Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Stafford Rangers

   Saturday 22/03/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

In anticipation of this match with Stafford Rangers I found myself considering my memories of the said Town and came to the realisation that they were pretty scant. On reflection I realised that until Town joined the Dr Martens League‚ Stafford was a place I had nearly been to frequently‚ but always ended up bypassing as I made my way to the County Show Ground a couple of miles away where I had a habit of having ´good days´ showing dogs. I was left then with only a handful of encounters on the football field to consider as I tried to ´suss´ what might occur twixt Tivvy and Rangers on this occasion. The prospects were promising. Town´s first ever Dr Martens game saw them show their naivet as they let slip a two goal lead to be forced into settling for a point as Rangers fought back. Two years later and the game at Ladysmead seemed over as the Yellows raced into a twelfth minute three goal lead‚ relinquished after Nicky Marker´s remarkable save and subsequent dismissal that left Tiverton hanging on for a 3-3 draw. The only mathematician / statistician that I knew who might be able to help me calculate the odds / probability of a 4-4 draw after the home side had established a four goal lead‚ to continue the sequence‚ had long vanished from my circle of acquaintances so I dropped that train of thought and settled for the more mundane idea that it was likely to be a close encounter and that I would be ecstatically happy if Tivvy could pull off their first ever victory over Rangers‚ particularly if the trend of matches between the two sides producing plenty of goals were to be continued.
The sun shone‚ it was pleasantly warm‚ conditions underfoot were almost ideal - a bit dusty with sand left over from soggier days‚ but not enough to make things uncomfortable. And comfortable is how Tivvy looked from the outset as they explored the routes leading to the ´Sponsors End´ being defended by the visitors. For the first five minutes the Yellows threw everything forward‚ the shear persistence of their assault forcing Rangers to only be able to look longingly towards the opposite penalty area in the hope that they might sometime be able to head in that direction. Wednesday evening´s ´star man´ David Steele was first to initiate a move that created a tangible result. His long throw from the right in the second minute was nodded on at the near post and fell to Steve Ovens near the penalty spot. Ovo executed a neat swivel and fired in a shot that flew of an unknowing defender and away for a corner. Rangers failed to deal with the kick cleanly and again were happy to see the ball deflected for another corner‚ this time successfully cleared to the halfway line. Town continued to look more industrious‚ Ovens in particular buzzing around like a bee released from the hive after an overly extended period of captivity at the pleasure of the Queen. But Stafford gradually organised themselves and into the sixth minute they finally reached their promised land of the Tiverton penalty area. And they arrived with a bang. They used the direct route - through the middle. Long ball‚ headed on by Robert Heath into the path of Paul Szenczyk (goodness‚ I didn´t know I had half those letters on my keyboard!) who slipped the offside trap and thrust into the area. Clear on Ben Foster‚ he was just about to fire in his shot when the ball was pushed forward off his toe by the foot of Scott Rogers who was in close pursuit. Szenczyk tumbled over. The Rangers players appealed. The referee looked to his assistant‚ then waved play on. The man in black must have judged that Scott had only made contact with the ball. From the half way line he appeared to be very lucky. Having said that‚ Szenczyk might consider himself just as lucky to have survived unrebuked when he again went down in the area a minute later. Rangers‚ having ventured towards the ´Swimming Pool End´ obviously preferred the scenery and remained there for the greater part of the time. The contest continued to be fought out at a frantic pace‚ neither side allowing the other any time or space‚ neither side having a player with the capability to put their foot on the ball and start flowing moves. It was a situation for the bustlers to revel in . Tivvy´s was Ovens‚ but he lacked the control. Ranger´s was the experienced Dennis Bailey and he did have the control‚ and also the support of the unreasonably elevated Danny Davidson. Between the two of them they were a constant threat and even if neither had been directly involved in the goal when it came in the 19th minute both could have claimed some credit from the fact that they had maintained constant pressure on the Tiverton defence. As it was Bailey was the man to give Rangers a‚ by then‚ predictable lead. Robert Heath did the work down the left wing before firing in a fierce cross that found the head of Bailey in a crowded area. The industrious striker´s looping header had Foster twisting backwards at full stretch to reach the ball under the crossbar. It was not enough by Foster as he tumbled back into the goal - ball and all.
