Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Bishop's Stortford

   Wednesday 26/11/2008   FA Trophy
Alan Reidy

FA Trophy Third Qualfying Round Replay

An epic cup tie between Bishop’s Stortford and Tiverton Town was in the balance for a full 180 minutes plus an inexplicable amount of added time as the Hertfordshire team, managerless and lagging towards the bottom of the Blue Square South made the long journey to Devon for this FA Trophy replay, and ultimately retraced their steps with nothing to show for their efforts. A headed goal by Nathan Rudge, Tiverton’s captain and without doubt the most influential player over the two games was enough to separate the teams at Ladysmead and the Yellows can now look forward to a trip to Bashley in the First Round Proper of the competition.

The final play at Woodside Park four days earlier saw Danny Green curl a free kick into the Tiverton area that the Devonians hacked clear, and the early pressure in the replay came from the visitors, as if they hadn’t taken their foot off the pedal for the past few days. As early as the fifth minute Steve Book’s goal was under threat as Jason Mason threaded a neat ball through the Tiverton defence for Liam Hopkins to chase; chase he did, and the sprightly wingback managed to get beyond his marker and into a good position deep in the Town area but then, as if the realisation of the potential impending glory startled him, sliced pitifully into the side netting.

The opening was a carbon copy of the first encounter between the sides at Woodside Park with Stortford making the running and pinning Tivvy back, but they received an early blow when key midfielder Craig Edwards was forced out of the action with less than ten minutes on the clock following a collision with the combative Bobby Hopkinson. Edwards’ place was taken by Peter Dean and the change had little immediate effect on the blue clad travellers as Danny Green burst through the middle only to be scythed down by Mike Booth midway inside the Tivvy half. Green, as is his want, would pick himself up, take a few deep breaths, and waste the free kick, and eventually Town muscled their way into contention, at least as much as they could, as both sides were becoming frustrated by the whistle-happy referee from Darkest Dorset even at this early stage of proceedings.

A quick game of "Pass to the other team" ensued, but Mark Saunders decided he had seen enough, turned his back and lofted an overhead kick towards the edge of the Bishops’ penalty area, hopefully encouraging one of the more advanced Yellow shirted players to give chase. Paul Wyatt was the most advanced of all and leapt as the visiting goalkeeper Nicky Eyre clambered belatedly towards the ball. Neither made clean contact and the ball broke to Phil Walsh twenty yards from goal, but the Tivvy forward struck wildly over the bar and over the covered terracing.

With all this action and such a high tempo one could forgive the players if they fancied a moment of putting their foot on the ball to temper the adrenaline, but Alex Faux had no thoughts of taking things steady for five and he tried to manoeuvre through the Blues defence with the help of Wyatt, and villain of the first five minutes Hopkins was forced into a foul wide on the Tiverton left. The standard procedure is thus: Hopkinson ambles across and floats the ball in, somebody in yellow gets on the end and nods it into the net. The step-by-step guide wasn’t followed to the letter; Hopkinson did amble and float, but Mark Saunders was on the end at the far post and diverted the ball back across goal where Nathan Rudge was on hand to power a header past the wrong-footed Eyre and put the hosts ahead.

And so ensued a midfield battle as Bishop’s Stortford sought an equalising blow, and a stop-start sequence culminated in Roy Essandoh getting the ball in the net having met Green’s centre, only for the linesman to promptly raise his flag for offside and ensure Tiverton’s slender advantage was maintained. The disallowed goal followed a brace of corners, one from each flank that Town failed to fully deal with, and those five minutes were the best that the visitors would muster until chasing the game late on in the second half. Tivvy were back on the offensive soon thereafter and Eyre did well to scramble Wyatt’s header away under pressure from Walsh, and then regain his composure to parry as Hopkinson crashed in a drive from well outside the area.

Wyatt’s pace was proving to be a handful and Dean tried to undress the young striker, earning himself a booking in the process, while Eyre was again alert to save and hold a shot from an acute angle, Walsh finding space after Alex Faux had broken free on the left. On the stroke of half time Book finally got mud on his gloves as he helped a long-ranger from Hyem over the bar, and once the corner was cleared and the danger averted Mr. Powell did what he does best and blew his whistle, this time for the end of the first period.

With Stortford having the bulk of the possession but lacking a cutting edge the game resumed after the orange quarters still finely poised, but cult hero Essandoh would finish his evening early. After failing to make meaningful contact with a teasing Green free kick the former Wycombe hero was replaced by the diminutive Jamie Forshaw as caretaker manager Mark Simpson looked to freshen things up in attack. Green’s set pieces were still stale, however, and in a hurry he side footed a weak free kick well over the top before Danny Harris stabbed a shot wide of the mark following good play on the right from Hopkins and then Green.

Tiverton relieved the pressure as they began to adhere to the cliché that the best form of defence is attack. Walsh was bemused as his side won only a corner and not a penalty as the ball went loose under a challenge in the area, Walsh having been released by the increasingly impressive Adam Faux. And from that corner (that frankly was never a penalty!) Rudge powered a header that had Eyre beaten but not the woodwork. Two minutes later Walsh lifted a sweet volley into the net that Eyre allowed past him having seen a raised flag and heard a whistle for offside, and Tiverton’s purple patch came to an end with the Yellows having failed to increase their advantage.

It was high time for the Bishops to rally; they had twenty minutes to salvage something and keep themselves in the hunt for the four grand pay packet and a trip to see the donkeys of Nouvelle Forêt on route to Bashley. Harris did his best to instigate momentum and was a willing runner, but once an opportunity presented itself – a ball broke as Alex Faux and Mason tangled in a challenge – the big striker could only hit the ball the wrong side of the upright. Dean headed a corner straight at Book and with ten minutes remaining the same player struck a spectacular volley from Green’s corner kick that clipped the top of the crossbar and went over and away from danger.

As Stortford pushed and pressed and committed players forward in their desperate struggle to regain parity the inevitable holes appeared, and on more than one occasion Tiverton almost exploited the space to the fullest. Walsh saw a volley take a crucial deflection and balloon over, and both Walsh and Wyatt forced their way into scoring opportunities only to blunder with the last touch. Ross Bristow replaced Harris and his tired legs late on for the visitors; Wyatt, who had covered every blade of grass made way for Knighton, and the Tiverton substitute jinked his way past two defenders, then the same two defenders again before playing a square ball into the area for nobody in particular. Added time, Bishop’s Stortford had given their all but there was no way past a Tivvy defence once again expertly marshalled by Rudge, and the last word was left to Man of the Match Hopkinson who powered into the corner pursued by half the Blues’ players, then wriggled his way along the by-line only to smash the ball across the face of goal. Stortford’s defence cleared but it was too late as the referee sounded his whistle for the umpteenth and final time of the night.


Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux, Alex Faux, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, James Fraser, Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders, Paul Wyatt (Tom Knighton 90)
Goals: Rudge 17
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Bishop’s Stortford: Nicky Eyre; Liam Hopkins, Scott Barker, Michael Hyem, Paul Goodacre, Matt Jones, Danny Harris (Ross Bristow 78), Craig Edwards (Peter Dean 10), Roy Essandoh (Jamie Forshaw 52), Jason Mason, Danny Green
Booked: Dean 34
Sent off: None

Attendance: 290


This report ©2008 Alan Reidy






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