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Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Rocester

   Saturday 20/01/2001   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

Maybe Dagenham & Redbridge should have taken a leaf out of Tivvy´s books. Had they done so‚ they may well be 150‚000 better off. For‚ unlike Dagenham´s lack of forethought which saw their FA Cup replay at home to Charlton fall foul of a frosty pitch (you could see the affected part on TV - it was in front of their main stand)‚ Tivvy´s groundstaff had used their noddles and placed a thick black plastic covering over the shaded´ part of Ladysmead. And it reaped dividends as‚ whilst many games fell foul of the heavy frost (I can vouch for it being minus 4 around 9am)‚ this game against Rocester was never in doubt.
Our Staffordshire visitors came with an interesting game plan - and resolutely stuck to it. Presumably they had twigged that fortress Ladysmead would be a daunting prospect and that they had to do something to stop Tivvy dominating the game. Ninety minutes of guile was required. And they came up with the idea of disrupting the flow of the game with conceding a plethora of free-kicks (as well as the customary heel-dragging by the visiting custodian at every opportunity).
But they took this a little too far.
Let´s look at the facts.... Tivvy do not operate an offside trap - yet Rocester were continually flagged offside‚ so stopping the play and eating up the seconds. Most of the balls that elicited these offsides were thumped‚ so adding to the time taken to retrieve them. And the thing that convinced me that this was part of the ploy was that they never seemed to be upset by the raised flag. Indeed‚ come the second half‚ they appeared to run offside willy-nilly. And it nearly worked.
Also‚ their objections whenever Tivvy tried to take a quick free-kick added to this feeling that they wanted to waste as much time as possible - and compound that with a few mysterious injuries that occurred off the ball (with no Tivvy player in sight) just added to this inkling that they had come with a point and were intending to keep it that way.
In the first half‚ it was dire. Rocester´s offside trap (and before any of our fair readers from Staffordshire begin to deny its existence‚ why did Scott Bentley keep on shouting push up?) frustrated Tivvy and got the assistant referee so twitchy that he would put up his flag pretty well every time Tivvy launched an attack - albeit quickly putting it down when he realised that there was no-one offside in active play. Still‚ it all added to the confusion.
Apart from a fourth minute strike by Danny Hobby and a couple of half chances at the swimming pool end from Dave Toomey‚ the visiting Forest Green duo of Nigel Spink (manager) and Darren Perrin (scout) must have wondered why they bothered. (They had said that they were looking at former employee Steve Winter - absent‚ injured - but my money is on an interest in Kevin Nancekivell). But the quick reaction by Paul Edwards to deny an audacious long-range lob from Russell Peake after 22 minutes was well worthy of the warm applause. It was a rare intelligent foray into the Tivvy half - even though the shot came from the halfway line.
The only misdemeanour that warranted a caution came in the 18th minute when Martin Ridley fouled Steve Daly. And the one piece of amusement came in this manner:- Watch out‚ watch out‚ there´s a Humphrey about. Thwack! Now he´s gone. Oops‚ referee Steve Humphrey had just been hit full on by the ball right on the half-way line (ouch! painful). He was quick-witted enough to blow his whistle whilst down‚ giving him time to regain his composure (and whatever else had spilled onto the pitch).
The second period‚ though‚ was a different kettle of fish. In the 53rd minute Kevin Nancekivell burst through but Bentley blocked his shot with a smart twist‚ pushing the ball behind for a corner. A minute later‚ Dave Toomey roasted the Rocester defence and his tantalising cross to the far post almost saw the deadlock broken but Nancekivell just failed to hook the ball home - it going just the wrong side of the post.
But it wasn´t always one-way traffic. We had high drama as the ball bounced around the Tivvy six yard box with Nick Marker facing the wrong way but‚ somehow‚ the danger was cleared. It was one of the few chances that fell to Rocester. After 64 minutes the lanky Amekka Ejiofor was substituted‚ having appeared to pull a hamstring a few minutes earlier. He was replaced by Richard Askey. Within seconds‚ Steve Daly had set Nance through again but‚ once more‚ Bentley bettered him. But we kept plugging away.
Even when Phil Everett got a whack on the leg in the 73rd minute‚ forcing him to have emergency medical attention in the physio´s room‚ Tivvy never let the tempo drop. For three minutes they forced Rocester back into their half and‚ when the patched-up Everett returned to the fray‚ it was still one way traffic.
Steve Ovens had warmed up as soon as Everett had gone down and‚ when he was told to strip off‚ it looked as if the in-form striker had failed to overcome his injury. Not so. Martyn Rogers - rarely one to take a gamble - was getting adventurous because he took off skipper Neil Saunders and replaced him with Ovens. There was only one thing on his mind. Three points. (Wonder what the hat looked like? Oops‚ I digress.) And within five minutes‚ the gamble paid off.
The ball was passed inside from the right wing‚ Ovens skipped over the ball and Kevin Nancekivell latched onto it‚ strode into the box and beat Bentley with a vicious drive for the only goal of the game. Bentley was incensed as he had managed to get a hand to the ball. Either that or he was in mortal pain...
With the ailing Scott Rogers being substituted in the second minute of injury time‚ the immensely patient Pete Conning entered the fray. He hardly had time to touch the ball before Mr Humphreys drew the match to a close for Tivvy to register their maiden victory over Rocester.
This was made even more sweet when news came through that Bilston had suffered a rare defeat - at Mangotsfield. Strange but true - it is now in Tivvy´s hands to not only gain promotion - but to do it as champions. Just win every game. Sounds easy‚ doesn´t it?

Line up: 1 Paul Edwards, 2 Luke Vinnicombe, 3 Neil Saunders, 4 Paul Tatterton, 5 Nick Marker, 6 Scott Rogers, 7 Kevin Nancekivell, 8 Dave Toomey, 9 Phil Everett, 10 Steve Daly, 11 Stewart Smith.

Subs: 12 Steve Ovens (Neil Saunders 78), 14 Pete Conning (Scott Rogers 90), 15 Martyn Grimshaw

ROCESTER: Scott Bentley, Adam Thornley, Richard Knight, Gareth Jennings, Barry Wooley, Alex Hook ), Martin Ridley, Danny Hobby, Amekka Ejiofor, Russell Peake, Richard Owen (captain).
Subs: 12 Adam Thornley (Alex Hook, 86m), 14 Richard Askey (Amekka Ejiofor, 64m), 15 Martyn Smith

This report ©2001 Nigel Davis

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