Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 0 Hinckley United

   Saturday 21/10/2000   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

Should we be worried about our attendances? A classic clash brought 620 through the turnstiles - a crowd that many in our league would have jumped at. However‚ when you remember we had 738 for the opening game and then the crowds dipped to 556 for the visit of Bedworth‚ I wonder where these other 180 or so fans are? (Oh‚ and whilst we are on the subject of crowds‚ it was not 876 who saw our previous FA Cup game against Gloucester. A hiccup occurred and it should have been announced as 676 - again somewhat lower than you would have hoped).
There is a theory that I quite like and that is that it hurts to see your favourites losing and this is what keeps people away - especially when the opposition is tonking everyone else out of sight. So‚ the fans who felt that‚ maybe‚ Hinckley would rip us apart may well have stayed at home rather than enduring the potential torture.
Well‚ it was obvious from the start that the events of last week and the various repercussions in the press and on the web-site have been taken to heart. The Gold Army were back in full gusto and‚ despite a depleted Tivvy side‚ the encouragement on the terraces certainly did no harm. Steve Ovens was named as number 2 to replace Jamie Morrison-Hill who has returned to Home Park following the expiry of his one-month loan. I was‚ personally‚ hoping that we could keep him for the minimum stipulated time of 3 months that FIFA have in their rules - but it appears that the FA have rubber-stamped just one month. So‚ just as he was settling in‚ he was whisked away from us. As it happened‚ Phil Everett played at right back with Dave Toomey and Ovens up front.
There was no Scott Rogers‚ out injured‚ and Stuart Smith and Luke Vinnicombe were both rumoured to be less than 100% fit - yet managed to get a place on the bench ahead of Martyn Grimshaw. So‚ we had one forward (Pete Varley) as sub - earning him a rapid recall from Chippenham Town. Pete Conning came in for the injured Rogers and‚ to be honest‚ the balance of the side looked fine - even with our leading scorer in defence! In Hinckley we have one of the better sides in the League. The way they play is a joy to behold. They actually play football. They rarely dispute a decision and look very organised with oodles of team spirit. What a change from previous visitors who‚ by and large‚ try and put eleven behind the ball and time-waste to destruction as well as show petulent streaks. Not so with Hinckley.
I could watch games between Tivvy and Hinckley each week if this is the calibre of football both can serve up. And all credit to Mr Hawkes who refereed with just the right level of authority. Quick to jump on any indiscretion that threatened to spoil the game‚ yet willing to keep the game flowing as often as possible. He has a lot to be thanked for.
The stats will show five bookings in a game that was never dirty - yet by booking the culprits when he did‚ there was never any chance that the game would boil over. And‚ for once‚ it was for fouls rather than verbal abuse. There was only one outburst of swearing and that‚ late in the game‚ from Hinckley´s replacement skipper. And it was but a fleeting one-off. As you would expect‚ the game started with plenty of cat and mouse but Tivvy had the upper hand. After six minutes‚ the alert Dave Toomey put Steve Ovens through but he was a fraction off-side. Five minutes later‚ great battling by Jason Rees saw us regain possession. He released Ovens who was then impeded in the box. When he wriggled through he was held back but the officials turned a blind eye. Maybe‚ if it was outside the box‚ he would have been awarded a free kick. Who knows?
The one dodgy encounter of the game occurred after 14 minutes when Rees was warned by the ref that he was in danger of talking himself off the pitch. Even Pete Conning tried to get him to shut up. You got the feeling that the late replacement of Mr Hawkes for Jim Woodcock was inspired. Nothing against Mr Woodcock but Hawkes was just what the doctor ordered. You got the impression that he had done his homework and was fully aware that this was a top-of-the-table clash with promotion at stake. And‚ with Tivvy having lost three games due to various postponements‚ those potential nine points would have meant that Tivvy would be right up there with Hinckley. Midway through the half‚ the tactics that Dodge had bestowed on the team were beginning to evolve. With Jamie Lenton nowhere near as dangerous as he had been at Hinckley a month earlier‚ Phil was able to link up with the other two front-runners - Jason Rees slotting in to cover. And it worked a treat as Phil became one of the most feared men - judging by the number of times he was upended. But he just picked himself up‚ dusted himself down and got on with the game. That is always the most effective way of frustrating your opponents. The players who get wound up are the ones succumbing to the opposition...
Hinckley were beginning to get more into the game and had their first worthwhile attempt through Andy Lucas who put the excellent Paul Tatterton under pressure. It was about the only time that Tatts was outwitted but Paul Edwards was quick to smother the resulting close range shot. On 28 minutes‚ a lightening break from Steve Ovens saw him get in a grass-level cross to the far post but Jamie Williams touched the ball behind for a corner just a fraction of a second before Everett could get there. From the corner we drew first blood - Steve Daly hitting his shot against the cross-bar.
