Match report

Atherstone United 2 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 31/03/2001   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

Let´s start at the end‚ it seems to make more sense to me at the moment...
A frantic button-pushing session around 5pm elicited the good news that Mangotsfield had lost at home to lowly Bromsgrove and that the two top-of-the-table clashes had seen Hinckley draw with Evesham and Bilston‚ likewise‚ with Redditch. With a broad grin on my face I dashed around the ground to the dressing rooms to convey the news‚ only to be greeted by Martyn Grimshaw who‚ on hearing the results‚ proclaimed That makes it even worse!.
I did manage to find a few who reflected my feelings that we had got out of jail but the mood in the Tivvy camp was at rock bottom and all they could do was try to come to terms with throwing three valuable points away - three points that looked safe until the 90th minute.
This brought back the horrors of Redditch‚ where we were drawing 0-0 with five minutes remaining and then were hit hard by two late‚ late goals. Yet‚ at Atherstone‚ we had the gilt-edge chance to crush them when Kevin Nancekivell was ankle-tapped in the box as he drifted through the defending pair of Scott Blair and Steve Farmer on the hour mark. Referee Mr R Green had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. A pity that Tivvy didn´t hesitate to think who should take it. Steve Winter pounced on the ball but‚ surely‚ Steve Daly and Nicky Marker are ahead of him in the pecking order??? Of course‚ no-one would have complained if the spot-kick had been converted but a lame effort led to a relatively simple save for the home custodian‚ the jovial Dale Belford.
With the wind at their backs in the first half‚ it was a case of all-out Tivvy pressure for the opening seven minutes. So much so that a big roar (well‚ there were three of us!) ensued when Atherstone got into the Tivvy half for the first time. The two things I don´t like about Atherstone was encapsulated in these opening minutes and that is the conning of the ref coupled with vociferous swearing. It got so bad that the ref had to jaunt over to their manager‚ Steve MacKenzie‚ and tell him off. But he had obviously either left his red card at home or was another official who blatantly ignores the FA directive regarding swearing. During this spell‚ Tivvy came close to scoring but they were either denied by the offside flag or by the acrobatics of Belford.
After 28 minutes‚ Robert Higgs caught Steve Ovens in full flight and it looked as if there was an element of retaliation involved he appearing to have been fouled by Tivvy´s number 8 a few seconds earlier. The ref thought so too and booked him for his troubles.
Six minutes later we had a superb move when Phil Everett released Kevin Nancekivell with a deft flick of the ball off his boot and it was only an excellent save by Belford that denied him the opener. However‚ the next time he hared forward it was to chase the ball into the box. A hurried back header by Adam Hart left Belford stranded and up popped Steve Ovens to take advantage of the confusion‚ during which it looked as if Nance was being held back‚ and stab the ball home after 41 minutes.
It was no more than Tivvy deserved‚ indeed they should have scored more.
The second half saw the wind ease off and we were treated to football of the cultured variety rather than hit and hope which was all that the Adders had mustered as they battled against the wind in the first period.
However‚ it only took two minutes of the second half before Nicky Marker was booked. He had launched himself at the ball - missed it‚ and also (fortunately) missed his opponent - but the ref obviously thought it was a dangerous challenge.
Then we had that penalty incident.... and‚ inevitably‚ it raised Atherstone´s game a tad. And when you consider that they haven´t been paid for many weeks‚ you cannot knock their team spirit.
Tivvy were soon to be caught out of position when Leon Kelly took the ball across field. But‚ just as he was about to shoot‚ Paul Tatterton timed his interception to perfection and the blocked ball went harmlessly out for a throw.
Despite this‚ every time Tivvy ventured forward‚ they looked dangerous. However‚ the no-nonsense Adders defending kept them at bay‚ the most notable save coming from Adam Hart who denied Phil Everett in full flight. It was a superb block. And so the game crept into the 90th minute and there were many fingernails being chewed behind the goal. And when one Tivvy fan‚ who shall remain nameless‚ uttered the fateful words of It looks like Paul Edwards is going to keep another clean sheet‚ the Gods jumped out and poured scorn on the boys in Amber. First of all Leon Kelly cut in from the right‚ shot and Eddie could only parry the ball straight to the feet of full back Dominic Reece. When his shot was blocked on the line‚ fate smiled on him by returning the ball once more to his feet. He didn´t need a third chance.
And it got worse as the fresh legs of the three Adders subs‚ who had only been on the park for 18‚ 10 and 6 minutes respectively, catapulted the home team into the lead in the third minute of injury time. A rampaging run by Ian Purvey down the Tivvy left wing saw him scamper through all and sundry before lashing the ball home from the tightest of angles and destroyed Tivvy´s plan of winning all their remaining games. Why, oh why, didn´t we use our subs as well? Belford was quaking in his boots at the prospect of facing Dave Toomey once more. The best striker in the league. You never know how to read him., he proclaimed to us during one of the interludes for injury.
However, promotion is still in Tivvy´s hands. They need to try and restore their confidence by beating Paget soundly on Tuesday. It won´t be easy as Paget are desperate for points, having six to make up before they can haul themselves out of the relegation area. And then, on Saturday, Bilston arrive. There has never been a better time to play them as they have fallen from grace as fast as Moor Green did last season. Let´s hope that history does not repeat itself with Bilston recovering enough to clinch that second promotion place. And, anyway, who is to say that Hinckley will win the championship? Having seen their remaining fixtures, I think we are about to witness a wobble. It may already have begun.

Line up: 1 Paul Edwards, 2 Steve Winter, 3 Neil Saunders, 4 Paul Tatterton, 5 Nicky Marker, 6 Scott Rogers, 7 Kevin Nancekivell, 8 Steve Ovens, 9 Phil Everett, 10 Steve Daly, 11 Stuart Smith.

Subs: (not used) 12 Pete Conning, 14 Richard Pears, 15 Dave Toomey.
Also travelled: Richard Pears, Luke Vinnicombe

ATHERSTONE UNITED: 1 Dale Belford, 2 Scott Blair, 3 Dominic Reece, 4 Robert Higgs, 5 Steve Farmer, 6 Adam Hart, 7 Danny Martin (captain), 8 Leon Doughty, 9 Leon Kelly, 10 Anton Thomas, 11 Stewart Dawe
Subs: 12 Ian Purvey (for Stewart Dawe, 72m), 14 Andy Marlowe (for Steve Farmer, 80m), 15 Stuart Skitt (for Danny Martin, 84m)

Referee: R Green

This report ©2001 Nigel Davis

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