Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 2 Exeter City

   Thursday 07/05/2009   Devon St Luke's Cup
Alan Reidy

Devon St. Luke's Cup Final

If there is one way not to finish a football season then that is to lose a cup final, but Tiverton Town have to admit that they were second best against a youthful yet organised Exeter City side in the climax of the Devon St. Luke’s Cup at Ladysmead. However, things were far from clear-cut, and despite trailing to a couple of first-half goals the Yellows gave as good as they got after the break and might consider themselves somewhat unlucky that they didn’t register a goal at the very least.

It was a strange sort of game – few of the crowd showed a great deal of enthusiasm, Steve Book didn’t make a difficult save all night, and the season ended with a splutter of apathy rather than the fireworks and celebration that the County Cup final should offer. Tiverton had almost forgotten each other, so long had it been since the final league match at Brackley, and there was definitely a feeling of closure on the campaign throughout the evening for them; they weren’t expected to win and didn’t really look like they could. For their part Exeter sent a team made up primarily of youth players and included just a sprinkling of first-team experience in their ranks. Ben Watson and Jack Obersteller had made nineteen league appearances between them, and Scot Bennett, the Grecians’ captain for the evening was only once named in the first team squad, but remained on the bench as his senior colleagues battled out a 1-1 draw at home to AFC Bournemouth in November.

What made the match more curious in its feel was the almost boundless success that City had enjoyed over the past two years – the previous Saturday saw the Club clinch a second successive promotion up in Sheffield, but the final was not the chosen time to give the loyal supporters the chance to applaud their heroes back in the Two-Moored country. Understandably the bulk of the main squad were given the night off (hell, the kids had got this far in the competition, let them have their moment), and an open-top bus parade through the city centre was just a couple of days away anyway.

And so here we were, two teams under no pressure trying to provide a spectacle, but for the bulk of the game they failed. Yes, City were technically smart, they passed quickly from defence and into the advanced midfield areas, they retained possession, they even fired in a couple of shots from distance that did little to create the feeling that the event should deserve. Bennett twice went close inside the first ten minutes but initially miskicked at the far post when meeting a corner from the right, and then headed over when the ball was pumped quickly back into the area. Watson also saw an opportunity go to waste as he outpaced Matt Villis but then contrived to shoot lamely at Book from the edge of the area.

Noah Keats shot wide after good work on the right from Dan Green, while at the other end Tiverton created a few chances but were ultimately blunt in front of goal. Bobby Hopkinson’s free kick from near the left touchline was poked wide by Tom Gardner, Tom Knighton dragged a weak shot three yards outside the target when Paul Wyatt appeared well placed to receive a timely pass, and Hopkinson then had a shot blocked that brought to an end Tivvy’s best move of the game, a play that started on the right with Adam Faux, moved inside to Mike Booth, and then expanded the full width of the pitch for Paul Jarvis to cut back.

The block on Hopkinson’s effort gave Exeter the chance to counter, and typically for such an atypical match the visitors laid down their best intentions, threw away the concept of passing and moving, and zapped Tivvy on the break. A ball from deep was sent through the middle, neither Booth nor Villis had the legs to intercept, and in raced Watson behind the defence to ram a shot low past the over-exposed Book.

Tiverton were rocked but not about to roll over and quickly worked two chances to strike back. The first, a free kick to the right of the area was curled in by Jarvis, on target but without the fizz required to cause any commotion for Nick Jordan. Five minutes later another set piece, this time a corner from the left, led to Arran Pugh heading on target, only for Green to be in place just inside the post to divert the ball away from danger.

To get anything from the game Tiverton simply had to score the next goal, but Exeter had other ideas and effectively ended the game as a contest with another direct goal, this time instigated by Lewis Tasker deep in his own left-back position. With Adam Faux harrying and harassing, Tasker took a simple pass from Obersteller, launched the ball long, and stood to watch. Nathan Rudge left the ball (it will run through to the ’keeper), Booth also left it, and Craig Veal didn’t leave it, instead capitalising on some ponderous defending to nip in and emulate Watson ten minutes earlier by blasting the ball past Book.

Pugh had another far post header right at the end of the first half but missed the mark by a long way, and with the game well under control Exeter were able to cruise through the second half. They cruised to such an extent that they barely ventured out of their own half, happily put nine or ten bodies behind the ball, and were at ease to surrender possession to their hosts. The second 45 wasn’t so much one-way traffic as no-way traffic, for try as they might Tiverton were not able to turn territory into goals.

Wyatt air-kicked a Hopkinson centre and later fell over under his own momentum after a mazy run that didn’t really have too many people remembering Maradona. Jarvis showed his appetite for a shot or two and saw both attempts blocked, and Knighton did well to hit the by-line but his cross was a foot too far in front of the onrushing Wyatt.

The one exploration into Yellows territory that City mustered (or could be bothered to muster) saw the quietly effective Green once again at the heart of things, and he teed up substitute Kyle Bassett to curl a left-footed shot that Book helped around the post with relative comfort. The game was flat, the winner was assured, and with one final throw of the dice Tivvy came within a whisker of registering. Knighton again, this time on the right, skipped into a good position, cut inside and hammered a shot into Jordan’s midriff. There was enough purchase on the effort that the City custodian was unable to hold on, and Gardner pounced on the rebound and crashed the ball straight into the nether-regions of the well-placed Bennett on the line.

And so it came to pass that Exeter City can pronounce themselves Devon County champions. One can’t help but think this wasn’t the most emotional evening of their season (it wasn’t even their most emotional evening of the past week). Tiverton missed out on a tenth St. Luke’s triumph but they can look back on the past nine months with a degree of pride. League form has improved, a decent FA Trophy run gave some mid-season excitement, and… there is always next year!

Tiverton Town: Steve Book; Adam Faux, Paul Jarvis, Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Arran Pugh (Alex Faux 73), Bobby Hopkinson, Tom Knighton, Mike Booth, Paul Wyatt
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Exeter City: Nick Jordan; Noah Keats, Jack Obersteller, Aaron Dawson, Ronnie Bull, Scot Bennett, Lewis Tasker, Dan Green, Ben Watson (Kyle Bassett 54), Craig Veal (Dan Western 85), Elliot Frear
Goals: Watson 27, Veal 37
Booked: None
Sent off: None

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy






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