Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Bilston Town

   Saturday 07/04/2001   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

Bilston arrived at Ladysmead having suffered a dip in form. It wasn´t quite as bad as the Tivvy programme stated (W2 D2 L2 F9 A8) as this erroneously include their League Cup defeat at Premier Worcester. However‚ the former leaders of the Western Division had seen Mangotsfield do the double over them since Christmas yet they had won their last four league games on the road and‚ having seen them up in the Black Country back in September‚ they looked to be a difficult nut to crack. And in Scott Voice‚ the League´s leading scorer‚ they had a match-winner‚ assuming he was on song.
It was a game that both sides needed to win to keep themselves in the hunt for promotion - Tivvy knowing that a Bilston win would put them out of their reach and then they would have to rely on them slipping up elsewhere‚ and Bilston because they were already in danger of being overtaken by Mangotsfield‚ Evesham and Tivvy. A draw would dent both sides hopes.
Tivvy‚ devastated by the abandonment of Tuesday´s game at home to Paget when 4-0 ahead‚ were under the cosh from the opening whistle. And it was no real surprise that the visitors went ahead after five minutes‚ Danny Williams‚ their lively right wing back pulling the ball over‚ it staying in play off the cross-bar and kindly falling at the feet of Leon Jackson who slid the ball home from close range. In their previous attack Danny Coates had let rip forcing Paul Edwards to fly to his right to tip the ball away for a corner. They were certainly here for the three points.
You could have heard a pin drop as Tivvy restarted the game. But the Tivvy roar was soon in evidence as the Ambers piled forward in search of the equaliser. Bilston were definitely creaking and found it difficult to cope with the twin strike force of Steve Ovens and Dave Toomey but also the fact that Tivvy´s midfield and wing-backs were combining well with the forwards meant that they had to be on their toes throughout.
It was during this time that it became evident that the referee‚ Steven Dorr‚ wanted to be the centre of attention‚ blowing up for the most innocuous of challenges and compounding it with the booking of Nicky Marker for what has to be the tamest tackle of the year - there was hardly any contact and it was no worse than plenty of challenges that are part of the contact sport we know as football. My theory is that Mr Dorr will be attempting to gain kudos with his mates in the days to come. You´ll never guess who I booked the other day. Nicky Marker. Pathetic‚ isn´t it.
For all their attacking acumen‚ Bilston rarely troubled the Tivvy defence who always looked comfortable. Indeed‚ apart from one free kick from Voice following a Scott Rogers foul which Paul Edwards did well to tip past the post‚ he was kept quiet and was certainly not given the chance to impose himself on the game. You would hardly have known he was there‚ so well did Tivvy cope.
Up the other end‚ Steve Winter came close to converting a Kevin Nancekivell cross and Tivvy piled on the pressure by winning a host of corners. But Bilston did provide one moment of heart-in-mouth when Jackson scampered through before placing his shot wide of the far post. And then‚ with half-time looming‚ Dave Toomey was held back about ten yards from the edge of the box‚ right in front of goal. The most unlikely combination then conjured up the equaliser with Nicky Marker electing to slide the ball through to Stuart Smith whose first time shot was side-footed home with confidence and gave Danny Watson no chance.
The second half seemed to whiz by‚ apart from Bilston´s usual trick of conning the officials into calling on the trainer for mysterious injuries. Referees really should do their homework and suss out that this is a tactic that they use often and it is designed to stop the flow of football‚ so disrupting the rhythm of their opponents.
A nasty looking challenge on Paul Edwards by Lee Rollason‚ a couple of seconds after the ball was safely in the keeper´s hands‚ led to the Bilston forward being booked and that was followed shortly after by Stuart Smith hammering the ball over the byeline and he getting booked.
Throughout‚ though‚ Tivvy certainly made the most of their home advantage and played some stunning football that belied the sticky conditions.
