Match report

Oxford City 3 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Tuesday 17/03/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

In the wake of the entertaining 2-2 draw three weeks ago there seems to have been something of a mutual respect built between Tiverton Town and Oxford City. The 175 townsfolk that witnessed that match at Ladysmead, with a surplus of quality and sporting endeavour all felt compelled to praise the opponents for the part they played, and everyone went home happy in the knowledge that an equally pleasing game would be battled out at Court Farm Place very soon.

For me it was a second trip of the season back to visit some family heritage; my father grew up two miles away at the end of London Road (although he grew up as a United fan rather than a City fan, it should be said). In crossing the fifth and final roundabout on the Oxford bypass I took a quick glance to the right and remembered the days as I child I spent on the Barton estate visiting my grandparents, the last of which was sadly to clear a house no longer occupied. My Grandfather’s passing in 1994 signalled the end of any direct ties I had with the City of Dreaming Spires, and only twice since have I been in the vicinity, to witness the death of Tivvy’s cup run, and then on Tuesday night the death of any hope whatsoever that the Yellows I had inherited would make a late run and sneak into one of the four playoff places on offer.

But for ten minutes there was optimism, and it was justified as Tivvy, in white rather than yellow, looked sharp and lively, while Oxford struggled with Town’s unaccustomed three-pronged attack that featured Paul Jarvis alongside the usual suspects of Phil Walsh and Jamie Mudge. Jarvis was the first to get in behind a high City backline, but he lacked the pace to advance into a shooting position and was forced to clip the ball out wide to Mudge who crossed too deep, and out for a goal kick. Walsh then had a shot from the edge of the area saved comfortably by Ryan Harrison, and Alex Faux had the Oxford ’keeper on his toes, Harrison backpedalling well to tip a left sided cross over the top.

For Tiverton that was just about the sum total of their attacking enterprise in the first half, and Oxford were soon in the game and pushing forward. Mudge earned a yellow card for a late challenge on Mark Lambert that left the right back hobbling for the next fifteen minutes, but even with this slight numerical disadvantage the home side began to dominate the game, although goalscoring chances were few and far between. Andy Gunn glanced a header wide of the mark but it was little more than a half-chance, Dave Savage rammed a shot straight at Tom Gardner, and both Alex Fisher and Andy Baird saw attempts miss the target. In the interim Adam Faux slammed himself headlong into the home dugout, knocked a bit of sense out of himself, and required all of Town physio Gram Webster’s expertise to get patched up and back in the action. And then a couple of minutes before the interval Oxford finally got their noses ahead; Baird was upended by Nathan Rudge twenty five yards from goal, and was on hand at the far post to meet Mark Bell’s free kick and head past Steve Book.

Despite going for the bulk of the game without looking like scoring, while only one goal separates the sides there is always a chance, and Book did everything in his power to keep the deficit low as he twice saved close range headers. Darren Pond was the first to be denied after a swift move down the left, while the next chance presented itself Bell made up ground on the other side and crossed for Fisher to powerfully nod at goal, only for Book to match his earlier heroics.

Harrison was having a quiet evening but showed he was staying alert as a rare forward move by the visitors culminated with Mark Saunders squeezing a through ball that Walsh chased, cut back and fired low towards the bottom corner. Harrison, however, was equal to the task and dived low to his left to help the ball around the post. The corner that followed, delivered by Jarvis, was deep and found the returning Chris Vinnicombe, but the left back was only able to slice a shot wide from fifteen yards.

As we moved into the final quarter of an hour Harrison picked up a silly caution for time wasting, but he need not have bothered as within two blinks Oxford doubled their lead and then further extended it, sealing the points and moving to within touching distance of the playoff party. Book was at fault for City’s second of the evening when he took too much time to clear an over-hit Savage pass and had his punt charged down by Fisher. The ball ricocheted off to the right wing where Bell, who had a habit all night of being in the right place, quickly spotted the Town goalkeeper out of position and sent an audacious curling lob into the far top corner of the net.

It really was a superb finish and iced the Oxford cake, and less than sixty seconds later Baird added a cherry on top with his second of the game. The now recovered Lambert galloped down the right, fed Fisher, and the youngster’s deep cross was once again met by the versatile Baird to head home. Arran Pugh and David Hood were added to the fray but neither had much affect on the inevitable outcome, although the former did at least bring Harrison into the action late on.

This might just signal the end of Martyn Rogers’ experimental 3-4-3 system, as Tiverton found their defence more exposed than comfort would allow, still created little on the flanks, and lacked continuity up front. Perhaps an initial solution would be to play defenders in defence, midfielders in midfield, and forwards in attack. That may sound simplistic, but Mike Booth’s technical ability in the middle of the park, and Paul Jarvis’ skill wide on the left could have helped Tivvy towards a more organised performance, rather than the unattractive aerial route that is too often chosen. But hey, what do I know?

Oxford City: Ryan Harrison; Mark Lambert, James Clarke, Andy Gunn, Darren Pond, Andy Ballard, Dave Savage, Liam Malone (Steve Davis 76), Alex Fisher, Andy Baird (Ryan Brooks 82), Mark Bell
Goals: Baird 43, 79, Bell 78
Booked: Harrison 76
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux (David Hood 82), Paul Jarvis, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Alex Faux (Chris Vinnicombe 63), Bobby Hopkinson, Phil Walsh, Mark Saunders (Arran Pugh 81), Jamie Mudge
Booked: Mudge 18
Sent off: None

Attendance: 194

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






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