Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Stourbridge

   Saturday 06/12/2008   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

Stourbridge must have felt that the whole world was against them a few months ago. Having completed a fine season in the Southern League First Division in early May by defying the odds and beating Leamington in the promotion playoff final in front of a bumper crowd of more than 1,600 the Glassboys prepared for life in the Premier Division knowing that their own War Memorial Ground would be unavailable for the first few weeks of the season. As is their custom Stourbridge made their annual request to the white collars at league headquarters for the fixtures to be planned accordingly, not foreseeing any issues. After all, the Southern League officialdom had bent over backwards when King’s Lynn made a similar request twelve months prior, and were happy to allow the Linnets to open their season with seven games on the road. But maybe Stourbridge aren’t a fashionable enough club, the requests were denied and the Black Country side had to reconsider their best laid plans, eventually playing “home? games against Banbury United and Corby Town at Halesowen’s Grove. So after four games of the season Stourbridge found themselves with just one solitary point gained, and four goals shipped on two separate occasions, at Gloucester (sic Cirencester) and Merthyr. For lesser mortals such a traumatic start would have led to a dastardly season of defeat after defeat, but the Glassboys promptly returned to their rightful home and smashed six past Clevedon before winning at Chippenham. More recently they have gained a valuable half-dozen points with home wins against Bedford Town and Oxford City, Leon Broadhurst grabbing three goals in the process, and they arrived at Ladysmead in high spirits, middle finger raised backwards to their hefty group of nemeses.

But there was little chance to settle on a ground they had only visited once before, eight years and eight months earlier in a losing cause as Tom Knighton won an early corner for Tiverton Town. Set piece master Bobby Hopkinson lifted the cross towards the edge of the goal area where Phil Walsh had stolen in unmarked. However, Walsh was a few inches short of perfect position his attempt at a header on goal ended up being little more that a fine glance, and captain Nathan Rudge was unable to latch onto the loose ball at the far post. Faux earned a second corner soon afterwards but this time Stourbridge goalkeeper Lewis Solly launched himself fists first at the ball and cleared with a decent punch. Still inside the initial ten minutes and Tivvy were dominating possession, almost rampant. The right flank was now the focal point of the Yellows advancement and Adam Faux cut back before sending an inswinging cross towards Walsh at the near post. The Town forward managed good contact this time but an awkward chance amounted to nothing as Solly gathered easily.

Stourbridge were rocking and Gavin Winsper was forced to hack away a loose ball eighteen yards from goal and central. As he did so Glenn Gould threw himself in to challenge and caught the unfortunate Stourbridge player. The same challenge after an hour would have resulted in a yellow card at least, but Gould got away with barely a ticking off from the referee, meanwhile Winsper was hurt, seriously enough to require assistance off the pitch, and was replaced soon thereafter by Ryan Mahon. Tiverton had played with an extra man for five minutes while Winsper was receiving treatment but failed to make the numerical advantage count, and midway through the first period the luckless Glassboys were forced into a second change as Sam Rock fell under a seemingly innocuous challenge from Alex Faux tight on the touchline.

Tiverton were still edging the possession stakes but Walsh was being forced wide and therefore became less and less of a threat as the match wore on. When he did find space out on the right his low and powerful cross was bravely claimed by Solly at the feet of the onrushing Knighton, and the visitors finally worked a sight at goal after half an hour. Mike Booth half cleared and was looking for a free kick as he crashed to the turf in the process but the referee allowed the game to flow as James Dyson snuck through into the gap that Booth would otherwise be occupying. Tivvy ’keeper Steve Book’s first meaningful touch was to cushion Dyson’s early shot in his chest, Booth got back to his feet and Town reasserted their authority on the match.

Again it was Adam Faux, galloping down the right that instigated the next opening. His cross was nodded down by Walsh into the patch of Rudge, still advanced from an unproductive corner moments earlier, but the Tivvy skipper’s shot on the turn was smothered by Solly at the near post. The game began to open up with chances at both ends; Leon Broadhurst fired wide of the mark after a stunning forty yard cross-field ball from Les Hines had been delicately laid off by substitute number two Ashley Robinson, and a couple of minutes later Stourbridge wasted another fine chance when Broadhurst powered through from deep to feed Linden Dovey only for the final shot to go straight at Book.

The action was soon back to the other end of the pitch as Rudge took matters into his own hands, playing a perfectly weighted through ball to himself as the visiting defenders stood and waited or each other. Rudge bustled between two doddering red shirts, took a further touch to bring the ball into the area, and unleashed a powerful drive that brought a fantastic save out of the increasingly impressive glovesman Solly. Just before the interval Mark Saunders was a foot away from getting a touch on Alex Faux’s left wing cross and the first half ended goalless but with the hosts more or less in control.