Ten minutes from the break‚ another Pete Conning corner was nodded down by Everett and Toomey´s overhead kick saw the ball just clear the bar. Two minutes later and Paul Oliver became the first Hinckley player to be booked - for a foul on Everett. Six minutes further on Marc Orton followed him into the book for a reckless challenge on Pete Conning. So there was plenty to digest at half-time and it was all positive stuff. Our optimism was fully justified just six minutes after the break. A well worked move saw Steve Ovens on his way. His blistering pace was outlandish and he was able to pull the ball back from the byeline - a raking cross that is one of the hardest to defend. If the defender lets the ball pass him then the forward has the goal at his mercy and‚ being inside the six-yard box‚ the keeper has only one real chance and that is to try and intercept the ball himself. The reaction time available if the forward gets a touch is just not long enough - and so it proved as Dave Toomey bundled the ball over for his third goal in three starts. Goal-a-game Toomey´s joy was only exceeded by Ovens´. Ironically, it was the sort of move and cross that you would expect of a Tivvy number 2, as wingbacks have become part and parcel of our game. Strange that our number 2 was playing up front - but it brought smiles all round.
After 63 minutes, the only nasty moment of the game flared up. Phil was by the corner flag when Jamie Lenton lunged at him and caught him - right in front of the ref´s assistant. He was lucky that the ref only pulled out a yellow as the malicious intent was there for all to see. He knew he had got away with it because, as he turned away from the ref, he had a broad grin on his face. Fortunately it was an isolated incident.
From the free-kick, Hinckley broke quickly and it was Lenton who had the chance to level the score but Paul Edwards was too quick for him and the danger passed. Four minutes on and Dave Sadler was thrown into the arena, replacing skipper John Allcock. We cringed at the thought of this lethal weapon being unleashed upon our troops but, fortunately, he was not able to make much of an impression. Give him a few games and I´m sure he will be firing on all cylinders. It´s a good job we won´t be meeting Hinckley in the League again this season.
After 70 minutes, Dave Toomey´s speed of thought and action combined to allow him to beat keeper Wayne Starkey to the ball. His attempt to squeeze the ball home from an impossible angle was not helped by the camber of the six-yard box - but he certainly put the fear of God up the visitor´s defence once again. Four minutes later and we witnessed another wicked cross from Steve Ovens - and this time he picked out the head of Steve Daly who made no mistake as the ball zipped in - hitting earth just inside the post. That´s two goals in consecutive league games for Tivvy´s mercurial midfielder. Long may it continue. Within two minutes of the restart, Tivvy brought on Pete Varley for the knackered Dave Toomey and Hinckley replaced Jamie Lenton with Morton Titterton. In the 83rd minute, Hinckley´s Jamie Williams became the fourth visitor to be booked. This was for whipping Steve Ovens´ standing leg from under him. It looked more accidental than anything else but could have been the final straw for a variety of minor offences. Four minutes on and Stuart Smith replaced Steve Daly, slotting into his midfield position. So, both scorers had been substituted. Maybe Dodge thought that lightening wouldn´t strike twice. With the clock running down and now into the 89th minute it looked as if Tivvy had got another goal as Pete Varley, Pete Conning and Steve Ovens combined to prise Hinckley open again but the Man-of-the-Match, Steve Ovens, was denied by an offside flag. It was Varley who had strayed. Nevertheless it was a great move.
Into injury time now and this saw Tivvy´s sole booking - that of Pete Varley for clattering into Marc Orton. So, a much better all round display and three precious points against a side undefeated in their last 13 games. Indeed, it was their first reversal since the opening game of the season. But, if they carry on playing like they do, they will be right there when the gongs are being dished out at the end of the season. All power to their elbow.
Now, one final observation. Any youngster watching should have picked up some great tips on how to shield the ball from a goalie´s clearance. The way that Paul Hunter would trap the ball on his chest before swivelling and passing the ball inside to a team mate was classic. He made it look so natural - and there was nothing a defender could do - apart from foul him. Hey. What do I mean any youngster? I learnt from watching him. Great stuff.

Line up: 1 Paul Edwards, 2 Steve Ovens, 3 Neil Saunders, 4 Paul Tatterton, 5 Nick Marker, 6 Pete Conning, 7 Jason Rees, 8 Dave Toomey, 9 Phil Everett, 10 Steve Daly, 11 Dave Leonard,

Subs: 12 Pete Varley( Dave Toomey 76), 14 Stuart Smith (Steve Daly 87). 15 Luke Vinnicombe.

HINCKLEY UNITED: 1 Wayne Starkey, 2 Tommy Gallagher, 3 Jamie Williams, 4 Ritchie Lavery, 5 John Allcock (captain), 6 Danny George, 7 Paul Oliver, 8 Marc Orton, 9 Paul Hunter, 10 Andy Lucas, 11 Jamie Lenton, 12 Dave Salder (for Paul Oliver 67), 14 Morton Titterton (for Jamie Lenton 76), 15 Peter Barry.

This report ©2000 Nigel Davis

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