes after the goal the scenario was repeated‚ albeit without the handball suspicions‚ but this time Foster´s dive forced Bagnall wide and his subsequent cross was weak. It was 28 minutes before Tiverton were to mount the first significant attack with a break wide down the right‚ the cross from which exerted enough pressure to force their first corner of the game. Most of the home side´s attacking efforts consisted of optimistic long balls forward for Richard Pears to hold up or Jamie Mudge to chase. Neither were able to fulfil those task with much success‚ unlike their counterparts in blue shirts who continue to stress the Tiverton rearguard - so much so in the case of Rudge that after several ´committed´ tackles and another word from the referee he finally committed one foul too many for the official and collected his second yellow card on the stroke of half time. There were not many smiling faces in the tea queues during the interval.
There is nothing unusual about half time changing the flow of football matches‚ particularly those between the two clubs involved in this one - remember the Yellow´s domination of the first half at the Broadfield Stadium in that FA Cup replay? This time it was Tivvy´s turn to reverse the flow of proceedings. They came out looking far brighter. Not only brighter than they had in the first period‚ which would not have been a difficult proposition‚ but brighter than the opposition. Before 60 seconds had passed they cad carved out their best chance of the evening. Jamie Mudge jinked his way through down the right flank and sent in a cross that Kevin Nancekivell met with a glancing header that was only inches wide of the upright. Not to be overawed Crawley replied with an effort from Cooksey that had Foster bringing of a spectacular save at the foot of his left hand post. Off went Tivvy again‚ this time down the left. This time it might have been Pears that found the net from the cross but he failed to connect and it was Nancekivell that nipped in to force the ball home at the back of the goal. The delight of fans and players alike was stillborn as the referee wiped the slate clean on grounds of offside. But things were looking far more optimistic. Another Mudge cross from the right was diverted off the toe of Phil Everett and it was the visitors who began to collect yellow cards as their desperate defending was judged to be too robust. But for all their efforts Tivvy failed to reap any reward as the Crawley side gathered themselves‚ organised themselves and resisted bravely. With fifteen minutes remaining Tivvy found another gear‚ moved into it and for a while again looked as though they might crack the resistance. Another beautifully flighted cross from Mudge had Andy Little leaping at full stretch to palm the ball away from the heads of a mass of Yellows forwards. David Steele‚ who had dropped back into a more defensive role in the second half‚ carried the ball forward well into the visitors half‚ worked an exquisite one - two with Pears but saw his shot deflected away off a defender´s foot. Then came the equaliser....or what should have been the equaliser. Seventy seven minutes gone. Another right wing attack. Another cross. Deflected vertically and dropping equally as vertically between the penalty spot and the six yard box. Pears went up for it, missed. The ball dropped and in the melee defender Ellis Hooper gave it a helping hand to safety - literally. Penalty. Up stepped Kevin Nancekivell. And screwed his shot inches past the left hand upright!
The miss, for such it was - not a save - seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Yellows. It was as if they were convinced it was ´one of those evenings´, whatever that might mean. The game petered out as the fight went out of the home side. Steve Ovens was brought on to replace Nancekivell with four minutes remaining - which seemed a pointless operation, Steve had little or no chance to get into the game - and Danny Haines relieved a limping Paul Chenoweth in injury time. The last ten minutes saw the Reds pick up another two yellow cards as they hung onto their lead, including a second for Scott Kirkwood two minutes before the final whistle.
It was a frustrating game to watch. Though the Yellows were better in the second half and had the better of things, they were not good enough to take advantage of a severely weakened and inexperienced Crawley squad. True, in mitigation, Tiverton also had injury restrictions but the players available all had the experience to deal with the situation. They failed to do so. Ambitions of finishing higher than last season´s 6th place in the table are ´pie in the sky´ unless there is an improvement, particularly since the next few games are against teams also challenging for those positions. Like Worcester City on Saturday..........

Tiverton Town: Ben Foster, Phil Everett, Paul Chenoweth (Danny Haines 90), Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell (Steve Ovens 86), James Mudge, Richard Pears, Scott Rogers, David Steele.
Subs not used: Steve Winter, Luke Vinnicombe, Paul Edwards (GK).
Cards: Yellow: Rudge, Rees.
Red: Rudge.

Crawley Town: Andy Little, Ellis Hooper, Ian Payne, Ben Judge, Marc Pullen, John Timlin (Francis Vines 79), Connor McCurdle (Glen Matten 68), Ernie Cooksey, Warren Bagnall, Kevin Hemsley, Scott Kirkwood.
Subs not used: Paul Henbest, Steve Causon, Steve Duly.
Cards: Yellow: Kirkwood, Bagnall, Timlin.
Red: Kirkwood.

Referee: R Mitchell (Portland, Dorset).

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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