Match report

Stafford Rangers 1 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 01/11/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Last week was not a good one. Hopes and expectations had been high. The passage of seven days left me deflated but‚ like the hardy handful that struggled past Clevedon on the M5 heading to Stafford‚ hoping that the topsy-turvy world of football might provide another unexpected turn to lift my spirits. After the win at Nuneaton‚ Dorchester was mildly unsettling but not a disaster. Hednesford burst my slightly depressurised bubble at the start of the week and whilst the Devon Bowl exit flattened me completely - along with many others - life went on. I turned my anticipatory thoughts away from football and towards the more fickle attractions of the fairground. Thursday‚ rain‚ and Bampton. Despite my thirty seven years sojourn in Devon - almost‚ but not quite a local´ now! - I had never made the trip up the Exe Valley to the famous early November fest´. To my mind came childhood and teenage memories of Oxford´s St Giles Fair‚ a two day feast of steam organ music and flashing lights‚ toffee apples and candy-floss‚ that blocks half a mile of that City´s main thoroughfare and rouses the famous spires from their dreams. I really should know by now not to build my expectations on memories for Bampton was another anticlimax. Hardly a roundabout‚ nary a swing in sight. We retired to a local hostelry to enjoy a traditional sing around‚ leaving Things Can Only Get Better´ blaring from giant speakers in the centre of the Waltzer´. I wasn´t convinced‚ considering that the next item on the agenda was Tivvy´s fourth visit to Manor Road‚ a location hardly noted for Yellow celebrations. Well‚ at least it would be a chance to ride a roller coaster.......

Within three minutes of Tivvy kicking off they could have found themselves doing it again as Rangers Daniel Davidson showed why he is the Dr Martens League top scorer. Running at the Tiverton defence the rangy striker fired in a shot from the right hand corner of the penalty area that had Stuart Fraser beaten but cleared the far post‚ and the outstretched foot of Craig Wilding‚ by inches. Davidson´s threat was duly noted and it was to be the only occasion for more than an hour that he was to be anything more than a threat. Town showed that they too could move forward enough to menace their opponents goal‚ Steve Winter lifting a 35 yard free kick over the crossbar on five minutes and Jamie Mudge and Richard Pears combining well to open up the defence but Pears´ lobbed cross was too far for Paul Milsom at the far post to reach. It was certainly an open start to the game as the two sides swapped chances. Rangers´ Robin Gibson escaped down the left‚ put through Robert Heath who brought a full length save from Fraser as the keeper turned the ball round the post for a corner and some slick passing from Milsom and Pears saw them tee the ball up for Paul Chenoweth to blast in a shot that was still rising as it cleared the crossbar by a yard. But the home team were carving more openings‚ and better ones‚ as the quarter hour mark was reached‚ though it was an incident involving Davidson and Rudge‚ followed by a foul on Winter by the Stafford man‚ that caused the 15th minute to be noted in the referee´s book as he showed the yellow card to the striker. A couple of minutes on and Pears and Milsom were at it again‚ running at the centre of the defence and forcing Wayne Daniels into deflecting the ball away to Graeme Power pushing forward on the left. Power let fly but it was a typical defender´s shot curling away rather than towards the goal. Another Stafford attack was broken up and another Tiverton one mounted down the right. brought to an abrupt end when Winter‚ having hurdled over one outstretched leg to continue his sprint down the line was sent apex over base by a second. The offending limb belonged to Richard Beale‚ who found his name joining that of Davidson in the referee´s contact book.
It was to mark the start of a major offensive by the home side that lasted almost unabated until the half time whistle. Gibson‚ out on the left was involved in a high proportion of the action. A dangerous cross towards Davidson‚ headed away by Rudge in the 22nd minute. Six minutes later a not so instant replay with the striker getting to the ball under pressure that was enough to disrupt his aim so that the ball flew over the top. Another two minutes and another right wing cross that was over hit. Stafford must have thought the weak spot in the Yellows defence was on that flank but they weren´t allowing for the fact that the strength was in the middle and their energies in sending in high crosses was being wasted. Davidson did turn Rudge on the ground once but as he broke into the area Rees prodded the ball off his toe‚ out to the wing. The resulting cross was easily headed away by Rudge. Stafford defender Craig McAughtrie moved forward to try to show his forwards how to do it and hit in an effort that was wide and lifting‚ and even when a Rangers corner developed into a scramble in the goalmouth they were unable to force the ball into the net. Just to remind the spectators that there were two teams that might score‚ Mudge rounded off the half with an added time effort that went where so many had previously‚ over the crossbar.

