Match report

Kettering Town 0 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 23/02/2002   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' is probably one of the nations favourite pieces of classical music, though I believe it doesn't go down too well with the football fans of Bromsgrove despite the recent 'hit' recording of the work by local virtuoso fiddler Nigel Kennedy. The very title has just too many connotations in view of their four season descent from the heights of the Football Conference to the mundaneness of the Midland Alliance. But Vivaldi wasn't writing about football seasons, he was attempting to portray those four unequal periods of the year that control our climate. The four months of autumn, followed by six months of winter, a month and a half of spring, all topped of with a fortnight of Summer. A cynical view, perhaps but then I hate winter (No, not Steve!).

Perhaps I'm a SAD sufferer, but I prefer to watch my football without getting too cold or too wet. I far prefer spring. And it was in the spring of my football life that I first came into contact with Kettering when they had a habit of providing stiffer opposition than most other teams at the Manor Ground in Headington United's last years in the Southern League, even to the point having the audacity of winning there on their way to the wooden spoon and relegation, and in doing so handing the league title to Bath City. United changed their name to Oxford, won the next two Championships and moved on. Kettering were forgotten; apart from a short spell when my old mate 'Big' Ron Atkinson moved his jewellery box to Rockingham Road as he embarked on his managerial career. And now, in the Autumn of my years, here they are again, and the boot's on the other foot as 'my' team in yellow have the chance to spoil their Championship hopes. And in the early stages it looked as if Tivvy could do just that. With a gale force and freezing wind in their face they produced all the football and all the pressure. Kettering were reduced to using the wind to give themselves added distance as they thumped the ball away and waited for the next Yellow assault. Steve Ovens was straight into the thick of things causing problems for the poppies as he ranged around from side to side and through the middle, but Steve Winter was the man to have the first attempt on goal in the fourth minute. A free kick was awarded to the Yellows midway into the Kettering half when Antony Lynch was upended as he threatened to break through. Paul Chenoweth's free kick held in the wind, curled away from the edge of the penalty area and fall to Steve who unleashed one of his typical rockets that had Poppies keeper Ian Bowling needing to be quickly down to save. It was indicative of the way things would be for a while. Tiverton mounting attack after attack only to be held up at the edge of the danger area by solid defending, particularly from Lee Howarth at the centre of the home defence. In the eleventh minute Nicky Marker was well forward for a set piece, but headed Winter's kick over the top and moments later Paul Chenoweth completely misjudged the strength of the wind, overcompensated and sent a hard won corner (Steve Ovens - who else?) into the side netting.

Kettering began to come to terms with the 'breeze', realising that it was handy for clearing out of defence, but not of much advantage in attack. With that realisation they began to bring the ball down in midfield and build moves at ground level. In doing so they came more into the game, but Tivvy were still looking the better side. Then in the 24th minute came the incident that changed the game. Another free kick awarded to the Yellows some 35 yards out from goal - 20 from the right hand touchline - Steve Winter range. No floater into the area this one. A torpedo of a shot just inside Bowling's left hand upright. It was going in. Bowling threw himself full stretch, made the faintest of contact to touch the ball onto the post. Where it went from there I don't think anybody knew or cared, for fractions of a second later there was a resounding crack as the keepers head and the upright met. The gasps at the closeness to a goal were caught in a thousand throats as Bowling remained motionless at the foot of the still vibrating post. St John's Ambulance men, physio's and officials made a beeline for the goalmouth. Silence descended. The referee waited only a couple of minutes before taking the teams off. It was a sensible decision. Within 5 minutes the Ambulance sirens could be heard, the hospital is only five minutes from the ground. Quarter of an hour saw Bowling on his way to hospital in the care of the professionals.

The teams came back out to the news that the keeper had regained consciousness as he had been loaded into the ambulance. It was hopeful news, but it had been an unpleasant 20 minutes fearing the worse. With centre forward Darren Collins acting as makeshift custodian, Kettering knew they were going to have to work hard to protect him. Their philosophy seemed to be attack is the best form of defence and to that end they pressured Tiverton for the remainder of the first half. It was the Tiverton defence that were having to work hard to keep their goal intact. Kettering were winning corners through incessant pressure. Their crosses were winging in the wind and Paul Edwards was under constant threat and being forced to punch and palm clear. In the 31st minute he was beaten. Marker came to the rescue to head off the line. Still the Poppies pushed. The 41st minute and it was Winter's turn to clear at the last second and even Howarth, the rock of the Kettering defence, got into the act in added time, forcing Eddie down to push a powerful drive inches past the post. It had been a first half of two halves. Hope springs eternal among Tivvy fans that the second 45 minutes will be better than the first and with the wind at their backs... David Steele was the first to do what we all expected, send in a long range shot to test the replacement keeper. Collins, though, was well up to the job and looked comfortable in his 'new' role. Seldom forced to stretch or even move very far he fielded high crosses, back passes and shots with considerable aplomb and it was the poppies that came closest to scoring when Richard Butcher headed a corner onto the crossbar. Richard Pears came on for Lynch and was soon in the action touching the ball just past the upright from Ovens' cross after Steve had left Howarth to untangle his feet after another piece of 'Super Steve' magic. The expected peppering of the Kettering goal just was not happening and even the introduction of Jamie Mudge did little to increase the work load of Collins as the organisation in the Kettering back line protected him. The game flowed from end to end, possession was about equal, chances were shared, back lines were dominant. For the Poppies the best chance fell again to the head of Butcher who repeated his feat of hitting the woodwork (steelwork?), whilst at the other end there was a second goalkeeper injury. Collins was out quickly to win a race for the ball with Pears on the corner of the penalty area. Bravely down to smother the ball he failed to hold it, collided with legs and failed to recover. The ball was crossed into the middle where Mudge sliding in at the far post just failed to make the contact that would have seen the deadlock broken. Collins could not continue. Limping midfielder Craig Norman took over the gloves and jersey for the remaining few minutes. The Kettering defence held out. A no score draw - but no bore! The statistics will show that Tiverton have held the top two teams in their last two games, an indication of how far we have progressed this season. The results will cancel each other out as far as our opponents are concerned and so have little effect on the title chase, but what might it have been, IF it had been two Tivvy wins? and after that first half 20 minutes break, is it really that important?


Kettering Town: Ian Bowling (Steve Lenagh 24), Wayne Duik, Brad Piercewright, Martin Matthews, Lee Howarth, Craig Norman, Peter Fear, Shaun Murray, Darren Collins (Chris Perkins 85), Naill Inman, Richard Butcher

Tiverton Town: Paul Edwards, Steve Winter, Neil Saunders, Steve Peters, Nicky Marker (Marcus Gross 79), Scott Rogers, Antony Lynch (Richard Pears 60), Steve Ovens, Phil Everett David Steele (Jamie Mudge 69), Paul Chenoweth

Attendance: 1,441


This report ©2002 John Reidy






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