Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Merthyr

   Saturday 04/10/2008   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton versus Merthyr, it’s never a pretty affair. The Martyrs made their annual pilgrimage to Devon to be greeted with high winds more common at the upper edges of the Welsh valleys, and plenty of water from the sky for good measure. Initial thoughts, before kick-off, were that the game was going to be ugly, although it was suggested that the inclemency offered the perfect opportunity to keep the ball on the green stuff, away from the full force of His elements.





No such luck, and a dirty, squalid first half began with Merthyr winning a series of throw-in on their right flank, each time gaining ten yards or so, and each time being halted as Bobby Hopkinson defied the laws of gravity to rise above the less diminutive markers he was paired with to nod the ball back over the touchline. Eventually Merthyr had made up enough ground – they started deep in their own half – that they won a corner. Like every subsequent quadrant kick over the course of the afternoon, bar one, it was hopelessly poor, and Arran Pugh headed away the danger.





When the ball finally lost its magnetism towards the stand side of the pitch Paul Wyatt dextrously jigged past a challenge but Jamie Rewbury was a dominant figure in the Martyrs rearguard all afternoon and was able to sweep up the leftovers as Wyatt struggled to keep possession close enough. Tivvy won a corner in that move which they wasted, and it proved to be one of the very few occasions in which they bothered to explore their visitors’ defensive set-up. Tiverton, if they were a colour, would be brown, they were a shambles of a football team from pretty much the word go, and it was left to Merthyr to attempt to entertain the Yellows’ lowest home gate of the season.





Player, manager and all round useful commodity Garry Shephard did his utmost to entertain, but his far post header (he rose higher than Tom Gardner, how did that happen?) went a yard wide of Steve Book’s left upright; and Rewbury powered a header of his own over the top after Arran Pugh made a crucial challenge on Craig Steins that resulted in a corner kick. Okay, so maybe more than one corner was of any quality, but that isn’t really important; what was almost very important was Paul Keddle’s rasping volley from the edge of the area after twenty-six minutes that was still rising as it cleared the crossbar by a foot, and would be rising even now had it not crashed into the stand behind the goal.





This was one-way traffic, and Book did everything in his power to keep his colleagues in with a change with a string of fine stops. Just past the half-hour mark Steins flummoxed Nathan Rudge twenty-five yards out and made a beeline, only to be met by the imperturbable Book and his magic gloves, a one-on-one save of the highest order, although Steins will know he should have scored. Book also kept out Dean Clarke’s long range, nasty, bobbling low shot, fumbled, and then recovered to dive on the ball as Steins raced in with something only a little short of the poise and predatorial instinct on Ruud van Nistelrooy. And Steins, him again, he was everywhere, and he was upside-down in attempting to divert Clarke’s cross from the left. The chance had arisen after Rudge or Hopkinson or Booth or someone else in a brown shirt had given away a needless free-kick on the corner of the area. Clarke pelted the set-piece and the base of the defensive wall, looped in the rebound, and set Steins on his was to gymnastics gold. Unfortunately for Steins and his buddies he got it all wrong and ended up falling helplessly on the floor as the ball dropped beside him, leaving Rudge to hammer the ball as far and as high as he could in true anti-Catenaccio style.





That was the first half, one Tiverton foray into enemy territory, but picked off with relative ease. The instigator, Wyatt, would not get his half time cuppa, however, as he was busy in the medical room after falling awkwardly and damaging a hamstring. Tom Knighton came off the bench moments before the break, a long Tiverton free kick was pumped towards the clouds and the referee did exactly what he would be doing for most of the afternoon, except when he should have – he blew his whistle and put 305 people out of their misery for fifteen minutes.





The winds calmed for a short while, even the rain stopped falling briefly, and the game resumed on time but nothing happened for five minutes. The first thing that did happen was the referee, as hopeless as ever, noted Clarke’s name and number, presumably to report to the Football Association rather than for ulterior ‘pizza-and-a-movie’ motives later in the evening. That caution was for dissent, indicating that perhaps the Respect Campaign hasn’t yet reached Merthyr, and further backed up later when Steins whinged his way into the notebook. Maybe there was a threesome…





Tiverton had the audacity to actually ping a ball into the Merthyr penalty area fifteen minutes later into the boredom, Hopkinson floating a cross that was ultimately too high and too long; too high for Andrew Devle in the Martyrs’ who had barely got his gloves dirty, and too long for Phil Walsh who was busy ambling somewhere towards the far post some time after the ball had crossed the line for a goal kick.