Before the half time tea and burger queue had diminished the first entry was on the scoresheet. Stafford kicked off and moved forward. The raid was broken up by Chris Holloway and Rob Cousins‚ the ball being cleared wide to the right‚ just inside the Rangers half. Facing his own goal‚ and with Stafford skipper Lee Barrow close up behind him‚ Milsom controlled the ball‚ waggled his foot a couple of times as he turned inside and broke into the clear. One look up and Pears was spotted in the middle. Off went the ball. Pears in turn spotted Mudge further across field and in space‚ another touch on that spread-eagled the back line. Jamie took the ball in his stride and closed on the penalty area. The defenders that had been drifting to the left had managed to change direction but were still yards away as Jamie hit his shot past Ryan Price in the Rangers goal before the keeper could narrow the angle to difficult proportions. 0 -1 and all the fun of the fair couldn´t have made the travelling fans happier. It was hardly surprising that the home side doubled their efforts. Town were forced back on the defensive. The midfield joined the back line. Pears and Milsom dropped back towards midfield to attempt to collect the clearances and make the breaks. Milsom went down with a knock‚ felt a hamstring twinge and was replaced by Kevin Nancekivell. It was a sound move‚ Nance chased like a tiger whenever the ball came near him and when it didn´t he chased to get near it. Right on the hour mark Stafford had a throw in level with the edge of the Tivvy penalty area. McAughtrie hurled in a long one and with a Tiverton boot making insignificant contact the ball fell to Wilding who turned and shot from eight yards out. Fraser could only have had milliseconds to see the ball but managed to send it up and over the bar for a corner. Gibson became an exception to the high´ rule when he blasted a shot wide and the barrage began to ease.
A strange thing began to happen as the effect of the floodlights began to be noticeable. Perhaps it was the changing light but both sides began to send numerous passes astray. The ball was either given to an opponent or sent yards in front of or behind a team-mate. Both sets of players were guilty but for ten minutes or so it was like watching Saturday morning parks football and there was little of excitement happening. As if to underline the fact that Town had weathered the storm they managed a little more forward movement. Mudge had a couple of breaks down the wing but there was no support through the middle‚ and on seventy minutes Pears fired a hopeful shot wide. Then‚ on 73 minutes, Davidson escaped the close attention that had been containing him. Found in space (sounds like a new sci-fi series) by Robert Heath and with the ball at his toe, he juggled his way past a couple of tackles, Rees and Cousins I believe, as he cut in from the left corner of the area. Braking into more space he hit a shot that had just the right degree of curl to carry it past Fraser but inside the upright to give Rangers an equaliser that it must be said, on the balance of the game, they deserved. Stafford lifted their effort again but it was matched by the determination of the Yellows. Wilding did find himself through the defensive blockade but his scuffed shot under pressure from Power only just managed to reach Fraser. As the home side pushed more and more players upfield, so the chances of the breakaway by Tiverton increased and with nine minutes of regular time remaining Holloway found Pears whose touch sent the ball skimming mere inches wide. But the majority of the action was at the other end, even full back Beale joining in by adding to the streams of long range shots that were flying over the bar or being beaten away with every legitimate part of the anatomy - though obviously there were screams of handball´ from the home fans every time a stomach or chest met the ball. And so to the final twist, the last pass that rounds of the stick of candy-floss and makes it just that little bit sweeter. A clean clearance from the seven man defence, forward towards one of the two men in midfield, Pears. A long lob upfield for the forward to chase. Mudge collected it, and though under close marking from Barrow, turned towards goal. The pair of them were shoulder to shoulder for several yards and were still so as Jamie shot. Price had left a gap. The ball found it and the net billowed. Eighty eight minutes. The law of probability said that there would not be any further change. Two minutes into added time there was - Barrow was replaced, possibly by a sympathetic manager who wanted to allow him to escape to the dressing room un-noticed by the home fans - he had been involved in both the Tiverton goals. But that was the only change. The scoreline didn´t.

The Yellows ability to dig deep and force a result in difficult games has again kept them in touch wit the top of the table. Any of a dozen clubs could find themselves heading the ratings by putting together a sequence of three or four good results. It could be Tivvy.


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter, Graeme Power, Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Paul Chenoweth, Chris Holloway, Richard Pears, Paul Milsom (Kevin Nancekivell, 52), Jamie Mudge (Danny Haines, 89).
Subs: Steve Ovens, David Steele, Shaun Goff,
Booked: Power.

Stafford Rangers: Ryan Price, Craig McAughtrie, Richard Beale, Lee Barrow (Nick Colley, 90), Wayne Daniel, Craig Lovatt, Matt Carragher, Robert Heath, Danny Davidson, Craig Wilding, Robin Gibson.
Subs: Gary Fife, Lee Downes, Alan Dodd, Mark Lowry.
Booked: Davidson, Beale.

Att: 804

Referee: S K Checkette

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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