Match report

Rugby 2 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 17/02/2001   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

There is no doubt about it‚ but the confirmation of Martyn Rogers as Manager of the Month for January was the perennial poisoned chalice. So often these awards are met by the game following their announcement turning into an embarrassment. And so it proved once again with plucky revitalised Rugby showing plenty of character and resolve to not only breech Tivvy's defence twice (the first time that has happened since Redditch two months ago) but to show defensive qualities that Tivvy lacked. They made their own luck and thoroughly deserved their first home win for three months.

One could argue that the fact that Steve Daly and Stuart Smith were missing also contributed to Tivvy's downfall. But when you consider that these were self-inflicted - the players know the rules about accumulated bookings - and had been known about for many days‚ you would have hoped that arrangements would have been made to add to the squad. As it was‚ it was 9am Saturday morning that Martyn Rogers signed Southern League forms so that he could be named as substitute. He never had any intention of taking part‚ of course. Indeed‚ it didn't even look as if he had a Tivvy playing strip on. One wonders why it took so long for him to decide to register. Perchance it was that‚ if he had signed any earlier‚ he would have been eligible for the Trophy game and fate may have forced him to take on Chris Waddle once more...

No‚ more worrying was the fact that Steve Winter turned out‚ despite not being fully fit‚ and that Pete Conning had to be persuaded from him sick-bed to play. Let's just hope that the flu bug which knocked him sideways does not spread like wildfire throughout the rest of the team. That really would be a disaster.

Not having a game for a fortnight has also not helped Tivvy's cause because the momentum has been broken. Whilst games were coming thick and fast no-one had time to lower their horizons or take their foot off the gas. Tivvy got a rude awakening and will have to lift themselves if they are to avoid defeat in their next two games. Bashley will be on fire and Worksop must wonder what all the fuss is about - assuming they had made the relatively short trip to Rugby.

The game started with Martyn Rogers taking the concept of squad rotation too literally and it was somewhat lacklustre from both sides. Rugby were desperate to give their caretaker manager Mike Golding a good start and avoid another drubbing at the hands of Tivvy. Their nippy number nine Robbie Beard proved to be a thorn in Tivvy's defence and it was surprising how easily Rugby uncovered weaknesses in the side. Rarely have Tivvy conceded so many corners early on.

Rugby also showed some steel but one challenge‚ by the loud-mouthed John Halford when he went up for a header‚ he led with his elbow crunching it into the back of Scott Rogers' head. This was pure skullthuggery. When Halford then let rip with a ritade of obscenities it should have seen his dismissal but the weak Mr Burton just cautioned him. He needs reminding that an elbow into a head is a red card offence - as is swearing. Then when Martin Ruddock scythed down Phil Everett from behind - a challenge which could have ruined Phil's achilles - he amazingly stayed on the park. Once more‚ it appears‚ that refs have decided to ignore specific rulings simply because they have not been reiterated at the start of the current season. This challenge is also a red card offence.

So‚ frustration crept in to both the Tivvy players and the travelling band of fans (minus the Gold Army who are obviously finding the cost of away games too much to handle).

By the time Halford picked up his booking‚ Tivvy should have been ahead. A great through ball by Scott Rogers put Kevin Nancekivell in but a superb block by home custodian‚ Paul Beresford‚ denied him. Luke Vinnicombe then kept up the pressure with a cross back into the danger area but Ruddick was too wily and beat Everett to the ball to clear downfield.

With half an hour gone Tivvy had another gilt-edged chance to take the lead but‚ with Nance steaming in to blast the ball home‚ Dave Toomey contrived to scoop the ball over the bar. If only he had known that Nance was homing in. But Toomers made amends in stoppage time when he outstripped the home defence‚ storming through to open the scoring. It should have been a body blow to Rugby‚ especially being so close to the whistle‚ but it possibly made Martyn Rogers' half-time team talk the more difficult. Even if were to lambast the players they would be sitting there thinking "but we're ahead aren't we?". No‚ the best way to gee them up was for Dodge to threaten to come on!

