Match report

Merthyr 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Tuesday 25/08/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

Suffering from a poor start to the season is not an altogether new phenomenon at Tiverton but the visit to Penydarren Park saw the Yellows, despite having taken just one draw from three games, already eight points clear of their opponents. Merthyr had enjoyed a comfortable opening day victory against Bashley to reduce their enforced ten point deduction to seven points while Tivvy were still in search of their first victory of the season. Two indifferent home performances had necessitated a change of personnel, but with options limited, and the Belgian Football Association still labouring about with regards to the paperwork that would allow Matt Bye to make his first appearance of the league campaign the team was not all that unfamiliar

Against Merthyr Tiverton lined up as many believed they should have done in the lame defeat against Evesham three days earlier with the Faux brothers occupying the flanks and Mike Booth moved into the midfield where his creativity can do most damage. However, in the early part of the game neither of these three, nor any of the seven others in Yellow were able to exert any authority on the match as Merthyr began at a frightening pace and came within inches of opening the scoring. Already the warnings were in place as Cortez Belle launched a couple of long throw-ins into the Tivvy area, and his third attempt proved the most difficult to deal with. The ball was scrambled out to the opposite flank as far as Paul Keddle, and the Welshmen’s captain lifted the ball high into the box once more. By now Belle had sauntered unnoticed towards the post nearest to where he initially threw the ball in seconds earlier, and met Keddle’s cross with a header that crashed against Steve Book’s crossbar.

If that wasn’t enough, barely fifteen minutes later former Tivvy defender Andrew Thomas also rattled the woodwork as he rose highest to meet Keddle’s inswinging corner from the right quadrant. Tiverton were rocking, Merthyr were rolling and Book saved and fumbled Marcus Griffiths’ bobbling low shot, and was relieved to see Mark Saunders on hand to bash the ball behind and relieve the immediate threat.

Keddle and Belle between them were almost single-handedly taking the fight to the Yellows and when the former chipped a smart ball into the area on the half-hour Belle looked for the entire world as if he would finally break the deadlock. Book, though, had other ideas, reacting like a teenager to bat the ball away to his right and behind for yet another corner, one of perhaps fifteen or twenty that the home side had during the game. Tiverton’s corner count didn’t get above zero all evening.

Town defended staunchly and had one or two brief forays into opposition territory. Adam Faux pressed on down the right but his efforts won only a series of throw-ins, and with Bobby Hopkinson already unpacking in Aldershot the Yellows had nobody that could hurl the ball into the area. And so it was that Faux tried and tried again to set up Ben Cleverley or Saunders, but there was never a cross to concern the Merthyr defenders. Cleverley did have the chance to swing a ball into the area from a free kick, but Dean Griffiths was unable to direct a header either at goal or back across the face, and the hosts survived comfortably.

Somehow the scores were tied at the interval, and even more remarkably Tiverton nosed ahead eight minutes into the second half. Booth and Cleverley helped release Dave Morrissey down the left, the striker’s low cross was inches behind Saunders but ricocheted around between defenders Jamie Rewbury and Ross Porter, and eventually broke perfectly for Saunders eight yards out with only the goalkeeper to beat. Nil-one somehow, and remember folks, when Saunders scores Tivvy barely ever lose. The midfielder’s remarkable record now stands at 131 goals scored in ninety matches of which Town have lost just two and drawn three.

A double substitution for the hosts injected further pace into the side and again they pressured. Corner after corner was sent in and time after time messrs. Rudge, Gardner and Villis powered headers upfield and waited for the next attack. One of the subs, the vertically enhanced Michael Jones, was in the action almost immediately but his cross was volleyed wide by Tarik Khalil, and Simon Gregory had a volley of his own that flew like a bullet but slammed against the well-placed Gardner just inside the post.

Time was not on Merthyr’s side and for all their efforts and no shortage of neat flicks and interplay, particularly involving Jones and Keddle on the left, they were struggling to force any genuine chances. The frustrations of the home side were all too evident when the experienced Dean Clarke clobbered Adam Faux as the Tiverton defender looked to counter attack from deep. Clarke was rightfully booked and immediately substituted, his place being taken by Scott Armitage.

Tiverton were hanging on to their lead, and Griffiths used his pace to good effect on the right wing as he chased long clearances and made ground. On one occasion he danced down the touchline with Messi-like control, skipping a number of challenges before crossing deep and frustratingly into the unpressured arms of Andrew Delve; another time Griffiths seized upon a through ball from Faux but his efforts at weaving more magic were thwarted when he tried for a gap that wasn’t there rather than re-feeding Faux who was well positioned to deliver a meaningful centre.

But these excursions into Martyrs’ territory were a rarity rather than a rule. Finally, with three minutes left the equaliser arrived; Tarik Khalil crossed neatly from the corner of the penalty area, between goalkeeper and defence, and Simon Gregory stealthily sneaked in from his wide berth on the right to lift a delightful lob over Book. It was no more than Merthyr deserved, although it must be said that Tiverton’s tenacity and workmanship was vastly improved from the previous two outings. Dogged determination as much as a sprinkling of luck allowed the Yellows to bring a point back over the bridge, and the reward was satisfactory on the whole despite still holding a slender lead with only a few minutes still to go.

Merthyr Tydfil: Andrew Delve, Simon Gregory, Paul Keddle, Andrew Thomas, Ross Porter, Jamie Rewbury, Tarik Khalil, Dean Clarke (Scott Armitage 82), Marcus Griffiths (Garry Shephard 60), Cortez Belle, Matthew Trotman (Michael Jones 60)
Goals: Gregory 87
Booked: Porter 39, Trotman 45, Clarke 81
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Adam Faux, Alex Faux, Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner Mike Booth, Ben Cleverley, Dave Morrissey, Mark Saunders, Dean Griffiths (Craig Veal 90)
Goals: Saunders 53
Booked: None
Sent off: None

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy