Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Evesham United

   Saturday 31/01/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

There is a saying that pride comes before a fall, and never a truer word was uttered, as we were to realise on Saturday as Evesham United came to town and ground out a single-goal victory that left Tiverton Town wondering what they had to do to get a winning run going. The pride came from the previous midweek trip to the Principality where the Yellows defied the odds and the elements to consign Merthyr Tydfil to their first home defeat for almost five months, but Tivvy were brought crashing back down to earth, delivering a flat performance and getting just what they deserved out of the game against the Robins.

Evesham arrived at Ladysmead with form hardly exceptional – their win at home to Mangotsfield United a few days earlier was their first maximum in seven attempts, but they knew another three points would elevate them further back up the league standings. Similarly Tiverton had only won once in five league games in the current calendar year and were beginning to slip away from the coveted playoff places. For both teams to keep their season alive this was a hugely important afternoon, and the news that Jamie Mudge had returned to Tivvy had given the home supporters hope that an upturn was on the horizon.

Jamie’s impact was almost immediate and he whacked in a left footed shot from the edge of the area that Evesham goalkeeper Nathan Vaughan watched bobble a yard or two wide of his post and crash against the perimeter wall just eight seconds after the kick-off. The dream start didn’t materialise but Tiverton kept the pressure on for the opening couple of minutes, earning an early corner when United failed to fully clear a long throw-in into the box from Bobby Hopkinson out on the right touchline. But the same player sent his kick from the quadrant too deep and Evesham gradually settled into the game and began to take control.

The visiting wingback pairing of Joe Clarke on the left and Danny Lennon on the right were being allowed licence to push forward, and in so doing forced their opposite numbers – the Faux brothers – deeper than they would have liked. It was Lennon that cause the first commotion for Tivvy as he was upended tight to his flank extremity, allowing Simon Fitter the opportunity to pump a long free kick forward. Fitter was sharp and got the ball forward early, catching the Tiverton defence napping, and Gary Hay was onto the loose ball in a flash. After one bounce Hay lifted the ball over the head of Steve Book, but onto the crossbar. The rebound was then nodded over the top and the Yellows had survived an early scare, and needed to heed the warning.

There were plenty more warnings as the visiting Robins almost totally hogged possession for the next fifteen or twenty minutes, and with little threat from the Town forward line of Mudge and Phil Walsh the United sweeper decided he could roam forward in a way that would Franz Beckenbauer purr with delight. And so off went Steve Luckett, out of defence and into midfield, a drop of the shoulder, and slight jink inside, and then finally a loss of the German composure that he seemed to be emulating. Luckett’s shot from outside the box was dragged horribly wide of the mark, but again it should have acted as a wake-up call for a sleepy Tiverton. Evesham had attacking threats all over the pitch, even in their own defensive line.

So many times this season though the Worcestershire team have been their own worst enemy and their disciplinary record shows a total of six red cards have been accumulated in league football. They picked up the first booking of the match after twenty-seven minutes, Fitter needlessly hacking down Arran Pugh in midfield and then cynically dribbling the ball away with his as he retreated after the whistle had already blown. Pugh went forward for the free kick once Mike Booth finally retrieved the ball, and was joined in the area by Nathan Rudge and Tom Gardner, but Booth’s delivery was intercepted and the door ajar had been slammed shut.

Adam Faux finally found the time and space to get forward, and writhed his way towards the corner of the penalty area before being dispossessed. Unconvincing appeals for a penalty were swiftly dismissed by the referee, and a few minutes later Danny Hodnett joined Fitter in the notebook after a timely yet illegal clipping of heels as Mudge looked to skip clear of a high defence and onto Hopkinson’s threaded pass.

The best chance of an uninspiring first half fell to the visitors two minutes before the interval. Hay helped the ball out wide to Clarke, and a low cross towards the near post created panic in the area. First to react was Kevin Slack, swivelling dextrously before sending in a goalboud shot that Book did exceptionally well to turn away at close range. Tivvy’s reaction to the let-off was positive, but Booth’s speculative attempt was lofted high into the cold afternoon sky, and Walsh took a shot early that Vaughan gathered with little fuss when he may have been better advancing into a better position.

Those of the 327 strong crowd that had managed to stay awake and alert throughout the action-shy opening period probably dropped off shortly after the resumption as little quality was on show after the change of ends. Gardner did well enough to head behind a hanging Lennon cross, and Mudge curled a shot well wide of the target after Mark Saunders had teed up Hopkinson’s pass towards the edge of the penalty area, and then back at the Devco End Evesham skipper Steve Lutz sliced badly when well positioned to capitalise on a Hay knock-down.

Ten minutes into the second half the defining moment of the game arrived, with Lennon typically the instigator. Finding freedom on the right the winger chipped in a dangerous cross and Lutz, unmarked, headed at goal. Book was still scampering back across goal and was beaten, Booth was on the goalline but could only keep the ball out of the net with his hand. No sooner had Book fallen upon the ball that the referee acknowledged the flagging linesman and awarded what was a clear penalty. Booth had to walk, and Slack stepped up to ram the spot kick left-footed and low into the corner of the goal. Evesham were ahead and deserved to be so, Tiverton now needed to rally.

Lennon soon had another opening but his snapshot went straight at the Tivvy ’keeper, and Walsh came within a foot or two of tying up the scores on the hour mark but his header from Hopkinson’s corner flashed across the face of goal and wide. With thirty minutes still remaining it was the last meaningful attempt from the hosts, and Evesham had a number of chances to increase their lead as the game wore on. Book saved again, this time from Hay, Luckett drove one that was still rising as it cleared the crossbar, and the pace of the visiting attackers was posing more and more of a threat against a Tiverton defence that was one short in numbers.

Lennon and Hay combined smoothly only for the latter to once again lift his shot too high, and substitute Robert Ager raced onto a clearance from his goalkeeper only to see his shot fly across Book and clip the far post before being belted away. With time running out Lennon jinked free under pressure and sent a cross in that skimmed across the goal line, only needing the slightest touch to help it over, but the touch didn’t come. And the touch ultimately wasn’t needed as Evesham United held out with ease to secure their first away win since the middle of November when they beat Rugby Town. Coincidentally it was Rugby that last won on their travels to Ladysmead the previous week, but this was no time for half-interesting titbits – there was little of interest throughout the afternoon, and Tiverton dropped one place in the table after Hemel Hempstead won a thriller at home to Stourbridge.


Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux, Alex Faux, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Arran Pugh (Paul Jarvis 68), Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders (Glenn Gould 86), Jamie Mudge
Booked: None
Sent off: Booth 56

Evesham United: Nathan Vaughan; Anthony Watson, Joe Clarke, Danny Hodnett, Steve Luckett, Steve Lutz, Simon Fitter, James Blake, Kevin Slack (Robert Ager 62), Gary Hay (Jamie Clarke 81), Danny Lennon (Danny Scheppel 87)
Goals: Slack 56 (Pen)
Booked: Fitter 27, Hodnett 35
Sent off: None

Attendance: 327


This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






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