Match report

Crawley Town 3 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 30/03/2002   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

BALHAM - Gateway to the South‚ intoned Peter Sellers‚ or one of the other late goons‚ opening a spoof travelogue that totally overstated the attractions of that less than salubrious area of South London. If those claims made for Balham at the end of the ´50´s were true then perhaps some modern day comic should rewrite the script; Crawley - Gateway to the World. Actually not so much Crawley as that large expanse of open land to the north of the town known as Gatwick Airport. Multi terminaled launching pad for a million dream holidays and sometime dormitory for a million travellers as the French Air Traffic Controllers wreak their annual havoc with the British holiday makers. My memories of the town of Crawley are the same as most of those other jet-setting package deal tourists. A cluster of lights under the wing tips as the English climate is ´bid a fond farewell´‚ as they prepare to undergo the horrors of guaranteed sunshine‚ temperatures twenty or so degrees warmer than Britain and prices for all the essentials in life‚ like booze and fags‚ that seem almost give-away. How educational‚ then‚ to by-pass the thing that marks Crawley as outstanding and to see something that comparatively few visitors see‚ the real Crawley. Even more to the point‚ the highly reputed home of the local football club and their equally highly reputed‚ until recently at least‚ football team. One time runaway leaders of the Dr Martens Premier League‚ Town had undergone a dramatic slump that had left them out of touch with the two leading sides‚ though the cushion they had built up had kept them from slipping into mid table obscurity. Tivvy were also in one of their most inconsistent spells. Brilliant one game‚ terrible the next. All the ingredients for a game in which anything could happen..............

The sun shone‚ the coats were left in the coach. The stadium was the smartest Tivvy had visited in the Dr Martens League‚ the pitch level‚ firm though a little dusty. It was all very pleasant but nothing much happened‚ at least not in the Crawley half of the field. The Reds pumped the ball forward and the Yellows defended. The first real threat came in the 6th minute and it was to act as the catalyst that shaped the remainder of the game. Jamie Attwell was quickly off his line to hack a through ball off the foot of a Crawley forward. The two collided and Jamie needed treatment. It was clear immediately that he was in some pain as the game continued‚ hobbling around the penalty area as he tried to work off the knock. Crawley spotted his distress and played on it‚ swinging in crosses and keeping Jamie moving. It was inevitable that the tactic would eventually bear fruit. With fourteen minutes gone Robbie Collins was sent through by a defence splitting pass. In a race to the ball as it reached the edge of the penalty area there was only going to be one winner and Collins slid the ball past Jamie with consummate ease to put the erstwhile Championship hopefuls into the lead. Tivvy had no option but to keep plugging away in the hope that their custodian might regain some of his mobility‚ their hosts might take their foot off the pedal or that by some other means they might be able to battle their way back into the contest. The first two were forlorn hopes; the third only partially realised. Two minutes after Crawley had taken the lead Attwell was left rooted to the spot as Danny Carol´s header flew inches wide and a few moments later Dai the waterman was called on again to wield his magic sponge in an attempt to revive the keepers mobility.

Halfway through the first period and there was a glimmer of hope for the Yellows fans massed (clustered) as they basked in the sun on the touchline. Richard Pears sent Jamie Mudge bursting down the right wing. For the first time in the match Mudge evaded the attention of the defence and sent in a shot. He´d been forced far wide and close to the goal-line. The shot was from an acute angle and lacked power. Andy Little gathered the ball with ease‚ showing delight at having something to do; but at least Tivvy had showed that they could make inroads into Crawley territory and as the half hour approached Steve Peters went even closer as his flicked on header from a Scot Rogers free kick was deflected a yard wide for a corner. A couple of minutes later Pears was only inches away from finding the net with another header‚ this time from a Steve Winter free kick. Despite these attacks the home side were still having most of the ball. Concentrating on their left wing they were mounting assault after assault and it was no surprise when the first goal scenario was repeated to extend Crawley´s lead. You can´t blame Attwell for not getting out to hack the ball away - the poor guy could hardly walk let alone run. The pattern remained the same until the half time break. Little forward motion as the Yellows worked hard to protect Attwell‚ thereby reducing their effectiveness in mid-field and reducing the service to Pears and Mudge. Nicky Marker and the exceptional Neil Saunders worked like Trojans but there was only so much that they could do. Ah‚ the blessed relief of the half time whistle.

