Match report

Gresley Rovers 1 - 3 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 08/01/2000   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

One has to wind the clock back 70 years - to April 11th 1930‚ Good Friday to be precise - to find the last time that Tivvy encountered opposition from Derbyshire and this excellent performance in the face of adversity saw them maintain their unbeaten run´ against teams from this hinterland that divides the North from the South. Their opponents last century were Chesterfield and it ended all square at 1-1 with the visitors gifting Tivvy an own goal at The Elms in front of over 1‚000 fans.
Gresley‚ based in the the suburbs of Swadlincote in Church Gresley‚ have an impressive pedigree very much akin to Tivvy´s but their turning point was in 1997 when‚ having walked the Southern League Premier Division‚ they were refused entry into the Conference. One can see why as their compact Moat ground has little changed over the past couple of decades and‚ hemmed in by houses and their respective gardens‚ there is little room for the necessary improvements. Since then their fortunes have waned - as has their support (although Tivvy s travelling hordes swelled the crowd to 493‚ just 35 short of this season´s best‚ recorded over Christmas in the local derby with Shepshed) - and they look to have an uphill battle. Indeed‚ whichever way you ran on their pitch appeared to be uphill as the ground´s layout defied description - apart from undulating. As the teams came out for their respective warm-ups‚ Tivvy opted for the goal that was usable. The other was corderned off akin to a cricket square in order to reduce the amount of mud/sand churning that would inevitably turn that six-yard box into a quagmire come a quarter to five.
A quick head count from yours truly led me to believe that Martyn Grimshaw would be on the bench as both Neil Saunders and Darren Tallon were missing and Steve Daly was togged up against the elements‚ watching from the sidelines. It transpired that Neil‚ who has been a bit under the weather of late‚ was rested. It was probably no coincidence that Allison was imminently due to give birth to a brother or sister for their son Reece and so new signing Nicky Marker was elevated to skipper for the day. Darren was given the opportunity for a game with Liskeard‚ which he duly accepted‚ but this left the side sorely short of defenders with Steve Ovens and Richard Pears joining Grimmers on the bench. And oh how costly that looked just 16 minutes into an action-packed opening spell. Gresley immediately looked a tough nut to crack and set their stall in the third minute when left wing-back Dave Kearns caught Scott Rogers to pick up a booking. Six minutes later he collided with Luke Vinnicombe‚ reducing Tivvy to ten men for the next four as the young right back had his face literally patched up. Worse was to follow in the 16th minute as Stuart Smith‚ wearing Neil´s shirt‚ was stretchered off to hospital with a stud hole above his right knee. Steve Ovens came on in his place‚ slotting in at right back with Vinnicombe switching wings.
Gresley were certainly competitive - more clumsy than dirty - but this chain of events only seemed to stiffen the Ambers´ resolve and they rolled their sleeves up and took the game to their hosts. Bolstered by a great point-blank save from Paul Edwards Tivvy concentrated on asking questions of Gresley and the breakthrough came in the 28th minute when‚ after concerted Tivvy pressure‚ Pete Varley was on hand to lash the ball home from 10 yards. Ten minutes later‚ Kevin Nancekivell interecepted a Gresley clearance just inside the hosts´ half. He scampered forward. There was one defender and the advancing keeper to negotiate and having wrong-footed both he unselfishly slid the ball sideways into Varley´s path for the simplest of tap-ins to double his and Tivvy´s tally.
The second half started in similar vein and inside three minutes a corner had been won. Pete Conning steered the ball towards the near post‚ Phil Everett flicked it with his head staright to Nicky Marker who glanced the ball home despite an excellent attempt by Stuart Ford whose fingertips diverted the ball to the inside of the far post - but without enough purchase to stop it crossing the line. Needless to say that this was the trigger for Rovers to up the ante.They substituted Kearns with Steve Spooner within three minutes of the restart and started tormenting the out of position Steve Ovens. One cross whipped in from their left wing was just inches away from being headed home by top scorer Neil Kitching and‚ in the 56th minute‚ their endeavours bore fruit when Graeme Fowkes turned Ovens on the flank before cutting inside and rifling the ball home under Paul Edwards´ despairing dive.
Not surprisingly‚ Ovens and Dominic Richardson swapped positions with the ex-Witney man taking up a more forward role - Dom reverting to the position that he had played in earlier in the season.
The game went off the boil‚ becoming increasingly scrappy. Gresley‚ reduced to long range shots‚ peppered the Tivvy goal but rarely troubled Edwards as most of their efforts were high. In rare raids‚ Tivvy also came close‚ most notably when Nancekivell raced through after 68 minutes only to see his shot bounce wide of the far post.
With Gresley now having used all their substitutes‚ Tivvy made the final ten minutes their own‚ winning a handful of corners. Richard Pears came on for two-goal hero Varley in the 90th minute and in injury time Ovens was unlucky to see his shot tipped away for another corner by Ford. There was still time for the referee to caution Ricky Marshall. Ironic really because the player he had replaced‚ Mark Peters‚ had spent the hour that he had played treading a thin line trying the referee´s patience. Phil Everett will certainly remember the tussles he had with him!
So‚ a first victory on Derbyshire soil - and the first time that Gresley had conceded three at home this season. And better news was to follow as Yate pulled off the shock of the day beating Solihull Borough 1-0 to not only record their first away win of the season but to consign Borough to their first home league defeat to boot. This‚ combined with Tivvy´s three points‚ meant that Martyn´s men leapfrogged over them into 4th slot.
Line up: Edwards‚ Vinnicombe‚ Smith, Tatterton, Marker, Conning, Nancekivell, Varley, Richardson, Rogers, Everett.
Subs: Ovens (Smith 19), Pears (Varley 90), Grimshaw.

This report ©2000 Nigel Davis

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