The unofficial archives of Tiverton Town Football Club

Marlow 3 - 0 Tiverton Town

Saturday 29/11/2003   FA Trophy
John Reidy

There is a common belief that the British love an underdog. That might be true‚ but it's not exclusively a British trait. The minnow is always the hero wherever you go in the world and whenever the event may have taken place. From the moment David loaded up his sling with a handy boulder and brought Goliath to the ground with a well placed shot‚ the little 'un has always been admired for overcoming the odds. Latvia's European Championship playoff defeat of Turkey was celebrated throughout the world not just on the continent that it affected‚ or in the countries that‚ like England‚ had an axe to grind with the Turks. Just the fact that 'little Latvia' could put one over on 'mighty Turkey' was enough to fire the imagination of millions of football fans - apart from those living either side of the Bospherous. But sometimes the 'minnows' continue their exploits and eventually become whales (or maybe they regress and become Wales). Then the boot is on the other foot - though I have to admit‚ paraphrasing Irish 'Folkies' The Dubliners‚ "There's many a day I've travelled a hundred miles or more‚ but boots upon a minnow‚ I've never seen before" - and suddenly the 'Giant Killers' become the Giants that are being slain. For those that are used to being on the dishing out end it is hard to take. Tiverton Town fans had endured two such humiliations in a matter of weeks as they headed for Marlow. The last thing they wanted‚ or were prepared for‚ was a third.....It just couldn't happen.....could it?

The Yellows got the game underway and from Jamie Mudge's first touch there was little sign that Town were going to have any serious problems. Within a minute Jamie was up to speed to break free down the left wing and send in a looping cross to the far post to be nodded down across goal by Paul Milsom. The ball fell to a Marlow boot‚ though‚ and was hacked wildly away for a throw in which lead to Steve Winter firing in a low effort from wide on the right that brought home keeper Kieron Drake into early action with a forward dive to scoop up the ball. Back into midfield went the action but Paul Chenoweth and Chris Holloway were already beginning to stamp their authority on that area of the field and the Tiverton back line were not being pressurised. Indeed the first action that Nathan Rudge was involved in was in an attacking role as he drove forward to meet a Winter free kick and power his header inches wide of the upright after four minutes. The forward momentum from the visitors continued and as Marlow struggled to contain it they collected their first yellow card of the afternoon when Robert Wilkinson was penalised for a 'rough-house' tackle on Chenoweth. Town won a corner which Winter sent curling close in from the left‚ Holloway's header being cleared off the line; Drake just beat Pears to a Mudge cross from the right. The home side had their first effort from a free kick some thirty yard out. It wasn't much of an effort as Wilkinson blasted the ball laughably high‚ and when they were awarded another one in a similar position two minutes later it was blasted at the wall and deflected for a corner by Milsom. Still the majority of attacking play was coming from Tiverton‚ and a great deal of it was being initiated by Graeme Power on the left flank. Neat ball play and perceptive distribution was opening up the Marlow defence as the Tiverton man found as much space as he wanted. A long ball through the middle sent Chenoweth on a race with Drake‚ the Marlow keeper just winning to side-step the Tivvy midfielder‚ and Pears was sent on a break down the left that saw the ball switched to the right and then crossed in for Pears to see his shot deflected away for a corner - another inswinging effort and another Rudge header past the upright. Mudge‚ as usual‚ was being marshalled and outnumbered wherever he moved but did manage to force in a shot following a free kick after he had been blatantly body checked as he threatened to break into the penalty area.

For all this action in the approaches to his goal‚ Drake was not being tested. Even when Pears and Mudge combined well on the left and Jamie found Milsom unmarked at the far side of the box with the goal at his mercy‚ the keeper was not troubled by a shot that was sliced well wide. Despite the attention that was being heaped on Mudge he still looked the most likely to find the goal‚ though the first time he did manage to get a shot on target it was a powder puff effort that failed to bother Drake. Just past the half hour mark‚ the yellow half of the crowd were mili-seconds away from celebrating the breakthrough. Had it happened it would have come from an unexpected source. Winter made a run down the right. His cross was overhit and was heading for the corner flag on the left but Power was in full pursuit and caught the ball to gather it before it ran out‚ and manage to force it back into the middle to Chenoweth on the edge of the penalty area. 'Chens' tried to turn towards goal but was closed down and forced to lay the ball back further still to Holloway twenty five yards out. Holloway let fly and his shot was on course for the top right hand corner as he looked at the goal. A foot from the upright‚ a foot from the crossbar - both in the right direction - until‚ with the arms of the Tivvy fans behind the goal already beginning to lift in celebration‚ another arm was raised - towards the ball‚ that of Drake who had flung himself up and to the left to palm the ball round the post at the last minute. A fine save - nothing Hollywood about it‚ though it was spectacular. Chenoweth's corner was headed for a second‚ and that was scrambled away back to the taker who blasted high over the crossbar to give the Marlow back line a moments respite. It was only a moment‚ too. Mudge hit another effort over the crossbar‚ had another cross diverted for a corner‚ which Rudge was forward to head from deep against the defensive barricade‚ and then came the 'incident' that debatably changed the game. Marlow captain Tim Cook was shown the Yellow card for a shove on Pears. In the wall that lined up for the resulting free kick there was the 'normal' push‚ shove‚ twist and tug. Rudge raised an elbow‚ Cook ran five yards and fell to the deck as if hit by a steam hammer. The referee had seen the elbow go up and had no hesitation in brandishing the red card. Whether there had been contact‚ which some maintained there was not‚ is irrelevant. The intention was there‚ childish and petty though it might have been‚ and the intention was enough to warrant the red. There was a quick reorganisation for the remaining minutes of the half and Tivvy maintained their pressure, Pears chipping over both keeper and cross bar, but for all their efforts Tiverton had failed to find the net in the first 45 minutes.