The question in the half time tea queue was ´ Who´ll be wearing the jersey when the teams re-emerge´. The favourite was Phil Everett. He´d played in just about every other position this season so he might as well complete the set. ´The Watford Wanderer´ won the sweepstake though as Richard Pears emerged from the dressing room clad in green and looking not unlike a sporting garden gnome. Tivvy looked brighter than they had and for five minutes play was even. Then the Sussex side turned up the heat again and the pressure built up. Still testing the Yellows defence with long balls. Pears showed the advantage of mobility‚ when he was beaten to the ball he was swift in his recovery and able to challenge back in normal out field player style. Relieved of some of the defensive duties the midfield were able to push forward a little more and Little saw more of the ball in the first quarter of an hour than he had in the entire first 45 minutes. Steve Ovens had replaced Pears as the front man and had added more chase to the Tivvy attacks though too often he and Jamie Mudge were covering the same ground reducing the width of the front line.

Never-the-less‚ the Yellows began to look as if they might at least test Little in the Crawley goal. Marker went close from a corner‚ Peters too was well forward on a couple of occasions but that was about it. ´Might test Little´‚ but didn´t. Pears was tested‚ however‚ in the 73rd minute. Substitute Warren Bagnall‚ probably under instruction to shoot on sight‚ unleashed a rocket of a shot from the left hand corner of the penalty area that had ´screaming goal´ written all over it. Pearsey flung himself acrobatically up and back to get his fingertips to it. The slightest of deflections carried the ball to the crossbar which trembled with the impact. The Crawley fans behind the net thought it was in‚ but it wasn´t. It was the save of the day as the ball bounced down and was scrambled away. With time running out hopes of a Tivvy comeback faded just as Crawley´s promotion hopes had over the last few weeks. The heart say´s there´s still a chance but the brain is realistic and admits the truth. With two minutes to go Dave Stevens was sent away by a long ball out of the Crawley right. With all the space in the world he cut in towards the Tivvy goal. Pears came to meet him but brave though his attempt to smother the ball might have been‚ Richard is no goalkeeper and Stevens slotted the ball past the striker and into the net. It was the end of hopes. Reality ruled. Tivvy did mount a couple more attacks‚ Antony Lynch sending a spectacular bicycle kick well wide and then‚ as if to prove that things might have been better if the game had gone on till it was time to put the clocks forward‚ striking the Yellows first shot on target in the 92nd minute.

I´ve never had a pleasant trip back to Devon from this part of Sussex. There´s always been something to spoil it. The gales and fallen trees that blocked the roads in the 80´s; the fog causing diversion to Heathrow when the car was at Gatwick; the frozen heater that refused to thaw. And now an injury that spoiled what should have been a pleasant days entertainment in the sun. Que sera‚ sera.



Tiverton Town: 1. Jamie Attwell‚ 2. Steve Winter, 3. Neil Saunders, 4. Steve Peters,5. Nicky Marker, 6. Scot Rogers, 7. Kevin Nancekivell, 8. Richard Pears, 9. Phil Everett, 10. Paul Chenoweth, 11. Jamie Mudge.

Subs: 12. Steve Ovens (Attwell,46), 14. Marcus Gross (Marker,60), 15. Anthony Lynch (Mudge,60).

Crawley Town: 1. Andy Little, 2. Ian Payne, 3. Nigel Brake, 4. Ben Judge, 5. Marc Pullan, 6. Keith Sharman , 7. Danny Carroll, 8. Stewart Holmes , 9. Rob Collins, 10. Ben Abbey, 11. Lee Doherty.

Subs: 12. Dave Stevens (Abbey,79), 14. Jimmy Dack (Brake,79), 15. Warren Bagnall (Collins,68)

This report ©2002 John Reidy






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