Match report

Kettering Town 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Wednesday 14/01/2009   FA Trophy
Alan Reidy

Second Round Replay

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." – Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

And without exception it was the Tiverton Town players that failed but did so daring greatly, it was their faces that were marred by dust and sweat and blood, it was they who strove so valiantly against Kettering Town in two gruelling encounters that finally, after three or more years of struggle won over the hearts and minds of their supporters.

Some wise man cracked that coming second is the first of the losers, but for Tiverton Town to come second to Kettering in such a gallant and dignified manner shows that they are winners - maybe not of the FA Trophy Second Round tie, but of their own peace of mind. There was not a player on the pitch at Rockingham Road that gave anything less than everything, and for us mere mortal supporters to criticise would be foolhardy and downright arrogant. But had things panned out just ever so slightly differently then Tiverton Town would have reigned and taken the just glory that their exploits merited. Sport has a cruel way of separating winners from losers, and as Kettering Town now prepare for a visit from Telford United, Tivvy’s squad have to return to the relative sanity of league football.

Town did everything but win the first meeting between the sides, and but for a goal in the sixth minute of added time by Richard Graham the trip to Northants would have been unnecessary. However, ifs and buts mean diddly-squat and the Yellows changed into the Whites as they set about making amends in the replay. The early going was in favour of the home side and Tiverton goalkeeper Steve Book, affectionately dubbed ‘the Orange Panda’ by the Kettering supporters was in the thick of the action, saving from Iyseden Christie, Brett Solkhon, and then from Christie again. Kettering were well on top as Christie had the ball in the net but his effort was ruled out for offside, and Nathan Rudge blocked bravely as the Poppies front man caused further havoc.

As the opening period wore on so Tivvy came more and more into the game, getting to grips with the pace and finding ways to explore the Rockingham Road end of the ground. Lewis Powell was sent to chase a number of teasing balls down the left flank, and combined swiftly with Phil Walsh only for the latter to send a cross/shot into the waiting arms of Kettering stopper Lee Harper. Walsh then found himself penalised for handball when well placed having outfoxed the offside trap as Chris Vinnicombe chipped a free kick in from the right wing, and Arran Pugh collided with Harper, leaving the goalkeeper crumpled. With the home custodian grasping his face in agony the referee had little choice but to stop the game (by now the ball had been cleared from the area), and Harper was promptly treated for a leg injury! You live and learn, and with experience comes a smothering of cynical behaviour that the ‘experts’ oxymoronically call ‘professionalism’.

Towards the end of the first forty-five minutes Nicky Eaden pushed forward for the hosts but his header was saved and held by the impressive Orange Panda, while the lightening quick Craig Braham-Barrett, playing just his second game for Kettering twice jinked down the left, only to find Mike Booth in tip-top form on the first occasions, and then see his through-ball to Christie amount to nothing as Book smothered. Tivvy were quick to charge back down the other end and closed the first half with a serried of four corner kicks, two from either side. This pressure culminated in Mark Saunders heading into the net, but the referee had long since blown his whistle to indicate a foul by Walsh. Seconds earlier Eaden had desperately hacked away Arran Pugh’s header – chest and then boot on the goal line, and there was nothing between the sides at the break.

Kettering enjoyed the better of the second half, at least as far as chances went, but some brilliant defensive play, notably from Nathan Rudge and Arran Pugh, combined with Book seemingly having glue on his gloves helped maintain parity. Pugh blocked a shot from Solkhon at the near post as Kettering pressed on, and a stunning reaction save from Book maintained the deadlock, Chris Beardsley the unfortunate Poppy on this occasion.

On the whole Kettering created fewer clear-cut chances in the second half despite enjoying the bulk of the possession, and both Ridge and Booth were in exemplary form, taking the time to play the ball out from defensive quarters. The White shirted players continued to work hard, hard enough that there were signs even midway through the second half that a few were running out of legs, and Powell was withdrawn in favour of the dynamic Paul Wyatt as Martyn Rogers made his first shuffle. Wyatt immediately set about chasing down Eaden but the experienced defender cleared consummately, while the Tivvy midfield still rallied around, closing, pressing and generally being a nuisance to any embryonic Kettering attack.