The last thing Tiverton needed was a fifteen minute hiatus, and indeed the cooling off period and change of ends did a lot to stifle their momentum as the game resumed in a slumber, or more accurately an extended game of head tennis and kicking to touch. The lack of endeavour and flair was typified when Dyson sliced a cross hideously behind, over, wide and everything else bad after Broadhurst had forced Adam Faux into conceding possession deep in the corner of the pitch.

Finally Tivvy managed to get their foot on the ball and force their visitors to chase and puff for a while. One sequence was a pretty as it was ultimately lacking penetration, forcing Hopkinson to put his head down and drill his way through the red wall alone. That he did, and having found a gap between Stourbridge’s two banks of four the midfielder let go a ripping and rising drive which Solly needed to react smartly to. Like everything he had had to do to this point Solly was more than equal to the task and palmed the ball at full stretch behind for a corner, a corner that was cleared without fuss.

Fresh legs were the order of the day after an hour of stalemate on an increasingly heavy pitch, and so entered Paul Wyatt up front, while the questionably suitable legs of Paul Jarvis also got a stretch on the right flank. Any doubts on Jarvis’ fitness were soon dispelled, and in the thirty minutes he was on the pitch he showed more creativity and intent than just about any other outfield player, perhaps with the exception of the bright Broadhurst, although the Glassboys’ main attacking threat showed a final touch that sometime left a lot to be desired.

Wyatt was soon in the thick of the action, and barely thirty second after having joined the fray he shot wide from just inside the area, while Solly yet again held on to a shot from Walsh after Hopkinson had launched a long ball into the corner that Jarvis chased and centred. And then the inevitable – having enjoyed most of the attacking movement Tivvy were hit on the counter and Booth was forced to concede a corner on the Stourbridge left. In came the cross, the otherwise anonymous Nathan Bennett made a diagonal run towards the near post and met the ball perfectly, sending a header across goal and into the top corner with Book flat footed.

A substitution apiece three minutes after the deadlock was broken had little effect on the game as a whole but Town now had to press on. Hopkinson again thrust a long ball into the corner, this time right to left for Alex Faux to chase. Faux did well to pick up the pieces and lay back for Rudge to sweep in a teasing cross. Yet again Walsh was on the end of it, again he headed towards goal, and for the umpteenth time of the afternoon Solly pulled off an excellent save to keep his sheet clean, at the same time cementing his claim as the MVP and main protagonist as if it was in any doubt.

Once more the Yellows came; Jarvis’ low cross was deflected up via the boot of Ross Collins and towards the roof of the net only for Solly to continue in exemplary fashion by plucking the ball from just beneath the crossbar, and with a little over five minutes left on the clock the game should have been wrapped up in favour of the Midlanders. Broadhust raced through a dispersed Tiverton defence but rather than shooting he chose to feed Roninson, the pass not making the target, and a minute later Robinson found himself in an identical position. This time the shot came in and Book pulled off a terrific save with his left boot to maintain a single goal deficit.

There was time for one more roll of the dice, maybe two. Hopefully two as with the first roll Arran Pugh ballooned a shot well over having done exceptionally well in the first instant to find space. But while there is time hope springs eternal and Hopkinson pumped one more ball from deep towards Walsh. This time there was no chance of a header at goal but Walsh set the ball down to the onrushing Wyatt. Time and space afforded Wyatt needed only one touch to place a side-footed shot into the bottom corner, leaving the faultless Solly with no chance and finally beaten.

After the Lord Mayor’s Show Booth was yellow carded for a timely (some might say cynical) block on Broadhurst, the resulting free kick amounting to nothing, and the final whistle sounded with honours even. Tivvy will have expected three points at kick off, but will be happy to settle for one given they were trailing with just two minutes of normal time remaining. Complicated emotions too in the away dressing room – the Glassboys would have take a 1-1 draw at three o’clock but will be desperately disappointed that they were unable to hang on to a lead they earned through hard work, determined defending and top quality goalkeeping.


Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux (Paul Wyatt 60), Alex Faux, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Glenn Gould, Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders (Arran Pugh 77), Tom Knighton (Paul Jarvis 60)
Goals: Wyatt 88
Booked: Booth 90
Sent off: None

Stourbridge: Lewis Solly; Sam Rock (Ashley Ronison 25), Les Hines, Ross Collins, Ashley Langford, Nathan Bennett, Gavin Winsper (Ryan Mahon 17), Leon Broadhurst, Linden Dovey (Callum Martin 77), James Dyson, Drew Canavan
Goals: Bennett 74
Booked: Langford 66
Sent off: None

Attendance: 328

This report ©2008 Alan Reidy






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