Match report

Tiverton Town 7 - 2 Hinckley United

   Saturday 29/04/2000   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

Tivvy have really come of age at this level of football. The last two games have seen them rise‚ rise and rise to the challenge - in fact Cindeford could be considered to be the watershed (if you know what I mean).

Having beaten Moor Green a fortnight ago‚ they knew that the only chance to secure promotion was to score plenty of goals and keep on winning. Well‚ it all went pear-shaped one week later‚ especially as Moor Green slammed in seven against struggling Stourbridge. Knowing that defensively tight Weston and promotion contenders Hinckley were next on the visitors' list‚ the lads could have been forgiven if they had said‚ "oh well‚ never mind‚ there's always next season" and gone through the motions in the remaining games.

Forget it. The crowds turned up‚ turned the volume up and Tivvy responded by turning the heat up. Weston were swept away and we all waited with baited breath for the result from Moor Green's evening game at Warwick. Teletext showed it was 4-0 to Warwick and Tivvy were really back in the hunt. Even the news that this result was incorrectly reported wasn't enough to completely dampen the enthusiasm. That surge of adrenalin left an echo in the system - and it felt good. Could we‚ just maybe‚ close the gap - which at times had looked like a chasm?

So one of the youngest clubs around hit town and‚ despite the paltry home crowds‚ they obviously have a good hardcore fan base as there were plenty of visitors adorned in red and blue stripes. With oodles of Tivvy fans - plus a smattering of curious holiday-makers - we again had a four figure crowd.

Out came Hinckley - to a confetti-esque greeting from their fans by the dressing room - and Tivvy came out to a load of balls (carried by the Tivvy players who then distributed them around the crowd). In glorious sunshine‚ battle commenced.

Hinckley‚ like Moor Green and Cinderford afore them‚ ensured that timewasting was on the menu. Maybe Hinckley hadn't done their sums. A draw was never going to be enough to catch Moor Green and‚ daft as it now sounds‚ Hinkley still had a mathematical chance of the championship. But United were more subtle about their approach to eating up the seconds and it took half an hour for the ref to catch on. By that time‚ Tivvy had continued where they left off in their last match by launching wave after wave of attack.

The seventh minute saw Tivvy set the tone for the afternoon and it really got the crowd going. Kevin Nancekivell swept down the left and some wonderful one-touch football later between him and Phil Everett saw the powerful centre-forward in on goal but he had ventured into the area that had been churned up by Hinckley's warm-ups and his shot was scuffed. It still took keeper Wayne Starkey two attempts to grab the ball but it had shown Tivvy that this defence was somewhat pedestrian and that the keeper wasn't 100% confident. Was this nerves at the big occasion? Would Tivvy's big match experience see them through? Well‚ it didn't look like it for the rest of the half because‚ despite Tivvy's overall dominance‚ the final shot or header was invariably miscued.

Within two minutes of Phil nearly putting Tivvy ahead‚ both Pete Varley and Scott Rogers had had chances and then‚ after 24 minutes‚ Dominic Richardson put Nance away. Out hared Starkey‚ electing to tackle Nance outside of the box. It was a brave decision and one that worked in his favour as his whole-hearted challenge saw the ball spin away from danger. but again it had showed how vulnerable they were to pace.

Seconds later‚ Hinckley took off right back Tommy Gallagher who looked to have picked up a knock to his knee. They replaced him with Jamie Williams. We then had the first of five bookings - Dave Sadler encroaching at a Tivvy free-kick. Again‚ this seemed more of a tactic to slow the game down rather than to block a shot. One wonders if such negative thoughts really help a team to be constructive - especially one that boasts so much expensive talent.

In the 35th minute‚ Scott Rogers fouled Sadler on the edge of the Tivvy box and Hinckley were given a golden chance to test Paul Edwards. Williams ran up and delivered a super shot that exoceted towards the far corner of the net. Edwards flew but it didn't look as if he would match the shot for speed.