Book was on hand yet again to hold onto a Solkhon header from close range before Saunders place in midfield was taken by Glenn Gould as youth and energy became the order of the day in place of calming experience. There was just ten minutes to go, Saunders’ 37 year-old legs were hanging by threads, and Gould made an immediate impact by sliding a ball wide that Bobby Hopkinson chased but was unable to keep in play. Hopkinson had a quiet game by his busy standards, but came out of the match with a huge amount of credit having been on the end of constant taunting from the human animal of the football terrace throughout the evening. Each and every misplaced pass or mistimed tackle was jeered and mocked by the home support, but Hopkinson maintained his composure in the face of adversity and frustrated the vast majority of the 816-strong crowd by simply refusing to rise to the bait.

Hopkinson silenced the crowd with just seven minutes left on the clock when he chipped in a cross from the right towards Pugh. A glancing backwards header from the Tivvy midfielder left the home defence static, and Nathan Rudge, advance for the set play was left unguarded to volley with the instep of his right boot beyond Harper and put Tiverton ahead. Claims for offside, which may well have been substantiated, were dismissed, the goal stood, and yet again Town were on the verge of winning the tie.

But no sooner was an advantage gained that the tendency to drop a yard or two deeper kicked in. It is only natural, especially when the opposition have so much pace about them. Tiverton’s lead lasted just three minutes before substitute Craig Westcarr ran forward from the right side of midfield, and as the Tivvy defenders backed off Westcarr smashed a corker into the bottom corner, the only thing Book was unable to deal with to that point in time. In the third and final minute of added time (only three minutes?) Kettering was on the front foot, but Gould intercepted a loose ball by Craig Braham-Barrett midway inside his own half and galloped forward. He had the legs of the recovering defence that were too advanced to start with, reached the edge of the area and slid the ball past the goalkeeper. Past the goalkeeper, and past his right post. By inches. Harper was a relieved man as he restarted with a goal kick and the referee blew for full time. It was that close.

Extra time was a contrasting affair with Tivvy dominating the first period and Kettering the second. Book made one more outrageous save to Jean Paul Marna but Walsh and Hopkinson both saw chances go begging for the visitors. Walsh’s opening was a header from a deep Booth cross that sailed wide, Hopkinson had a shot blocked at close quarters, pinball back off a defender onto his own chest and drift just the wrong side of the upright. Marna came within inches of winning the tie for Kettering in the 115th minute but drilled a shot low across the face of goal with Chris Beardsley just failing to get a touch, and when Walsh headed Hopkinson’s corner wide the game was up and penalties were the order.

And from there it was a no contest – Tivvy don’t do penalties this season. The hosts went first, Beardsley scored. Tom Knighton was then denied by Harper before Westcarr put Kettering well in control. Harper saves again, this time a fine stop from Booth, diving full length to his right, Marna and Rudge share successful efforts and Darren Wrack nets the decisive kick.

Tiverton were beaten in the only way they were ever going to be beaten. Out but not down, the Yellows can hold their heads high and take a great deal of pride in the two performances against Kettering. 221 minutes failed to separate the teams (although 95 minutes should have been plenty enough) and Kettering never held a lead. Once the disappointment of defeat subsides Martyn Rogers will tell his players how proud he was of their efforts – to a man they all played their part, ran themselves senseless and came within inches and seconds of winning.

But who am I to say? I am just a cold and timid soul who knows neither victory nor defeat. But I do know that it was a mighty close affair, and that for ever after the record books will record Tiverton Town and Kettering Town, eight-five clubs between them in the football pyramid, playing out two 1-1 draws.


Kettering Town: Lee Harper; Nicky Eaden, John Dempster, Alfie Potter (Craig Westcarr 70), Chris Beardsley, Brett Solkhon, Richard Graham, Andre Boucard (Darren Wrack 46), Iyseden Christie (Jean Paul Marna 46), Craig Braham-Barrett, Dale Bennett
Goals: Westcarr 86
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Mike Booth, Chris Vinnicombe (Tom Knighton 106), Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Arran Pugh, Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders (Glenn Gould 80), Lewiss Powell (Paul Wyatt 74)
Goals: Rudge 83
Booked: Pugh 67, Walsh 92
Sent off: None

Attendance 816

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






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