Match report

Rocester 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 06/05/2000   Southern League First Division
Nigel Davis

What a gorgeous afternoon - and a very tranquil setting it was too with swallows zooming around in the sun‚ quite unaware what would soon descend upon them. And descend they did‚ in their hordes. Four coachloads of Tivvy-ites made the longest trip of the season‚ accompanied by a flotilla of cars‚ every man‚ woman and child praying for an upset at Bedworth where Moor Green needed just one point to clinch promotion.
However‚ with John the jinx Fournier lurking in the stand‚ the portents were not good. His rare appearances away from Ladysmead have coincided with disaster. Remember Cinderford? And we had joked that it only needed a waterlogged pitch for the scene to be truly set. Well‚ that was not in evidence. Not‚ that is‚ until we walked into the Rocester bar to be greeted with photos of their pitch in October 1998 - a floodlit lake. Aargh! The memories started to swim through again - and John´s words of 24 hours earlier came back to haunt us all. He had reminded yours truly of what had happened the last time we had scored seven goals in the second half of a game. That was way back in the dim and distant past - well‚ the start of the season anyway. Pershore had come to Ladysmead in the FA Cup and‚ after a goalless first half‚ crumbled. The next game was duly anticipated with hopes of a continuation of the goal flood. It never materialised and we struggled to draw 1-1. The opponents? Rocester.... And history repeated itself.
With Paul Tatterton absent on paternity leave‚ Luke Vinnicombe was drafted in at right back. The balance of the side was‚ out of necessity‚ tinkered with. Instead of playing with a sweeper‚ we adopted a flat back four with Dominic Richardson playing as a right-winger. The other alternative was‚ surely‚ to play Steve Daly (who has looked comfortable playing as sweeper for both Tivvy and Devon in the past) in Tatterton´s position and bring in the experienced Pete Conning into midfield. Have Luke on the bench and see how things developed. But it was not to be.
Defensively‚ we looked OK. Attacking‚ we looked cramped and never got to grips with a bumpy pitch and a swirling wind. Dom was always looking over his shoulder for the ball and often he and Luke were contesting the same ball. It didn´t bode well. With the wind behind us‚ many balls were overhit and it was a frustrating first half. Pete Varley could have been forgiven for wondering why he hadn´t been tempted away by Chippenham and be turning out at Wembley instead of on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border (which was only a couple of hundred yards away). Rocester‚ pumping the ball up for the lanky Danny Davidson‚ had the benefit of the ball hanging in the wind and they always looked as if they might prise us open. Tivvy‚ benefiting from numerous dubious decisions from the silver-haired referee´s assistant who missed a hatful of offsides‚ got behind the home defence time and time again but rarely troubled their custodian. When they did‚ it was Steve Daly haring in on a through ball and‚ with Scott Bentley getting there a fraction of a second before him to scoop the ball up with his hands before crumpling‚ Daly was booked. There didn´t seem to be anything wrong with this genuine attempt to play the ball. No doubt it was the usual goalkeeper´s protection racket and this seemed to be confirmed when‚ shortly afterwards‚ similar (if not worse) challenges went unpunished.
The biggest surprise of the afternoon was that Rocester´s Simpson got away with so much petulence. Doh! Twice he lashed out with his boot - first at Dominic Richardson and then‚ a few minutes later‚ at Scott Rogers. There is no doubt that the officials saw his indiscretions as he was admonished‚ no worse. Had his name been Beckham‚ the sound of bath-taps running would surely have been heard.
In the 31st minute‚ Tivvy were given a warning as‚ with Davidson putting pressure on Paul Edwards‚ the ball ran loose to Matt Simpson but his left-footed shot saw the ball skim the top of the cross-bar. However they had found their range - and four minutes later Tivvy failed to cut out a pass to Davidson and the gangly striker strode past Nicky Marker before steering the ball past Edwards and into the net via the far post. Davidson was then lucky not to be booked as‚ within seconds of the restart‚ he caught Luke who needed extensive treatment. Banter then broke out from one of the few home supporters who‚ furnished with the news that Moor Green were 2-0 up at Bedworth‚ started to rub salt into the Tivvy wounds. He was soon laughing on the other side of his face.
Tivvy, awarded a free-kick deep into their half in the second minute of injury time, used the wind to good effect. Nicky Marker´s punt looked to be too strong for Stuart Smith but he twizzled his body in order to stretch out his head, so nodding the ball into the box and into Pete Varley´s path. Charlie struck the ball hard and low to beat Bentley all ends up for the equaliser.
As the three teams traipsed off for their half-time cuppa, the tannoy proclaimed that Moor Green were, indeed, leading Bedworth 2-0. You got the feeling that the lads knew that Bedworth would struggle to knock three past the Moors and the second half was pretty much a non-entity dominated by the referee.
First of all, he was quick to yellow-card Davidson for an act of petulance but he then showed himself up. Arrogant officialdom has always been the bane of the game and here was a perfect example. When the whole crowd hollered hand-ball, he was about the only one around to deign to not see the Rocester offender. When Kevin Nancekivell was heard to say to him Why can´t you just admit that you made a mistake?, he shook his head and pointed to the badge on his chest. A voice from the crowd hollered You won´t cos you´re the ref to which he responded with a thumbs-up. Such arrogance. The attitude of I´m, the referee, I don´t make mistakes really ought to be drummed out of the game once and for all.
So, what did the second half have in terms of chances? Well, very little. Rocester came close near the end and the introduction of Steve Ovens gave us a few delightful moments with him impressing with some delightful ball skills - and we had the rare opportunity of seeing Richard Pears in Dr Martens League action for the first time since February 12th plus a brief cameo from Pete Conning.
So, our maiden Dr Martens League campaign ended with a whimper rather than a bang. But there is no doubt that we have made some friends along the way and that our brand of football is likely to bring more success. The general concensus of opinion was that immediate promotion might have been a step too far - yet we all feared the same from our rise from the Screwfix. Support has zoomed - both home and away - and with at least four new grounds to visit next season (including Solihull who are moving back home) the interest will, hopefully, not wane. A second season at this level is no bad thing but we don´t want to get complacent and find ourselves doing a Weston by languishing in the Western for ever and a day. Let´s add strength in depth and pray for less injuries than this season. And, don´t forget, we have the chance to be the first non-league side to win the Devon St Lukes Bowl come Thursday. We are all very fortunate to be involved with a club that brings so much entertainment and joy. Long may it continue.
Line up: Edwards, Richardson, Saunders, Vinnicombe, Marker, Daly, Nancekivell, Varley, Everett, Rogers, Smith.
Subs: Ovens (Varley 67), Conning (Richardson), Pears (Smith 75).

This report ©2000 Nigel Davis

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