Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Dover Athletic

   Saturday 08/11/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

I thought it might be because it was the morning of Remembrance Sunday and the radio had been continually reminding me of the fact. No matter how hard I tried to banish the thoughts‚ every time the name Dover came to mind I thought of Vera Lynn. Now‚ I would assume that the good people of that port must be sick of the fact that their hometown is more famous for its mention in a wartime morale boosting song than it is for whatever its more tangible attractions are‚ though I admit‚ I couldn´t think of any. To check that I wasn´t being unduly influenced by my background sounds (88 to 91FM) I took the option so frequently offered by Chris Tarrent on Millionaire´ of phoning a friend - or three - requesting quick responses to a place name with a person they associated with that place. Grantham...Maggie T‚ three times. Stratford...William Shakespeare‚ three times‚ Dover...Vera Lynn twice. Two out of three ain´t bad‚ as a latter day artist was to sing. Point close enough to being proved. Dover‚ white cliffs‚ bluebirds‚ and The Forces Sweetheart were as unseperatably linked as Siamese twins‚ or should that be Siamese quadruplets? So allowing Vera and her ditty to be the start of my thought train I allowed it to meander off down the tracks. Vera. That song. War. Battles. Struggles. Dour times....Ah! Dover Athletic! Eureka! Prior to this weekends match Dover had certainly provided the latter for Tiverton fans. Two encounters last season and a goal as scarce as an Icelandic camel. A slightly more entertaining encounter in Kent earlier this season but The Yellows still extending their goal famine against Athletic to beyond 270 minutes...and even when the duck´ was broken it came courtesy of a Dover head. The prospects for a scintillating afternoon´s football were not good‚ or at least‚ not on past performances.
The afternoon did not start well. Hopes that Jason Smith would have received the clearance to return to a yellow shirt at Ladysmead were dashed. A non event‚ to be built up again‚ and hopefully realised next week at Weston. My bleak outlook returned. At this rate I wouldn´t even have been surprised to hear that the moon was going to be switched off for an hour during the night.

