Match report

Farnborough 1 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Tuesday 31/03/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

What a difference a decade and a half makes! A little under fifteen years ago Tiverton Town made their first trip to Cherrywood Road to take on a Farnborough Town side that had recently enjoyed promotion to the Football Conference, and were flying high in their new surroundings. That day in late autumn saw Tivvy win 5-1 in what is regarded by many as the finest every performance this Club has delivered. The surroundings was a ramshackle ground in need of rather more than a lick of paint, and a large contingent of locals that simply couldn’t comprehend what had happened to their beloved. Fast forward to the modern day and Farnborough had dropped their suffix and their home was resplendent in yellow and blue, a truly magnificent ground that has undergone a great deal of loving attention over the past couple of years. Cherrywood Road is second to none in the Southern League, a real ground with a real atmosphere, and, unfortunately for Tiverton, a side that wasn’t about to cave in against the underdog.

The first important thing of note was the Tiverton line-up. With the versatility offered by Adam Faux, Mike Booth, Paul Jarvis, and more latterly Tom Gardner, it was just a case of looking and learning. I looked and I tried to learn, but while it looked like a 5-3-2 at one moment, by the next it had morphed into a 4-4-1-1, and then seconds later it was something more akin to an inverted W-M. Frankly I never could tell; Faux was definitely on the right, but neither a wing back nor a winger; Villis, making his first start since the dawn of time, was either one of three centre-backs, or a right back drawn inside. Gardner might have been a left back, a left sided centre-back or a left wing-back… It was a mystery, but one thing that wasn’t was that seventeen year old Damien Connery was playing as an isolated lone striker. Bobby Hopkinson tried to support when he could, and Arran Pugh was advanced on occasions, but poor Connery was generally up there alone. Jarvis started on the left (of midfield, or defence?) and Booth was most definitely in the centre of a defence that might have incorporated three men, but equally could have counted up to six.

A cautious first fifteen minutes saw Boro marginally on top, and the lively Nic Ciardini was a particular threat down the left flank, but Tiverton showed they would be no pushovers for the promotion chasing league leaders. Indeed, the first two sights on goal came from the visitors; Hopkinson screeched a twenty-five yard free kick a couple of feet over Ryan Barnard’s crossbar, and soon afterwards Mark Saunders misdirected a far post header after stealing in to meet Jarvis’ deep free kick from the right, a set play earned after Hopkinson had tumbled beneath the attentions if David Woozley.

In truth if Tivvy were to get a goal it would probably come from a set piece, and Farnborough looked the more able in possession, although they were forced to play deeper as a threadbare Town side, without a recognised senior striker, aimed to stifle the threat. Steve Laidler had a decent effort saved and held by Steve Book as the hosts began to take control of the game, and Mo Harkin should have done better when he met Ciardini’s cross, but the midfielder could only drag his half-volley back across the face of goal and wide of the post.

Ciardini then decided to go it alone, racing from his left back, slot sixty yards forward, but having expended a few too many kilojoules the eventual shot was wastefully high. However, Farnborough finally took the lead, just about deserved, in the thirty-third minute with another move down their left flank. Ramon Calliste found space out wide, skipped inside Mike Booth and fed the ball square to Mark Gamble. With Nathan Rudge over him like a rash Gamble forced himself into enough room to lay the ball off and Laidler was on hand to fire an assured finish into the bottom corner.

It was a good goal by a good team on a good pitch, but it was only one, and Jarvis almost capitalised on some lacklustre defending to pull Tivvy level before the interval. Picking up on a tardy square ball from David Ray, Jarvis raced goalwards but, much like his opposite number Ciardini before him, the shot was high and harmless. For those few seconds Jarvis was a left winger, but it wasn’t long until a further reshuffle took place and Jarvis was on the right, with Hopkinson wide on the left and… yes, the technically gifted Booth was still in central defence.

As the game wore on through the second period there was an air of anxiety building among the home supporters and the home team, and for the love of God they couldn’t force a mistake from the Tiverton defence that would give them a cushion. Stefan Bailey headed yet another fine Ciardini cross straight at Book ten minutes after the restart, Tom Gardner earned a yellow card and a ticking off for a rather agricultural barge on Leigh Rumbold, and a substitution apiece failed to help the game open out into a spectacle. Booth, despite his earlier skinning that lead to the goal, was as infallible in defence as he would have been anywhere else on the pitch; the problem was Tivvy needed his nouse, his touch, his vision elsewhere. Villis, Rudge and Gardner are employed to stop goals, a player of Booth’s ability should be creating and scoring them.

With twenty minutes still remaining Hopkinson was denied by Barnard in what was Tiverton’s best chance of the game, Jarvis combining with Paul Wyatt, but the latter was unable to set up Hopkinson perfectly, and the eventual shot was rushed under pressure. The fresh legs of Alex Faux replaced the tired pair belonging to Mark Saunders, but with Boro becoming more cautious amid the pressure of fighting for the title there was little space for any of the Tiverton attacking players to excel, and in the final minute Laidler should have put the game to bed, only for Book to save well one on one.

Farnborough: Ryan Barnard; David Ray, Nic Ciardini, David Woozley, Leigh Rumbold, Steve Laidler, Mo Harkin, Stefan Bailey, Mark Gamble, Ramon Calliste (Marcus Richardson 68), Adam Wilde
Goals: Laidler 33
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux, Paul Jarvis, Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Mike Booth, Bobby Hopkinson, Damien Connery (Paul Wyatt 60), Mark Saunders (Alex Faux 79), Arran Pugh (David Hood 90)
Booked: Gardner 52
Sent off: None

Attendance: 524

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






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