A crucial substitution was made by Rugby at the interval. Having already lost Peter Spacey midway through the first half‚ Danny Marlow taking his place‚ they took off Anthony Episcipo for the giant Luke Vincent and he made his presence felt from the off‚ scoring the equaliser on 62 minutes when he made space for himself (or should that read: "was totally unmarked"?) before crashing the ball past Edwards.

By then‚ though‚ Tivvy could have put the game beyond Rugby's grasp.On 50 minutes Nancekivell weaved his way through the home backline but somehow Beresford managed to push the ball away. The save certainly was not conventional but‚ as a goalkeeper you use the whole of your body as an obstruction - including your hips as in this case. Six minutes later Everett hit a vicious shot that hit Paul O'Brien on his right knee before cannoning out for a corner. Pete Conning floated the ball over and Everett was there to flick the ball on to Nicky Marker. This combination has reaped dividends before - remember Bromsgrove? - but again Beresford was there with a reaction flap to divert the ball over for another corner. As the ball came over once more it eventually reached Marker on the far side. His pinpoint header into space was interrupted by a somewhat strange decision by the ref's assistant for offside when it was obvious to all and sundry that there were more than the requisite two players between him and the goalline. It was just going to one of those days...

Up the other end‚ Paul Edwards had to be at his alertest to deny Rugby the equaliser and his cause was not helped when Beard followed through onto him giving him a nasty kick. The ref immediately beckoned Beard away and called on the trainer but he declined to caution the diminutive striker. And‚ two minutes later the scores were level. Even worse was the fact that six minutes later Rugby took the lead.

A free kick was conceded on the half way line and it was floated in from Rugby's left wing by the impressive Lee Darlison. With everyone seeming content to mark space‚ the smallest player on the park‚ Beard‚ rose to divert the ball home with a soaring header to send the home fans wild with delight. It was unfortunate that it had been the introduction of Steve Ovens just two minutes earlier‚ replacing the out of form Luke Vinnicomber‚ that had led to the free-kick. Either Ovens had not got into the pace of the game or he was too fired up. Either way‚ he didn't manage to turn the game Tivvy's way this time.

It all then started to go pear shaped with Dave Toomey coming oh-so-close but being denied by Gary Redgate who literally threw himself at the ball. Then Ovens was cautioned for a foul on Darlison followed by another yellow‚ this time for Pete Conning who caught Beard‚ back in defence‚ helping out. On 80 minutes a double substitution saw Ross Irvine take over from Paul O'Brien for Rugby and Richard Pears come on for Tivvy's skipper Neil Saunders who appeared incensed at the decision‚ although he later told me he was not incensed, just removing his captain's arm-band and chucking it on the floor. Ten minutes later it almost paid off when Pears nodded the ball goalwards from the umpteenth corner that Tivvy had won in the second period. However, despite being unsighted, Beresford topped an amazing afternoon with another reaction save to dent Tivvy's promotion chances.

Even though Tivvy camped in Rugby's half for much of the final 20 minutes, too many loose balls were overhit giving the forwards no chance. And the decision to put Everett into a left-back position has to be the strangest one of all - especially when a win was vital.

Hey-ho. Who'd be a football manager?!?

Rugby United: Paul Beresford, Paul O'Brien (Ross Irvine 80), Lee Darlison, Martin Ruddick, Gary Redgate, Peter Spacey (Danny Marlow 27), John Halford, Anthony Episcipo (Luke Vincent 46), Robbie Beard, Danny O'Toole, Jason Burnham

Tiverton Town: Paul Edwards, Neil Saunders (Richard Pears 80), Phil Everett, Steve Winter, Nick Marker, Luke Vinnicombe (Steve Ovens 66), Dave Toomey, Pete Conning, Kevin Nancekivell, Scott Rogers, Paul Tatterton

Referee: R Burton (Kettering)

Attendance: 311

This report ©2001 Nigel Davis

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