Match report

Cambridge City 1 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 29/11/2008   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

While supporters of Tiverton Town have gradually lost themselves in the euphoria of FA Trophy advancement and of a run of four successive clean sheets a crucial element has been overlooked – the Yellows had mustered just four goals in those four matches, none of which have arrived through an open passage of play. These shortcomings were accentuated at Cambridge City’s Milton Road ground as Tivvy proved toothless as deep as the midfield and Phil Walsh was left to feed of scraps as the home side dominated the game from start to finish.

Inside the first minute City had already forced the first corner of the game, and Lee Chaffey was unlucky to see his first time strike pass a foot wide of Steve Book’s left upright. It was an early warning for Tiverton which they were unable to answer and Cambridge piled forward with Scott Neilson and Neil Midgley at the heart of their creativity. Neilson fed Robbie Nightingale for the second effort on goal only six minutes into proceedings, the City midfielder’s long range effort forcing Book into action, and Nightingale soon bombed back into the area only to stumble over his own player when a shooting chance loomed.

The aptly named Adie Cambridge was denied when his low drive deflected of James Fraser’s boot and looped away for another corner kick and the same player was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring after half an hour as his viciously struck free kick cannoned off the base of the post with Nathan Rudge in position to pick up the pieces and hack the ball away from danger. Meanwhile Tiverton had improved somewhat, and enjoyed their best period of the game without carving out an opening. Focussing down the right flank, Adam Faux twice delivered crosses into the City penalty area, but both centres were easily dealt with by the home defence, marshalled impeccably by the impressive Mark Smith.

Neilson turned on the style as Cambridge (the team, not the player) once again gained the upper hand, skilfully ghosting past Fraser and the Mark Saunders before sending in a low shot that Book gathered at full stretch to his left. The first period ended with the game still deadlocked, Rudge entered into the referee’s notebook, and only one team looking as if they had the intent and the ability to trouble the scorekeeper.

It was a mark of how dominant Cambridge were that the first chance of the second half came about when Walsh lost the ball on the edge of his own area. The ‘striker’s’ fluffed clearance fell to the omnipresent Neilson, for whom the fifteen minute interval had drained none of his enthusiasm, but the City midfielder could only volley a yard wide of the target having had to steer the ball over a crowded goalmouth.

Tiverton finally managed to explore the Cambridge half of the pitch and Bobby Hopkinson had the Yellows’ first shot of any note with an hour on the clock, only to drag the ball wide from well outside the area. It was soon business as usual though and the action was back at the other end of the pitch as City won a further succession of corners. Tivvy’s defence, admirably stoic in the past month stood firm, and eventually Dave Theobald’s frustration told as he clumsily hacked at Hopkinson and earned himself a caution.

The home side continued to pressure, introducing the fresh legs of Neil Sharp in place of Craig Radcliffe, and threatening with another set piece that Adam Faux did well to scramble away at the far post. A rare Town counter attack saw the almost anonymous Paul Wyatt finally get the chance to stretch his legs and run at the Cambridge defence, but he was thwarted as Smith was adjudged to have tugged him back. Hopkinson struck the resultant free kick from thirty yards or more and City ‘keeper Zac Barrett finally had a shot to save, which he did by palming the ball over his crossbar.

Once Nightingale had added his name to the referees list the hosts were back in possession and seeking a way to break down the Tivvy defence. They managed to do just that by starting from deep and enticing the yellow shirts a yard or five forward before hitting with a crisp move that left the visiting back three chasing shadows. Cambridge created space in the middle of the park, thirty yards from goal as he slipped beyond Rudge, and was afforded sufficient time to pick his moment to weight a perfect through ball towards the advancing Neilson. With Tom Gardner busy covering the lurking Sharp, Neilson burst onto the pass and lifted the ball over the belatedly advancing Book and into an unguarded net.

Cambridge led and it was just what they deserved having been the only team thus far to show an ounce of guile, but now Tiverton were forced to open up, their run of clean sheets in tatters and their unbeaten sequence under threat. Tom Knighton was introduced in place of the ineffectual Wyatt, while Mike Booth, the steadiest ship in the Town team was forced off having picked up a knock, being replaced by the returning Matt Villis. Town won a throw deep in Cambridge territory which Hopkinson delivered from the right flank; the ball was half cleared and Gardner’s awkward volley was deflected at close range and looped harmlessly into Barrett’s waiting gloves.

Tivvy pressed, huffed and puffed but seldom looked like scoring until Saunders worked miracles to earn the visitors a corner. Rudge was the target but his near post shot went a yard or two wide, and when Hopkinson curled a free kick from a dangerous position straight at Barrett with five minutes remaining it became clear that this simply wasn’t Tivvy’s day. And if one woeful set piece wasn’t enough, the small band of travelling supporters were treated to another just two minutes later. Fraser, as quiet as anyone in yellow throughout, sprung into life as he cut in from wide on the right and forced his way into the area five yards from the goal line. Chaffey was in close attention and seemed to have done enough to push the ball away for a corner, but the linesman had other ideas – shirt pulling, a cynical kick after the ball had gone? Nobody knows, but Fraser went to ground under the challenge and the linesman’s flag was spread across his chest – penalty! Fraser and Hopkinson entered into discussion… who’s buying the first round? Do you like salt on your chips? Whatever they were talking about, the answer was wrong. Hopkinson eventually spotted the ball and belted it goalwards, a yard off the ground and two yards to Barrett’s right. Barrett dived two yards to his right and a yard off the ground, thus making the end result inevitable.

There was just time for Fraser to become the fourth player to receive a yellow card, for an ill-advised challenge on Matt Haniver when it was clear he had little chance of regaining possession having played the ball too far in front as he raced down the Tivvy left wing. And that was that, a wholly disappointing performance from Tiverton against a Cambridge City side that were useful but unspectacular, with the exception of Scott Neilson who was outstanding and Mark Smith who was a commanding defensive figure.

Cambridge City: Zac Barrett; Matt Haniver, Lee Chaffey, Dave Theobald, Mark Smith, Robbie Nightingale, Scott Neilson, Adie Cambridge, Ramon Calliste (Robbie Mason 82), Neil Midgley, Craig Radcliffe (Neil Sharp 65)
Goals: Neilson 74
Booked: Theobald 60, Nightingale 71
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux, Alex Faux, Mike Booth (Matt Villis 77), Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, (Arran Pugh 82) James Fraser, Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders, Paul Wyatt (Tom Knighton 77)
Booked: Rudge 45, Fraser 90
Sent off: None

Attendance: 301

This report ©2008 Alan Reidy






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