Then Stuart Smith hurled himself at the ball to deflect it up and over for a corner. And‚ to be fair‚ it had been Smith who had excelled during this first period. Hinckley had no answer to his twisting and turning coupled with his brave challenges and headers. Maybe they had done their homework on the Nancekivells‚ Everetts and Varleys of this world - but they really found Psycho to be a handful.

One final piece of semi-danger befell Tivvy and it came from the head of skipper Neil Saunders. His header saw the ball go back towards goal with Eddie still travelling the other way. Fortunately‚ our beloved custodian changed direction in time and‚ with no predators around‚ had time to gather the ball. The danger had passed.

Talk during the interval was mixed. News had filtered through that Moor Green had taken the lead against Bilston and one wondered if we would see Hinckley hold out. The second half started with Hinckley asking the questions. Maybe they had read the programme and realised that a win was what was wanted. Dave Sadler ran through the Tivvy defence and beat Eddie with his shot - but the ball flashed wide. Still it was a warning - and one that Tivvy did not heed and‚ five minutes after the break‚ we had an apauling cock-up. The normally sound telepathy between the Pauls Edwards and Tatterton was frankly telepathetic and Eddie was left stranded on the edge of his box‚ affording Hinckley's wonderfly named skipper‚ Morton Titterton (doesn't that just conjure up thoughts of legendary players of old?) the chance to loft the ball into the sky. It seemed an age before it came back down to earth - which is certainly what we did a few seconds later - and bounced into the vacant goal. The silence around three quarters of the ground was deafening. It nearly drowned out the jubilance behind Paul Edwards' goal. Oops. Here we go again.

Enter Steve Ovens. With 13 minutes gone of the second half‚ Pete Varley had done his job of running the Hinckley defence ragged. Indeed‚ midway through the first half it looked as if some of the visitors were struggling with the pace of the game.

Little did they know that the heat was about to be turned up. Within seconds of his arrival he and Nance were pulling the Hinckley defence apart and the ball was in the net‚ courtesy of a great shot from Tivvy's leading scorer, Nancekivell.

Barely 100 seconds later, Ovens shut down Starkey who elected to dribble the ball out of his box before hoofing the ball downfield. Stranded out of his goal, he had no chance when Scott Rogers launched the ball goalwards from near the halfway line. It ran out of legs but Kevin Nancekivell made sure by steering home his second goal to turn the game on its head.

We then had one of the few really nasty tackles of the afternoon. Nance, just inside the Hinckley half, dribbled the ball through a nest of legs but Titterton continued the chase before crunching his boot into Kev's ankle. Ouch. Quite rightly he was booked but we really feared for our Kev. Fortunately it looked and sounded worse than it was because, after lengthy treatment from Dai, he was gingerly testing his weight on the injury and pronounced fit to proceed.

We then had a curious decision. Tivvy pumped in yet another free kick and Smith, who was being sandwiched, was adjudged to have transgressed, a free kick being awarded against him when it could easily have been in his favour. Unfortunately, he told the ref what he thought of the decision and was lucky not to have been sent off for swearing - and quite rightly booked for his dissent.

Hinckley, in the 65th minute, then made a bit of a gamble, replacing midfielder Wayne Sutton with striker Gary Ricketts. It certainly helped Tivvy's cause because, with Hinckley now chasing the game, we were winning everything in midfield. And Tivvy then brought on Luke Vinnicombe for Dominic Richardson. The battling right back was not a happy man but, tactically, the substitution was sound. Richardson had never stopped running from the first second of the game and, with fresh legs arriving for the visitors, it was reasonable to swap like for like.

For a few minutes, Hinckley certainly had the edge. They were helped by Steve Ovens whose loose ball presented Paul Hunter with a gift-wrapped chance on goal but, fortunately, his shot went wide. Berated by his defence, Ovens was then fired up. So much so, that Hinckley couldn't stand the heat. Within seconds, he had become too hot for Jon Hassall to handle and the Hinckley left back was booked for grappling with the fiery forward. And, a minute later, Ovens was inside the six yard box to unleash a cracking shot that was equalled by a superb save by Starkey. Yet, with defenders aplenty around him, super Steve still found space to turn and slam the ball into the net. 3-1 and 75 minutes gone.

