Match report

Brackley Town 1 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 25/04/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

To close out the Southern League season Tiverton Town made a road trip for the fifth successive year, this time to Brackley Town, a venue only visited once before, and an opponent that had yet to record a victory over the Yellows. Recent history dictated that Tiverton would be unlikely to record a victory, as one must travel back to the promotion season of 2000-01 to find the last time Tivvy won their final league game, but after a remarkably tame first forty-five minutes, during which time Brackley nosed ahead, the form book was upset as Tiverton turned up the wick and eventually ran out deserved winners.

Early explorations were cautious, and Tom Wilshere between the Brackley sticks had little to concern him besides fielding the ball from behind his goal as both Bobby Hopkinson and Paul Jarvis failed to hit the target. At the other end of the pitch Steve Book at least had the opportunity to test the grip on his gloves, and the veteran goalkeeper was in place to deny Dean Cracknell, although the shot was too hot to hold. Having parried the ball away Elliot Sandy picked up the pieces only to ram his shot into the legs of Matt Villis.

There was little flow to the game as both sides struggled to come to terms with a blustery wind, and for extended periods the ball was high in the air rather than on a fine surface that Martyn Rogers described as "the best pitch we have played on this season". Tiverton’s preferred outlet was the right flank, but Jarvis spent most of the first half slipping over on the lush turf, and when he did gain control of the ball Brackley’s David Perpetuini tended to be in control. Jarvis was regularly directed inside, and then regularly thwarted by Perpetuini and the young Ross Oulton, while over on the left side Tom Gardner toiled with very little attacking threat.

After half an hour of mediocrity the sparse crowd finally had something to applaud as Brackley took a lead that they deserved on the balance of play. Ben Mackey was allowed time to control the ball fifteen yards inside the Tivvy half of the pitch, sauntered forward and fired in a low shot from just outside the penalty area. Book had a good enough view of the shot, but the ball curled away from his right hand, helped by the stiff breeze, and squeezed inside the post. At this stage there was little to indicate that Tiverton might have had what it takes to get back into the match, the Yellows failing to put in a meaningful shot throughout the first period.

Brackley could have added to their lead but Mackey shot straight at Book after a swift move through the middle involving Oulton and Mark Rawle, and the same played also blasted a shot into the side netting after poking the ball past Book but too wide for comfort. The last action before the half time cuppa saw Tiverton on a rare attack, but after Arran Pugh had helped on a Mark Saunders ball, Paul Wyatt’s powerful effort was blocked bravely by Alex Cowley’s backside.

The restart of the game following the interval saw limited improvement, and although Tivvy enjoyed more possession and a territorial advantage they were shot-shy. Both Wyatt and Tom Knighton had manoeuvred into good positions but laboured too long ultimately meaning they were closed down before pulling the trigger. And the deficit was nearly increased after fifty-six minutes, but when Mark Rawle robbed Mike Booth to instigate a counter attack from half way, a final chipped effort from Elliot Sandy drifted just the wrong side of the upright.

The hour mark had only just passed when the most decisive moment of the game arrived; Saunders and Wyatt were removed from the action, with Alex Faux and Damien Connery replacing the pair. The reshuffle saw Gardner back in a more accustomed and comfortable central role as Faux took to the left flank, and Booth advanced into the midfield berth vacated by Saunders. But it was Connery that had the greatest impact when he netted his first senior goal six minutes after coming on. A long ball from the left appeared to be drifting out of play for a goal kick, but Matt Villis had other ideas and did well to pull it back from close to the goal line. With Wilshere disorientated, and defenders scrambling for position Connery was the quickest to react, and the youngster prodded the ball into the net from five yards.

The goal, along with the substitutions, had rejuvenated Tiverton and for the final twenty-five minutes there was only really one team in it. Jarvis, who by now had managed to keep his footing for an extended period of time, continued to fine-tune his radar – another shot went wide but he was getting closer. Booth, more at home in midfield, also had a sighter but his drive was deflected out for a corner, and Connery nodded a Hopkinson cross a few inches over Wilshere’s bar.

Time was running out but Tiverton had the momentum as they continued to battle for a winner, and Gardner skied a shot before Knighton missed the daddy of all sitters. Having defied the laws of physics to steal a high ball from Wilshere Knighton had the goal at his mercy but carelessly aimed his shot straight at the legs of Anthony Fontanelle, the only defender in the immediate vicinity.

Cracknell shot straight at Book and player/manager Jon Brady failed to hit the target on the only two counter attacks from the home side, and with just two minutes remaining Booth set up Jarvis only for Wilshere to extend himself and push the winger’s stinging shot out for a corner. The set piece was cleared, Brackley regrouped, but Tiverton then dealt the final blow in the last minute of normal time. Jarvis was again at the heart of the move, switching the ball to Hopkinson in space. With the wind still gusting in Tivvy’s favour Hopkinson took a chance from distance, making perfect contact with a strike that swerved one way and then the other, perplexing Wilshere, and rippling the net.

It was a fitting end to a fine season for Hopkinson, and the victory meant that there were happy faces wearing yellow at the end of a campaign that had promised much. The fact that Tiverton ended well short of the playoffs will be a source of some disappointment, but progress had been made after two very poor years. Rogers admitted that inconsistant home form at the tail end of 2008 had hampered the push for a higher finishing position, and was pragmatic about his team’s performance over the past eight months. The groundwork has been done, advancements made, and next season will hopefully see a further movement in the right direction.


Brackley Town: Tom Wilshere, Alex Cowley, David Perpetuini (Anthony Fontanelle 81), Ross Oulton, Derek Brown, Danny Spencer, Dean Cracknell, Jon Brady, Elliot Sandy, Ben Mackey, Mark Rawle (Wayne Blossom 78)
Goals: Mackey 31
Booked: None
Sent off:

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Paul Jarvis, Mike Booth, Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Arran Pugh, Bobby Hopkinson, Tom Knighton, Mark Saunders (Alex Faux 61), Paul Wyatt (Damien Connery 61)
Goals: Connery 67, Hopkinson 89
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 210


This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






Please note: The � or ? character in some older reports denotes where an error has occured in translation when the reports were transfered between databases