Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 3 Chelmsford City

   Saturday 20/09/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Stephen King‚ Dean Koontz‚ James Herbert‚ Shaun Hutson and now....John Reidy.

All writers of horror stories‚ tales of the unexpected‚ yarns of the paranormal‚ epics of the inexplicable....and football matches. Presumptuous‚ I know‚ to include myself in a list of such esteemed‚ not to mention wealthy‚ authors; but faced with the task of composing a report on the latest events at the quaint Devonshire stadium that is known as Ladysmead I felt myself drawn to the illustrious members of that list. Was I not a kindred spirit struggling at a keyboard to impart some of the horror‚ shock‚ mystery and outright oddity of the happenings that occurred on that late summer Saturday afternoon. And before going into the grisly details of those events let me clear up a common misconception. They were NOT without precedence. One doesn´t have to delve back far. Not into the dim mists of time‚ not even a decade‚ just a mere nine years. It was a little later in the year‚ 1994. And it was even more dramatic‚ and had even greater consequences. But that was in the past‚ what concerns us now is the present‚ or at least the very recent past. And so to our narrative......believe me‚ though it might seem improbable‚ even impossible‚ it is no work of fiction. Unlike Roy and Melchester Rovers these events really did happen. No boys´ comic fantasy here. Fantastic and far from comical‚ but fact - it really did happen.

There was really little to worry the natives as they prepared for the visitors from afar. There were no fears that they were to be invaded by a hoard of superhumans‚ on the contrary‚ the reputation that preceded Chelmsford City to Devon was one of a struggling but optimistic outfit. Tiverton´s supporters expect a comparatively easy encounter and as the game got underway it seemed that their anticipation was justified. Within a minute Town had established a lead. Surging down the right flank the ball was hoisted high into the goalmouth amid a cluster of claret and yellow clad players City keeper rose highest to flap the ball away. It reached Steve Ovens who made a far ore positive connection to drill it through the crowd and into the net. Fifty eight seconds - less reaction time. Well‚ at least it got the Golden Goal´ prize out of the way early and there was plenty of time to make the announcement as City skipper Ian Wilkes had taken a knock on the neck in the leap for the ball and needed prolonged treatment before being moved to the dressing rooms on a stretcher. Play eventually re-started all that was needed now was for The Yellows to consolidate their advantage before embarking on an annihilation project that would enhance their goal difference´. Just as easily done as said‚ appeared to be the case. The delay in getting underway had disrupted the brief flow of the game and it began again at a trickle‚ rapidly building to full flow as muscles loosened. Tivvy were in control‚ playing within themselves and looking comfortable against the best that the visitors could muster. Pat Gavin fed Dale Watkins. David Steele nodded the ball down for Jason Rees to clear away to Chris Holloway in midfield - emphatically Tivvy territory. Rio Anderton tried a long range shot but team-mate Matt Jones was too slow taking evasive action and deflected the ball wide‚ not that it would have troubled Stuart Fraser in the Tiverton goal. Tiverton were looking far the more dangerous and the expected goal arrived in the 16th minute. Hall covered ground down the right wing and whipped in a cross that was overhit and cleared both attackers and defenders alike as they gathered in the six yard area. Graeme Power though was following in from the left and stabbed the ball back into the danger area. Kevin Nancekivell brought it down on his chest but unable to control it sufficiently to force it goalwards prodded it back to Paul Chenoweth who duly thumped the second goal. Two nil and comfortable. So turn it up! Hall tried to burst through in a solo effort but lost control as he stumbled through a crowd of defenders but Towns pressure was beginning to take its toll. Gavin lost his cool and reacted too strongly to a challenge from Nathan Rudge‚ so saw Yellow and the free kick tally against the Clarets mounted further a minute later‚ this time inside the City half. The ball was pushed forward down the left but deflected out for a corner. Taken short‚ laid back for Chenoweth who poked it forward to Nancekivell who slid it easily past Nicholls. 3 - 0 and the word rout´ being quietly mentioned.

The Yellow´s fans behind Nicholls were convinced it was all over bar the shouting. They sang in celebration. But it isn´t the fans singing that matters. It´s the fat lady...and she remained resolutely quiet. For the next 26 minutes plus a sizeable amount of time added to compensate for injury stoppages Tiverton were dominant. They played some enthralling football. Chelmsford were totally overwhelmed and had nothing to offer in any area of the field. The front men held no threat. The midfield pulled no strings and the defence hung on by the skin of its teeth. Steve Ovens in particular was in the thick of things for The Yellows. Bursting down the left he made City´s Russ Edwards look decidedly pedestrian and on the half hour he was unceremoniously upended to give Tivvy a free kick from which they did everything but score their fourth. Curled in from wide‚ the ball came to Nancekivell but his contact was not as good as it might have been and Nicholls blocked the shot but sent the ball vertical. As it descended it fell between Nance´ and Rudge‚ the first going in with his foot - high - and the later with his head - low - and between them they neither managed the controlled touch that would have sent the ball over the line‚ managing to direct it wide of the upright for a goal kick. With time running out Ovo went on another run but was dispossessed by a fine‚ clean tackle from Wiles‚ now apparently fully recovered‚ as he closed in on goal from the right hand corner of the penalty area. There was a feeling as the teams trooped off for their break that Town were playing well within themselves.