Most fans would have settled for that as the final result. Most teams would have shut up shop and been happy. But this is Tivvy, and with Hinckley making their last throw of the dice by bringing on Charlie Palmer for burly defender John Allcock, the scene was set for amazing finale to Tivvy's maiden Dr Martens home campaign. We had all scoffed at Allcocks' donkeyesque approach to the game but he obviously had something to be named Hinckley's Supporters Player of the Year last season. His uncultured approach to defending may not have been pretty but it had certainly been effective. Now Tivvy were able to cut through the reshuffled back four like a hot knife through butter. But before they could take the game to the Knitters, Nicky Marker picked up the fifth booking of the afternoon for a clumsy tackle. By this time, he is normally nursing his ailing knees in the dressing room but, on a day like this, his presence was required for the whole game.

The action switched to the swimming pool end as Tivvy went in search for a fourth goal to improve their goal difference. A quick break by Nancekivell found him and Hinckley's Marc Orton chasing the ball with no-one else in sight. A despairing challenge by Orton seemed to have saved the day but he had used his arm to scoop the ball clear. Surely this would constitute two reasons for a dismissal? An illegal challenge by the last man, denying Nance a goal-scoring opportunity - coupled with the hand-ball?!?!? Well, it certainly never occurred to the ref.

Undeterred, we entered the 88th minute of this enthralling game and enter Phil Everett for the start of crazy time. Who would have thought that in the ten remaining minutes we would witness an incredible FIVE goals? With Hinckley pushing forward, Phil was found in acres of space to take the ball from the half-way line and into the box. He calmly slotted the ball underneath Starkey's despairing dive to make it 4-1. Wonderful!

Back came Hinckley within a minute, Morton Titterton beating Eddie with a rising drive to slam in his second. He certainly hadn't given up the chase.

Immediately Tivvy countered and Starkey pulled off another fine save to deny Everett and then Scott saw his shot blocked. Two minutes into injury time Scott broke through again and, with options opening up, he unselfishly pulled the ball back to Phil who made no mistake from ten yards to make it 5-2.

Four minutes later, Eddie's long clearance found Steve Ovens who beat the Hinckley defence by himself to crack home the sixth and there were still a couple more minutes left on the watch (thanks to earlier time wasting by Starkey plus injuries in both camps) for Ovens to take on all-comers to smash home his third to complete an amazing maiden hat-trick for the club. We all had to pinch ourselves. Had we really slammed seven goals past Hinckley?

When the final whistle came, emotions took over and the team and crowd both applauded each other for what seemed like eons. When all had quietened down, the euphoria was tempered by the news that Moor Green had hung on for a win. Then we heard that Stafford has lost at Bromsgrove. No doubt, then, that Tivvy were the toast of the Stafford fans because Hinckley's pointless trip had meant that Rangers had won promotion after starting the afternoon with the slim possibility that they could have still been overhauled on goal difference by both Moor Green and Hinckley.

It all goes down to the last day of the season to decide the Western Division championship as well as who goes up with Stafford. Even Hinckley aren't out of it, especially as they have to play two of the bottom three. A scenario that would see them up would be their arch rivals Bedworth beating Moor Green 1-0, Tivvy winning at Rocester by a single goal and Hinckley beating both Paget and Stourbridge by four clear goals. All three clubs would then be on 87 points and with the same goal difference (+48) but Hinckley would have the edge as they would have scored more goals. By no means impossible but, realistically, you can't see Moor Green failing to get at least one point next Saturday. Can you?

Tiverton Town: Paul Edwards, Dominic Richardson (Luke Vinnicombe 77), Neil Saunders, Paul Tatterton, Nicky Marker, Scott Rogers, Kevin Nancekivell, Peter Varley (Steve Ovens 58), Phil Everett, Steve Daly, Stuart Smith



This report ©2000 Nigel Davis

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