Match report

Hednesford Town 2 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 20/04/2002   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

The last trek of the season. Hednesford. Whoopee! But hang on a minute? Where is Hednesford? Apart from a name on the fixture list‚ what is Hednesford? Has Hednesford any claims to fame and if so what are they? And if not........Why is Hednesford? As far as the travellers on the Kingdoms Coach pulling out of Ladysmead were concerned they might as well have been journeying on a mission into the great unknown of space‚ to boldly go where no man has been before. Perhaps a more appropriate means of transport would be the Starship Enterprise rather than a Volvo ´charabang´. Should that be Captain Kirk behind the controls and not the affable Anthony? And though he may have been equally efficient at checking the passenger list Nigel M. bares more of a resemblance to Doctor Spock than to Mr Spock. Where were we being taken? Did we really care? No‚ not really! As long as there was a football team at the end of the journey to provide opposition for the Yellows and to entertain us‚ then we were content to travel to the end of the world and beyond....... well almost. When we arrived we realised we had not reached the edge of the universe‚ just another Midlands town. But there was a team to face us. Admittedly a team of ´klingons´ since that is what Hednesford Town were doing to their Premier Division status.

It was apparent from the outset that cling on to their Premier Division status was just what the Pitmen intended to do. Not only did they have the intent‚ they knew what they had to do to achieve it and set about their task with determination. Tivvy seemed to not have any idea of what they were playing for‚ why they were playing or how to play. Though it saddens me to say it‚ once again the Yellows were lacking in motivation‚ bereft of creativity and to all appearances going through the motions with less enthusiasm than I have gone through my dogs´ motions after they chewed a 10 note. We have become accustomed to Town sides defending and waiting until their opponents start to wilt. The wearing down process worked well in mid season but has failed as sides have become desperate for points to lift themselves away from relegation fears. Hoof and hope was the tactic from the Devon men. Hoof it out of defence‚ over the top of midfield‚ and hope that Antony Lynch or Richard Pears could control it and hold it long enough for the rest of the team to catch up and move away from their own penalty area. There was little chance of that happening as the Pitmen strung a solid back four across the field and used the obvious advantage of facing the ball as it descended from the heavens. And when it did come down to one of that back line it inevitably stayed down to be played forward to one of their midfield colleagues that was able to keep it down and build another attacking move to feed lively forwards that were looking for and finding spaces to move into ready to seek a way towards the Tiverton goal. Those midfielders faced little opposition. Paul Chenoweth battled up and back and from right to left in an effort to get the ball and start something moving but Scott Rogers failed to make any worthwhile contribution‚ either failing to hold the ball or mis-placing his passes when he did‚ and Marcus Gross‚ try as he might‚ looked like a fish out of water. Hardly surprising then that it took the home side just nine minutes to find a way through. The klingons on the starboard bow drew the defenders across to the left‚ waited until they had opened a gap through the middle and sent the ball into the gap. Stewart Airdrie was there in acres of space to collect it and advance into the penalty area unchallenged before sliding the ball past Paul Edwards and into the net.

It was no more than the Staffordshire men deserved‚ and a cleanly executed goal at that. Not content to sit on a precarious single goal lead‚ and no doubt sensing that their destiny was in their own hands‚ Hednesford continued to press and continued to dominate. Tivvy eventually began to work their way into the game but only just‚ and that was perhaps due to the front men coming to terms with the bounce on the rock hard pitch. Front men might be regarded as a contradiction in terms as Richard Pears was spending a remarkable amount of time within twenty yards of his own penalty area. Front man? Then a glimmer of hope. Tivvy won a corner. Correction: Tivvy were gifted a corner. A mis-directed headed back pass evaded Gayle in the home goal and though he managed to get a hand on the ball it was out! The glimmer faded as Marcus Gross showed that it was not only the Tiverton back line that could get height on the ball and sent it skywards. With twenty minutes gone it could have been two but for the bravery of Edwards who rushed out to spread himself at the feat of Wale Kwick Ajetunnobi (henceforth referred to as WKA to save my keyboard from abuse) and deflect the ball out for a corner. A minute later and the Yellows manufactured their first real chance. Route one out of defence‚ neat flick on by Pears‚ Lynch failed to connect and Gale fielded easily. With the defences on top the game degenerated into a boringly mediocre hit and chase game. It was about as entertaining as a Sunday morning parks game. Both teams were to blame. Hednesford were content to wait and see what chances might arise if Tivvy made a mistake. Fair enough‚ they had the points in their hands. Town didn´t seem to know what they wanted. For over twenty minutes we watched and waited for something to happen. Waited in vain. If I had forgotten to put the cap on my pen the ink would have dried while we waited. Not that it would have mattered as until added time at the end of the first half nothing worth recording happened. Seconds before the relief of the whistle Neil Davies was teed up with the clearest chance since the first goal. With a shot that should have set the net bulging he lobed the ball neatly into Eddies hands and we headed for the tea bar.