Before that almost intolerable excitement there was a mini-furore in the Tivvy area as Book, Rudge and Shephard all climbed for a high ball, and all missed it. Book flapped, Rudge’s elbows dithered in the wind, and Shephard’s nose found the joint midway up the Tiverton captain’s arm. No malice, just a whole load of concern as Shephard crumpled, his face crimson red as his brains seeped from his nose. Lengthy treatment ensued, the referee, who typically didn’t see anything, consulted with his portly assistant and the game continued. The Merthyr manager was absent for a tidy ten minutes receiving treatment, returning with cotton wool up his hooter to find that the Yellows had made no ground despite playing with a man over.





Another Merthyr corner ultimately amounted to nothing as the game entered its final third. Rewbury met the cross and scrambled the ball goalwards only for Rudge to half-heartedly clear. The ball fell to Keddle, he stabbed in a shot but Book was in place to beat it away and maintain an undeserved parity. By now Steve Book had already won the Man of the Match award – he could have donned a Ronald McDonald suit, flapped at crosses for the remainder, and scored three own goals but he would have still been the best Tivvy player on the pitch.





Alas! Another chance for Tiverton, twenty minutes of normal time to go, and this was a real, genuine opening that came not from clinical build up play, but from a long free-kick launched into the area. Hopkinson it was that delivered, Tom Gardner that met the cross, and the outside of the upright that had a Mitre print on it when the move was over. Delve was beaten at last, but this opening, that may have given Tiverton some incentive to raise the tempo, merely served as a wake-up call to the Welsh side, and once more normal service was resumed, Merthyr on the offensive.





Matthew Harris found Book had lost none of his invincibility, and from the rebound Ashley Evans fired in a shot that Book once again saved in spectacular fashion., and if Tivvy were to get into the game then they would have to turn to their ‘keeper and buy him drinks until All Souls Day (that’s November 2nd folks!). In a bizarre moment it was Book himself that almost opened the scoring. Playing with the wind his instigation of a counter attack almost freakishly found the net, only for the big boot to bounce once over Delve, and then a second time on the goal line a few yards wide of the post.





The Bloodied Shephard had had enough and on seventy-nine minutes gave way to Merthyr’s perennial substitute Marcus Griffiths. Two minutes later, while all good match reporters were paying the full attention I was still busy making a note of the substitution. That didn’t stop a corner from the right being delivered, Tivvy shirts watching and waiting, and Griffiths nipping in to turn the ball home at the far post. I saw the last part of it, I know he scored, and I also know that if Pugh had still been on the pitch then any initial aerial threat may have been dealt with. But Pugh was pulling on his sweater having just been replaced by Paul Jarvis. You make you own luck in this game.





Time might have been running out but for Shephard being floor-bound for five minutes, and in what was officially the eighty-fifth minute a moment of controversy, the one that eventually lead to Steins securing his date for the night. A little innocuous pulling and barging in midfield, the portly lineman finds need to vigorously shake his stick as he sees the otherwise anonymous Glenn Gould being tugged back. But… the referee is open-armed in that annoying “Advantage!” gesticulation and Evans scampered out of the midfield while the Tiverton players stand around waiting. The portly lineman, seeing the annoying gesticulation, bounces down the flank to try and catch up with play, Evans lays the ball to Steins, Steins rams the ball into the net. Two-nil or not two-nil; that is the question. Not two-nil, says the inept referee and the portly linesman after a brief exchange of Merthyr players phone numbers. Seemingly the referee had believed the portly linesman had flagged for a foul against a Merthyr player, hence the advantage. He, the referee, might be due some credit for at least belatedly consulting with his fat friend, but frankly the rest of his performance doesn’t warrant it.





Alex Faux replaced Scott Hiley once we were moving again, and six minutes into added time Knighton got almost his first touch of the game after playing the entire second period and put the ball into the net. The problem was that the referee had blown up for a foul against Walsh about three days earlier.





Tiverton versus Merthyr, it’s never a pretty affair.








Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Scott Hiley (Alex Faux 88), Chris Vinnicombe, Arran Pugh (Paul Jarvis 79), Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Glenn Gould, Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mike Booth, Paul Wyatt (Tom Knighton 45)
Goals: Barely a sniff
Booked: Walsh 72
Sent Off: None





Merthyr Tydfil: Andrew Delve; Steve Williams, Paul Keddle, Andrew Thomas, Dale Griffiths, Jamie Rewbury, Matthew Harris, Dean Clarke, Garry Shephard (Marcus Griffiths 79), Craig Steins, Ashley Evans
Goals: M. Griffiths 81
Booked: Clarke 49, Rewbury 70, Steins 85
Sent Off: None





Attendance: 305




This report ©2008 Alan Reidy






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