It was inevitable that the change in numerical balance between the teams would have repercussions to some degree in the balance of play. When the second half got underway those consequences were not immediately obvious. The two teams appeared quite evenly matched, which might have been regarded as a change after the Tiverton had been the predominant side before the break. But anyone wandering in to the ground at half time probably would not have realised, without counting, that it was ten men against eleven. The Yellows were still very much in the game. Power had been moved into the back line to replace Rudge, Milsom was playing deeper in a more orthodox midfield role. Marlow tried to use the 'extra' man but it their efforts bore little fruit as The remaining Yellows covered extra ground. The home side had another free kick that was wasted by a shot from 35 yards out that was cleared away by Jason Rees, whilst Mudge and Pears were still finding space to send in speculative, if powerless, shots. The fact that Stuart Fraser actually had to deal with a shot on target on the hour mark, when Michael Floyd found himself as the spare man on the left hand corner of the Tiverton penalty area, showed that Marlow, too, were not out of the contest. Even so it was not until the 65th minute that there was the first sign of either a serious crack in the Tiverton defence or any indication of why Marlow striker Yashwa Romeo was so vaunted and had apparently attracted the attention of a number of Football League clubs. For over an hour, the gangly Shakespearean monickered (or was R & J one of the plays that Marlow(e) 'might' have written) forward had hardly had a touch, certainly he had looked far from what his reputation had claimed. Even then it took a loose ball from a partially connected header from Rees, who just was not tall enough to make full contact, to present him with a chance to display his skills. He failed miserably, firing well wide as he rushed to get in his shot before Rees could recover and challenge him. Tiverton's openings were becoming less frequent - understandably. Mudge had a low shot that had both the required power and direction, deflected away for a corner, but the home side were growing in stature and had gained the territorial advantage, though they like The Yellows in the first half, appeared to lack the incisive thrust and with quarter of an hour remaining it still looked as if Tivvy were the more likely to make the breakthrough with one of their (Mudge's) breakaway raids.

Ten minutes left and Romeo had his second goal attempt of the game but unimpressively poked a shot over the crossbar. Five remaining and Tivvy have a corner. The second cross went out for a goal kick. Marlow mount another raid as the majority of minds, certainly those around the edge of the ground, turn towards the prospects of a replay on Tuesday. Not, though, the mind of John Isaac who makes ground down the Marlow right. He swings in a long cross from deep. In the penalty area, Romeo has escaped the Tiverton defence and, unmarked, meets the cross with a glancing header that shoots past Fraser's outstretched hand and creeps just inside the upright to give The Blues a somewhat surprising lead. Town have little time to recover. They have to push forward. They do - twice. In between Marlow do likewise and as the home side's move is broken up, Romeo wanders back towards the half way line some ten yards behind Tivvy's last man, Rees. The Yellows raid, in turn is broken up and the ball is hoofed forward out towards the right wing again. Rees appeals for offside against Romeo but is ignored by the referee. Isaac is chasing the ball - and so does Rees, belatedly. Isaac gets there first, pokes the ball past Rees and cuts in drawing Fraser before rolling the ball across the goalmouth for Romeo, who has obviously changed direction, to tap the ball home to seal the victory. Game over...well not quite. One more break from the home side. Substitute Stuart Lake cuts into the penalty area along the by-line and is bundled to the ground. Penalty. Romeo. Three nil. Unrealistic, but true.

The scoreline flashing up on television screens would make the contest look like a drubbing. It was anything but. Having said that, the whole point of playing football is to put the ball in the goal and the team that does that more frequently is not only the winner but the side that has best performed the point of the operation, and could therefore be said to have played the game better. On that principle Marlow were the better side. More realistically though, the truth came from one of their officials after the game. You (Tiverton) had the play, we (Marlow) had the goals. I know which I would prefer but whilst Town continue to handicap themselves, I can't see it happening too often. Perhaps it is time to bite the bullet and reduce the liabilities, there are precedents after all.

Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter (Kevin Nancekivell, 88), Graeme Power, Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Paul Chenoweth, Chris Holloway, Richard Pears, Paul Milsom (David Steele, 80), Jamie Mudge
Substitutes not used: Shaun Goff.
Booked: Holloway, Winter, Fraser
Sent off: Rudge

Marlow: Kieron Drake, Laurence Brown, Jeff Lamb, Tim Cook, John Beale, Alex Rodrigues, Robert Wilkinson (Stuart Lake, 76), John Isaac, Yashwa Romeo, Nicky Ryder, Michael Floyd
Booked: Wilkinson, Ryder, Cook

Referee: Mr. G Scott.

This report ©2003 John Reidy