That disappointment and the lack of high expectations were soon thrust aside as the game got underway. Tivvy appeared to be buoyant following their fighting victory at Stafford Rangers last weekend. A youthful looking Dover side must surely have the energy in those young legs to enable them to test the less responsive but more experienced limbs of Town. Never-the-less it was The Yellows that started with fire in their bellies. Just three minutes had passed when Chris Holloway‚ who had been dominant in midfield in the corresponding fixture in Kent earlier in the season‚ lobed a ball over the Dover defence. Two players gave direct chase‚ Town´s Richard Pears and the visitors captain Andy Arnott. Now‚ Pearsy´ is not renowned for being the swiftest of players but he outpaced the Dover man‚ though he could not increase his margin by enough to gain enough space to force in a shot and had to be content with winning´ the first corner of the game. Two minutes later and Holloway was in the frame to make a name for himself as the ball was forced out to him from a bout of penalty area action but his drive through the crowd ricocheted off Pears and away for the safety (Dover viewpoint) of a goal kick. Within a minute Jamie Mudge was to make the first of what was to be a multitude of bursts down the wings‚ this one down the right. And this one saw his energy go to waste as he overhit his cross. One facet of Tiverton´s game that was looking good was the wing play. Both Steve Winter on the right and Graeme Power on the left were pushing forward well‚ a point well emphasised in the seventh minute when Power´s charge down his side of the pitch again resulted in an overstruck cross‚ but Winter was far enough advance to collect it and lay it back for Holloway to have another crack. This time there was no need for a deflection to save Dover keeper Paul Hyde the effort of intervening - the ball found its way past the upright with no help. So‚ as I had written in the report of that first game at the Hoverspeed Stadium (nee Crabble) things were looking promising for Tivvy. Nine minutes gone and Stuart Fraser at last got both hands on the ball as Dover won a free kick on their left deep in the Tiverton half which was sent in high by Tommy Tyne to be plucked with ease out of the air by the Tivvy keeper‚ the first catch in an impeccable display of handling that Fraser was to give over the following 90 minutes or so. It was a brief moment of forward motion for the visitors as once more Tiverton took the initiative.
For over five minutes Town poured forward. Right flank‚ left flank‚ middle‚ all were blocked as Dover defended well‚ which in view of their defensive record made one wonder if it was the Tivvy attack that was lacking. On the quarter hour there were three chances in as many seconds for the Yellows as Pears‚ Paul Milsom and Winter all had efforts scrambled away. It was as frustrating as trying to breed Pandas in captivity. All the set up work was perfect but the consummation just wouldn´t happen! Then‚ as Athletic made a break‚ Tivvy were given a real scare‚ and Fraser a real taste of the action. Long ball out‚ pushed forward to Tyne in acres of space towards the left. Tyne flowed (Ouch!) to the by-line and forced in a cross-come-centre that had The Yellows keeper struggling at the near post to smother the ball at the foot of Craig Wilkins. As Tivvy broke Jamie Mudge was upended in full flight just inside the Dover half on the right. Winter floated the kick in beyond the far post to be met by the head of Power whose looping header had Hyde stretching up and back to hold it under pressure from Pears.
On 21 minutes we were treated to the miss of the season at Ladysmead so far. Not that many in the crowd were complaining since it was the home side that were the beneficiaries. Darren Davies escaped free down the left. His cross was flicked on deftly by Tyne to Lee Spiller just to the right and slightly back from the penalty spot. Spiller had enough time and space to have controlled the ball‚ rolled it to the dot and call up whoever normally takes penalty kicks for the Whites. He did none of those things. Wisely he had a go himself. Sadly (Dover viewpoint - again) his sense of direction was lacking and he missed by two clear yards. In retaliation Tivvy went back to the other end where Mudge showed his direction finder was more accurate‚ to such an extent that but for the foot of Arnott hacking the ball away‚ Tiverton would have found themselves in front. With goals looking as if they were about to become an endangered species - Pears‚ Mudge and even Rudge from 40 yards‚ tried - the breakthrough came with 37 minutes gone. Mudge down the left‚ attempted cross bounced back off legs of backtracking defender. Jamie continued his run and hoisted in a telling cross which was headed clear but only back to him deep in the corner. Undeterred Jamie cut back from the by-line to lift in another high ball and it proved to be spot on for Milsom to head thunderously past an anchored Hyde. Celebrations! ....and relief. Well imagine how the hierarchy of the WWF would have felt if Chi-Chi and An-An had hit it off! It was to prove the last significant part that Milsom was to play in the game. Two minutes later he was replaced by Kevin Nancekivell. Another twinge´ from the hamstring! Worrying‚ after a four figure investment but better safe than sorry. Dover came back a little, and it was a little, with a free kick that Pears headed out for a corner.....nice to see him helping out back there. In added time Mudge could have, and perhaps, should have, made the half time cushion more comfortable. Breaking on a typical burst he hammered in a shot from the right hand corner of the penalty area that Hyde couldn´t hold and was glad to see fall to a Dover boot rather than back to Jamie. Final drama was to come as Tyne forced the ball past Fraser after cutting in from the right. No worry for Tiverton, the flag had been up for offside from the moment the ball had been hit in Tyne´s direction. It was just that the man with the pennant was behind the one with the whistle and wasn´t seen until the later turned to check and saw a statue, one arm raised. A dangerous pose - look what happened to Venus de Milo when she adopted it.