Ten minutes in the changing rooms made a world of difference. It wasn´t so immediately obvious in the Tiverton camp but their visitors were transformed. They came out full of fight. The heads were no longer down‚ they were bright eyed and bushy tailed. Within a minute they created a chance when a free kick on the left of the penalty area was fired across the goal-mouth and Watkins found himself with a free header but completely missed the ball. Hall responded with a break down the Tiverton left but his low cross was cut out and cleanly passed clear by a defender - in the first half it would have been given the big boot. The Clarets were trying to play football and it was working for them. They applied most of the pressure and a touch back by Gavin was blasted wildly wide by Watkins‚ but they were making the moves. Town‚ though. were beginning to look casual‚ as if they thought the game was won and would take chances if they came but wouldn´t worry if they didn´t. Hall, again, made a run down the left to fire in a low cross. This time the ball pinballed around between Ovens and a couple of defenders to bounce clear of the post for a goal kick. In the 57th minute Gavin, who had been about the nearest Chelmsford had to a threat, gave warning. Spinning in the penalty area he fired in a shot that had Fraser at full length to hold. The warning was ignored. Tiverton continued to sit back and City won their first corner of the game on the hour. Taken from their left it was hoisted high to the middle of the goal and close in. A vulnerable spot for Tivvy, and so it proved with defender Simon Clarke motoring forward to head home unopposed. Fine, nothing to worry about. We´re still two in front´ seemed to be the mood of the Tiverton side. Chelmsford were lifted to even greater effort. Three minutes after breaking their duck they were back pressurising the Tivvy defence. Down into the right hand corner. Persistence under challenge. High cross into the goalmouth, just like a corner kick. It carried just a bit to far, just beyond the far post and looked as if it might drop harmlessly wide for a goal kick. No, Matt Jones got his head to it and nodded it back across goal for Substitute Steve Norman to score from a yard out with the simplest header of his career.

Two goals in three minutes. The entire complexion of the game had changed. What had been looking like a comfortable three points was now looking like a disaster. City were on fire, rampant. Town had been shaken out of their complacency and new they had to get themselves going again. The trouble was that they couldn´t. The Claret tide was in full flow. Clickity click - sixty six minutes. Another corner. On the right. It had worked before so try it again. And it worked again. High into the six-yard box, close in. Gavin coming from deep. Powerful header. Ball in the net. 3 - 3. Now the battle was really on. Town´s defence got a grip but that was about the only improvement. The ball was being given away as midfielders and frontmen were harassed by the enthusiastic Essex boys. On the 72nd minute David Steele shot wide - Tiverton´s first effort of the second half. Watkins missed a golden opportunity for The Clarets when he beat the offside trap but lobbed over the bar as well as Fraser. Chris Holloway did provide one moment of hope for the home fans when he split the forward pushing Chelmsford defence with a perceptive cross field ball to Hall but Tiverton´s almost redundant striker hooked his shot past the right hand angle of upright and crossbar. The last four minutes saw a last great push from the visitors. Gareth Power showed he had embraced the Tiverton aurora by underpowering a back header to Rudge, allowing Watkins to intercept but thankfully strike wide. Norman hit one high. Jones fired across the face of goal. Fraser dashed off his line to foil Watkins. Any of those attacks could have resulted in a goal. No wonder that come the final whistle Tiverton were glad to have hung on for a point.

It was rather like that FA Cup game nine years ago. Western League Tiverton 4 - 0 up at home to Conference Farnborough, thought it was over and collapsed to 4 - 4. That one had a happy ending as Tivvy won the replay. Sadly drawn league games are not replayed and those points are gone. They might be vital come may. And so might goals....so why take the foot off the pedal. Are we scared of humiliating someone? Let´s see the killer touch. Worcester City didn´t ease up when three up against Bath City. They kept going and hit seven. Who´s sorry for Bath?

Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Graeme Power, David Steele, Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Chris Holloway, Steve Ovens, Lawrence Hall, Paul Chenoweth.
Subs: Paul Milsom (Ovens 68), Ian Patchett (Nancekivell 68), James Mudge (Chenoweth 82).

Chelmsford City: Paul Nicholls, Wes Faulkner, Simon Clarke, Rio Anderton, Russ Edwards, Ian Wiles, Gareth Street, Matt Jones, Pat Gavin, Dale Watkins, Neil Gough.
Subs: Steve Norman (Gough 37),George Lay, Liam Hopkins, Danny Curran (Faulkner 87), Darren Smith
Bookings: Gavin 20.

Referee: Malcolm West (St Austell)

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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