A goal down - nothing new about that‚ then. Nor was there anything different about the fact that the Yellows seemed to struggle to bounce back. The goal lifted the visitors to greater efforts and they remained dominant. They were livelier on the ball and the accuracy and speed of their passing incursions was superior. They might have increased their lead after 25 minutes when Bailey confused the Tivvy defence by neatly stepping over the ball to allow it to run wide to Szenczyk who blasted high with only Foster between himself and glory. Town were more often than not reduced to one forward‚ Ovens‚ as Phil Everett dropped deeper to aid defensively. There was little scope for constructive football‚ and little cohesion when the opportunity to break was created. Until half time approached. As if determined to haul themselves level before the break‚ the Yellows once again went on the offensive. The 42nd minute saw Everett forward and slipping a short ball to Kevin Nancekivell in the penalty area who´s first touch turned Richard Beale and left Nance with a clear sight of goal. Just as Kev swung his leg‚ Beale somehow recovered just enough to stab the ball away at full stretch to deny the shot. Town maintained the forward movement. For once they managed to build a move - and reaped the reward. Moving down the right they looked dangerous. The temptation might have been to just whack in a high cross but the ball was played low and pushed wide to the left where Paul Chenoweth had drifted forward in acres of space. With the ball coming right to his foot‚ ´Chens´ did what he does a couple of times every season and hit a drive that was only heading towards one objective - the net. Ryan Price got down low‚ but the ball was long gone by the time he was low enough. With just a minute to go before the break‚ the cliche was trotted out. And it´s normal reply. Both are true and it was certainly a good time to score as far as the demeanour in the tea queue was concerned.
If it weren´t for the fact that the sun was now in the eyes of the Stafford defenders we could have been watching a replay of the first half as the game restarted. For the first five minutes the Yellows pushed forward‚ their confidence no doubt bolstered by the equaliser. Then things levelled out for a while‚ David Steele providing the only shot‚ a low curling effort that Price dealt with competently. Both teams were working hard enough but as in the first half no quarter was being given and neither side showed the inventiveness that was likely to give them the upper hand. It was a matter of keep battling away and be ready to grab the chance when it comes. The opportunity waited for twenty minutes before it appeared. It came Tivvy´s way‚ and who better to grab it than the man who had worked the studs off his boots all afternoon‚ Steve Ovens. Steele - again - made the initial run down the right flank to fire in a low cross. Bailey‚ who was covering every inch of the pitch‚ got to the cross but only succeeded in deflecting the ball looping up and further into the danger area where it fell to the foot of Ovo two yards out at the back of the goal. No time for delicate touches‚ Steve blasted the ball on the half volley and it crashed off the underside of the crossbar and into the net to put Tivvy in front.
From that point on the game changed. Rangers had to chase tthe game and with the lack of innovation that they had displayed to this point continuing‚ they had a problem. True they tried, but it was all old hat to the Tivvy defence and they knew they could contain their visitors as long as they continued to work. They did - and Rangers became more and more frustrated and more and more desperate. With 15 minutes remaining Davidson won a race with Foster as the Tivvy keeper dashed out of his area but having left Ben stranded outside his area the lanky Stafford man´s weak shot was easily diverted by Steele for a corner. Rangers bought on Chris Murphy for the subdued Szenczyk but it made little difference to their depth of incision. Foster was busy without being tested as Town defended solidly for the final quarter of an hour. As the clock ticked away and their confidence in the impenetrability of their barricade increased they became more prepared to hoof and chase. One last effort from the visitors brought a high swinging cross from the right by Lee Barrow that landed on the roof of the net but like the other four teams above the Yellows in the table, Stafford were to endure a pointless afternoon. There was not a lot between the sides at the end of the day. Congratulations are due to all 23 players that took the field. Despite the pace of the game and, therefore, inevitable physical contact, Mr Bullock found no need to remove his cards from his pocket. Rangers may well have felt they were worth a point but as we all know, you don´t always get what you deserve in this game. The missed opportunity of closing the gap on leaders Tamworth will be sorely rued by Rangers fans. The victory - at last - over Stafford will be revelled in by Tivvy supporters. And it all means we´ll almost certainly be enjoying each other´s company again next season. Meanwhile, next on the agenda is the second leg against Dover on Monday evening. What chance another three points............?

Tiverton Town: Ben Foster, David Steele, Paul Chenoweth, Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Chris Holloway, Phil Everett, Scott Rogers, Steve Ovens.
Subs not used: James Mudge, Danny Haines, Steve Winter, Richard Pears Paul Edwards (GK).
Cards: Yellow: NONE

Stafford Rangers: Ryan Prce, Alex Gibson, Richard Beale, Lee Barrow, Wayne Daniel, Craig Lovatt, Lee Downes, Robert Heath, Dennis Bailey, Danny Davidson, Paul Szenczyk (Chris Murphy,60).
Subs not used: Mark Lowery, Gary Fife, Harjinder Singh, Darren Wright (GK).
Cards: Yellow: NONE

Referee: Mr K, R. Buller (Brigewater)

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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