It would almost be a novelty these days for The Yellows to have a bad first half and come out after the break firing on all cylinders. A novelty that I wouldn´t take the risk of planning, they might do as they have in the past and follow up a bad first 45 minutes with an equally uninspiring second 45, but I can´t help but hanker after the days when we used to say, Never mind, Tivvy always play better after the break´. As it is, the opposite seems to be the current case, and so it proved on this occasion. Admittedly there was perhaps a reason in that a second forced substitution saw Shaun Goff replace Power. Add to that the fact that Dover came out giving their all, as would have been expected, and the game re-started in far more even fashion. Well, not quite started´ since Hyde was forced to make a pair of excellent saves in the first minute. The first was from a low drive from Mudge as he cut in after twisting past and leaving Matt Carruthers; the second when Winter tried a thunderbolt after a similar break on the right. Wilkins had a shot from the edge of the penalty area at the Sponsors end that not only cleared the roof but also the netting - is that the first time this season? - and Dover substitute Tony Browne cleared a Rudge header off the line from a Tivvy corner. The entire contest had become tighter, the chances had begun to dry up. Athletic found another gear (a bit like driving a Skoda?) and by the 72nd minute they were definitely on top and almost all the action was taking place in the Tiverton half. Main reason for the swing appeared to be that they had discovered that young Goff was the weakest link´ (sorry Ann R. Please don´t get angry with me). Having become aware of that fact they concentrated the majority of their attacks on that wing, and sadly (Tivvy viewpoint!) Shaun was not up to the task. Time and time again he was enticed out of position or just plain beaten for pace as Jamie Day, Darren Davies and Substitute Simon Glover ganged up on him to expose his inexperience and give him a miserable time. The result was extra work for the central defensive trio of Rob Cousins, Jason Rees and Rudge. They had looked good in rehearsals last week at Stafford and they dealt with this games threats equally as well.
The closest Dover came to a goal was when Carruthers swung in a cross from the right and Winter wisely decided to head to safety beyond the far post. The connection was not what Steve had intended and the ball flew back across the goal, over the top of a startled Fraser, to bounce nearly vertically off the crossbar and be scrambled away to safety. It was to be the only time Fraser was really beaten. With the central defenders so on song´ Dover were forced wide from where they could only swing in crosses. Stuart held every one of them, not a hint of a punch, not a hint of a fumble and grab. For Tivvy the best chance of few in the second half, leaving those two opening minute opportunities aside, came at what would probably have been a killer´ moment. The 86th minute saw Mudge, still running like a steam train with a fully stoked firebox, send Pears free through the middle. Richard was not as quick 4 minutes from the end of the game as he was 4 minutes into it and was caught by Kenny Dyer just as he was about to shoot. Dyer´s boot shot out and as Pears swung his, the ball was no longer there, having been prodded away for a corner. One last effort´ for the visitors, a weak shot by Day. Steve Ovens was brought on and disrupted Dover´s momentum with his persistent chasing and challenging and for only the second time this season Tivvy had recorded two wins on the trot. Promising!

Yes, promising but there is still work to be done. It would perhaps be appropriate on this Sunday to twist the words of Winston Churchill to Parliament and the nation, after the battle of El Alemain, to fit Tiverton´s erratic showings in the opening third of this season. I do so without wishing to show any disrespect for either Churchill or those that gave their lives to protect our Country and way of life.
This is not the end. It is not even the end of the beginning. But it is, perhaps, the beginning of the end.


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter, Graeme Power (Shaun Goff, 46), Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Paul Chenoweth, Chris Holloway, Richard Pears, Paul Milsom (Nancekivell, 39), James Mudge (Steve Ovens, 89).
Subs not used: David Steele.
Bookings: Chenoweth, Rudge.

Dover Athletic: Paul Hyde, Matt Carruthers, Kenny Dyer, Dean Reading, Andy Arnott (Tony Browne, 46) Danny Chapman, Jamie Day, Lee Spiller, Craig Wilkins, Tommy Tyne, Darren Davies (Simon Glover, 74).
Subs not used: James Rogers, Dale Skelton, Simon Postma (GK).
Bookings: Spiller, Readings.

Referee: M Gooding (Bristol)

This report ©2003 John Reidy






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