The introduction of Paul Chenoweth for Neil Saunders showed that Martyn Rogers was determined to keep up the pressure and he certainly added to Tivvy´s attacking options. His appetite for the ball coupled with his tenaciousness and skill shows that he could well be a useful acquisition. Phil Everett then joined the fray‚ replacing Dave Toomey‚ and he looked as if he has shrugged off the virus that recently struck him down. Unfortunately he only had nine minutes up front as the first half hero‚ Stuart Smith‚ limped off to be replaced by Richard Pears. Everett was pulled back to take over the left-back slot. How lucky we are to have his versatility.
Immediately Pearsy won a corner and his fresh legs certainly added to the incessant pressure that Bilston had to bear‚ although Gavin Stone was a rock in their defence‚ constantly thwarting Steve Ovens during the second half.
And then came the turning point.
There were two minutes of normal time left‚ coupled with many minutes due to injuries when Nathan Rose-Laing burst through. His shot was blocked by Eddie and there was Paul Tatterton to tidy up. A goal then would have been devastating. So what did Tivvy do? They mounted another series of attacks. Phil Everett linked up on the left to release Paul Chenoweth. He got to the byeline before cutting the ball back and it landed at the feet of Steve Daly who gleefully slid the ball home from eight yards to send the home fans wild. A 90th minute goal in Tivvy´s favour is a rarity indeed.
Into injury time now and Nance was crunched by Bilston´s skipper Brett Wilcox. It was a nasty challenge and‚ quite rightly‚ deserved a booking. However‚ the ref also decided to book Paul Tatterton for speaking out of turn.
Then we reached the sixth minute of injury time and Steve Ovens was clear through on goal when Stone clipped him. As last man he should have walked but this part of the Laws of the Game seems to have been consigned to history as the card waved at him was yellow.
When the proceedings were finally brought to an end‚ you could have been forgiven into believing that Tivvy had won a cup final. There were mass celebrations in the centre circle and you felt that, maybe, just maybe, Tivvy have the nous to win promotion despite the insistence of the Southern League to stick by their end-of-season date of May 5th.
With many games biting the dust(mud?) on Saturday, including Mangotsfield´s at Redditch, it is going to be a logistical nightmare to fit in all the remaining games. RC Warwick lost two home games to the weather last week and will struggle to play their remaining home fixtures, so much so that Tivvy´s rearrangement has still not been pencilled in. And the news that Evesham had dropped two points at home tasted even sweeter.
Now the attention switches to Tuesday night when Hinckley take on Mangotsfield, Shepshed travel to Evesham and Tivvy travel to Rocester. The big surprise is that Thursday sees just Tivvy v Gresley. Will other clubs rearrange games for then as well? The likes of Solihull Borough, RC Warwick, Weston-super-Mare and Cinderford certainly cannot afford to miss the chance of catching up on their fixtures. One wonders just how long the League will sit on the fence. Maybe now is the time for them to draw up a list of fixtures designed to ensure that the league does finish in a month´s time. Without guidance, it is certain that some clubs will be many games short of the required 42 come May 5th. At least the FA have now stepped in and intimated that clubs affected by promotion/relegation issues who are getting no help from their league have the right to appeal to the FA. Precisely how practical this will be is not certain, but the fact that the FA have opened their mouths might wake the league up into the realisation that they have a genuine crisis on their hands. One factor may force their hand. Have they got enough officials willing to run games at such short notice? Remember, all the assistant referees on the Southern League are referees in their own right in such competitions as the Hellenic and Western Leagues, both who have their own fixture crises.

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 Dave Toomey, 10 Steve Daly, 11 Stuart Smith.

Subs: 12 Paul Chenoweth (Neil Saunders), 14 Phil Everett (Dave Toomey), 15 Richard Pears (Stuart Smith).

BILSTON TOWN: 1 Danny Watson, 2 Neil Manton, 3 Gary Osbourne, 4 Gavin Stone, 5 Mark Clifton, 6 Brett Wilcox (captain), 7 Danny Williams, 8 Leon Jackson, 9 Scott Voice, 10 Lee Rollason, 11 Danny Coates
Subs: 12 Nathan Rose-Laing (for Lee Rollason, 76m), 14 Leon Woodley (for Danny Coates. 85m), 15 Kris Sage (not used)

REFEREE: Steven Dorr (Worcester).

This report ©2001 Nigel Davis

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