Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Hinckley United

   Saturday 09/03/2002   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

My thought thread for the week sprang out of nowhere (No comments‚ please‚ about voids in heads): ´Marriage can be a strange and potentially traumatic institution´. Fair enough that two people should want to enter into a committed partnership but why should that traditionally mean that the ´lady´ should take the ´gentlemans´ name. Surely ideal conditions for creating an identity crisis. And might it be so with football clubs? I´ll naively suggest that marriages‚ in their more recognised form‚ are based on love‚ whilst those between soccer clubs are normally a business arrangement; a matter of convenience to both partners who far from having great affection and respect for each other probably hate each others guts. Little wonder then that the resulting relationship is apt to struggle just as badly us an entity as it was as ´singles´. Look what happened to Blakenhall and Bloxwich Town. A marriage of convenience between two struggling sides. Six months on and it´s all over for Mr & Mrs Bloxwich United. The nearest I ever came to a merging of interests was when bitterest rivals Reading and Oxford United resolutely deflected the arrows of ´Cupid´ Robert Maxwell with his envisaged union of the two clubs as Thames Valley Rangers. As a match made in heaven it was never gonna happen‚ though Capt´n Bob´s coffers would undoubtedly have benefited as long as he hadn´t had to put too much into the players pension fund. I could not have identified with that ´new´ club and so have an admiration for the loyal supporters of Hinckley United‚ nee Athletic/Town. Not only have they overcome the identity crisis‚ they have survived and prospered. They´ve also managed to live with the most ridiculous nick name. The Knitters? Now just what kind of name is that? Sounds like the gang of old crones gathered at the foot of the Guillotine! And here they were turning up at Ladysmead hoping that their ´own´ would be doing the honours as executioners not as victims.

As the game got underway it looked as if they would be out of luck as Tivvy took up where they left off at Bath last week - in ´total dominance´ mode. As the respective fans switched ends the Yellows ran at the United defence. The movement on the terraces might have been bi-directional‚ that on the field flowed just one way. Not for long‚ it must be admitted for Hinckley were soon to organise themselves and fight their way back into the game. And they had to fight back into it‚ for in those opening seven or eight minutes of the contest Tivvy had nosed themselves in front. The visiting goalkeeper had raised a few eyebrows when he had trotted onto the field. Short shorts‚ short sleeved lightweight jersey‚ white boots‚ white socks. He looked as if he were dressed for some sun kissed Californian beach tournament rather than the blustery and showery Ladysmead in March environment. If his appearance failed to fit the image of the traditional winter clad goalie his presence likewise seemed to instil little confidence in his team mates and in the fourth minute Jamie Mudge harassed him into a hurried clearance at the edge of the penalty area when one of his own men hesitated in response to his rapid advance. The clearance was not really a clearance for it fell right to the foot of Steve Ovens. Ovo took one look‚ one touch‚ and lobbed the ball clean over the top of the retreating Mudge and the stranded defender and ´keeper‚ into a gaping‚ unprotected net. Hinckley‚ though were unpeturbed; hardly surprising ‚ they still have the spectre of relegation‚ albeit fading‚ in their vision. They knuckled down to the job in hand and fought their way into the game. They were as aware as the Tiverton fans of the disruption that injuries had caused to the Yellows line up. No Steve Peters at the heart of defence‚ though ably covered by Marcus Gross: no Kevin Nancekivell in midfield‚ though Paul Chenoweth is no mean performer. Phil Everett‚ striker par excellente at wing back making way for a dubiously fit Antony Lynch to partner Jamie Mudge up front with Steve Ovens lying behind them. Fine‚ on paper‚ but disruptive. And no Paul Edwards between the posts.

The defence sought to protect debutant loanee Jamie Atwell‚ and did the job well‚ perhaps too well for he looked quite competent except when lack of understanding between himself and his new team-mates led to a few scary moments. So Hinckley fought their way back and started to pack midfield and push forward. Most of the action was in the Tiverton half but for all the possession the Knitters were not producing much and the closest we came to another goal was in the 25th minute at the Hinckley end when Steve Winter sent in a far post cross that Afandiyev should have had no trouble collecting but left to the head of a defender who deflected it inches wide of the upright for a corner. There was much shouting amongst the United back line‚ the volume of which was turned up to Spinal Tap proportions (11) a minute later when the unfortunate‚ and at this point seemingly incompetent‚ Afandiyev sliced an innocuous looking backpass for another corner. Five minutes later Jamie Mudge broke away down the right‚ sent in an early cross that found Lynch unmarked in the middle but for once the keeper held the ball cleanly high above his head‚ restoring his own and his colleagues confidence. For the last few minutes of the half Hinckley tried their utmost to find the equaliser and had they had a little more ´killer´ instinct would have done so. Jamie Williams sliced wide with the goal at his mercy‚ Atwell showed his ability as he got down low to block a solid effort from Neil Cartwright and right on the final whistle Williams saw his pile driver of a free kick from the edge of the box ricochet back off the defensive wall. It had not been the greatest 45 minutes entertainment‚ but at least the Yellows weren´t 4-0 down.

If the first half was uninspiring then the second was......well‚ excuse me if the words don´t flow. Ten minutes in and a rare constructive move from the men in yellow resulted in Marcus Gross crashing the ball home. The flag was up for offside. Close‚ but I´m not going to commit myself. It´s difficult to judge if you´re not right in line and are dealing with the highlight of the afternoon - the steak and kidney pie from the snack bar. Mudge and Lynch were replaced by Richard Pears and David Steele‚ releasing Steve Ovens to range forward more. It was as a front man that he had devastated the Knitters in their first visit to Ladysmead but there was to be no repeat of that four goal burst on this occasion. Still Tivvy lacked shape‚ control and drive from midfield. Long balls were hoiked forward for Pears and Ovens to chase but they seldom got on the end of them leaving the United defence to build from the back.

Build they did and with the exception of one very high blast from Steve Winter all the openings were being created by the visitors. No names‚ no pack drill‚ but I wish one person standing next to me had kept their thoughts to themselves. As Hinckley mounted a left wing attack with just eight minutes remaining, the name-less Jonah remarked, "You know I can see them sneaking one in a minute". There was no sneaking about it. The cross came over and Andy Penny was the man that got to it. Jamie Atwell reached it but it was a powerful enough header to still carry into the net off his palm. All square. Town´s fans were not happy, not surprised but not happy. The visiting contingent celebrated, you could hear the clicking of their needles over the road in the swimming pool. There was no final flurry. The game petered out. Hinckly celebrated their point and the Ladysmead faithful were disappointed with the performance as well as the score.

After the erratic performances from game to game and even within games in recent weeks it looks as if it´s the Yellows that have an identity crisis. Are they top of the table challengers or mid table followers? As for this afternoon: lacklustre. It was all plain - no pearl.



Tiverton Town: Jamie Atwell, Steve Winter, Neil Saunders, Marcus Gross , Nicky Marker, Scott Rogers, Steve Ovens, Jamie Mudge, Phil Everett, Paul Chenoweth, Anthony Lynch

Subs: Richard Pears (Lynch,62), David Steele (Mudge,62), Luke Vinnicombe.

Hinckley United: Farhad Afandiyev, Neil Cartwright, Jamie Lenton, Guy Hadland, Andy Penny, Scott Eustace, Stuart Storer, Morton Titterton, Paul Hunter, Scot Huckerby, Jamie Williams.

Subs: Andy Lucas (Huckerby,75), Tim Wilkes, Leon Blake (Cartwright,75).

This report ©2002 John Reidy






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