I wish I could say that the second half saw a rejuvenated Tivvy set the game alight. My trouble is that I´m basically honest. The second half saw a marginal improvement from the Yellows‚ and coinciding as it did with a continuance of the lacklustre performance from the Pitmen it allowed Tivvy to look comparably good. Five minutes in and Pears found Lynches head with a cross but the header lacked power and a minute later a Winter cross from deep out on the right scraped the junction of upright and crossbar. Back at the other end Eddie came to the rescue to touch away a lobbed cross from way out on the left by WKA. But for the touch it might well have been a repeat of Chelmsford´s winner of last week. As both teams got back into the swing of things the game opened up. Both sides found ways of attacking. Wints sent in another cross that fell for Phil Everett lurking at the back of the six yard box. By the time Phil had bought the ball down he was surrounded by defenders and dispossessed. Never mind‚ it was promising. Eighteen minutes gone and the promise materialised. Richard Pears was robbed of the ball on the right hand side of the penalty area. Richard challenged back‚ recovered the ball and fed it back out wide to Steve Winter. Steve sent the ball through the middle to Antony Lynch who bought the ball down and planted it decisively past Gayle.

The goal did rejuvenate the Yellows. For the first time in the game they looked the livelier of the two teams. They looked more likely to add to the scoreline. More importantly they looked as if they WANTED to! With twelve minutes of normal time remaining Steve Ovens and Kevin Nancekivell were sent into the fray. Two minutes later there was a change from the Pitmen too as they introduced the head in the clouds frame of Kevin Francis. Now‚ Francis makes Nicky Marker look like he is of stunted growth so it was obvious what the home side´s tactics were to be for the last ten minutes. Lob it in and hope that Francis could either direct it into the goal or to his forwards feet. The pressure went back on the Yellows defence. Eddie again saved at point blank range. Two minutes left and Rogers gave away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area with a desperate last minute tackle. The kick was scrambled away off the wall. Not far enough away. It was fed out to the opposite wing and sent in high. Francis didn´t need to jump to outreach Eddie. The ball fell down to the foot of Airdrie who poked it into the net. If the first goal was no more than the Pitmen deserved‚ the same could not be said of the second. Three minutes of additional time but no more excitement.

It is often said of enthralling games that it was a pity either team had to lose. This was the opposite. It was a game that neither team deserved to win. The three points will certainly go a long way towards enabling Hednesford to live long and prosper in the Premier Division. As far as the Tiverton fans were concerned - it was football‚ Jim‚ but not as we know it; or like it. The general consensus on the Starship Enterprise as we returned to our own solar system was that we had journeyed enough and would not follow Tivvy away again this season‚ a decision with which I concur so.......

Beam me up Scotty.......



Tiverton Town: Paul Edwards‚ Steve Winter‚ Neil Saunders‚ Steve Peters‚ Nicky Marker‚ Scot Rogers‚ Marcus Gross‚ Richard Pears‚ Phil Everett‚ Paul Chenoweth‚ Antony Lynch.

Subs: Kevin Nancekivell (Chenoweth‚78), Steve Ovens (Pears,78), Luke Vinicombe (Marker,85)

Hednesford Town: Mark Gayle, Stuart Lake, Richard Lucas, Mark Haran, Matt Gardiner, Lee Barrow, Wayne Thomas, Derek Rae, Neil Davies, Wale Kwick Ajetunnobi, Stewart Airdrie.

Subs: Andy Brownrig (Thomas,64), Kevin Francis (WKA,73), Wayne Simpson

This report ©2002 John Reidy






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