Match report

Paulton Rovers 1 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 12/09/2009   FA Cup
Alan Reidy

FA Cup First Qualifying Round

Tiverton Town and the FA Cup have fallen out of love over the past few years. It is now five years since the club progressed to the First Round proper, and only a year less since the last meaningful run in the competition. Since that heartbreaking loss to Nuneaton Borough at Ladysmead in October 2005 Tivvy have floundered in the early stages, losing Bath City, Shortwood United and Oxford City, but it was the latest in the string of defeats, punctuated only by a narrow victory over Wimborne Town last year that was the most depressing and frankly unacceptable performance. In 2006 Bath City were embarking on a title-winning season, so it was no disgrace to lose that one, despite a decent draw at Twerton Park. A year later Shortwood stunned Tiverton but rode their luck and were thankful to an exceptional goalkeeping display which kept the visitors in the game early on, and this time last season, although being beaten by a better team there was little disgrace at losing at Oxford City.

But Paulton Rovers were not supposed to add their name to the increasing list of teams from a lower Division to get the better of the Yellows. They had looked decidedly average when the clubs met in pre-season, and Tivvy needed barely to accelerate into second gear to secure a 2-0 victory. What a difference a couple of months make; Paulton delivered an FA Cup performance of the highest order and their margin of victory only flattered Tiverton as the hosts dominated from start to finish, showing pace and power, belief and character, discipline and togetherness, while Town were flat, stale and frankly devoid of any ideas.

Although there was little in the way of goalscoring opportunities in the first half there was certainly a strong indication of which team were the more progressive. The mightily impressive Jamie Taylor caused no end of problems for the Tiverton defence with a series of blistering runs down the right flank, and he would continue to perform at a level well above average as he secured the official man-of-the-match award and a bottle of bubbly for his efforts.

Rovers captain Dan Cleverley was the first player to set his sights, although there were adjustments needed as his effort was still rising as it cleared Steve Book’s crossbar and sailed onto the hard-court behind the goal. Ben Lacey also missed the target on the high side, heading over unchallenged at the near post, and he would have had a day to forget had it not been for the final score. All the while Tivvy failed to create anything of note and before even twenty minutes were on the clock Mike Booth was forced off through injury, an injury he was carrying before kick off. His replacement Matt Bye proved to be the most inspiring player in yellow and found himself on a couple of occasions in a decent position, but on his first appearance of the season it was perhaps no surprise that he looked a little rusty.

Lacey dragged a Taylor wide of the mark from the edge of the area after a penetrative run and Lacey was cautioned for dissent as the match began to bubble under. Lacey’s name was quickly added to with that of Adam Faux and then Dean Griffiths, both for fouls. Griffiths was unlucky as he was penalised for a foul on Paulton ’keeper Courtney Redwood when challenging for a ball that came directly from Book, and Faux was equally shocked to see yellow as Lacey appeared to turn into the Tivvy defender.

Approaching half time Tivvy had two openings, but Dave Morrissey headed lamely straight at Redwood from eight yards out and Griffiths then sliced wide having latched onto an ugly yet effective long ball from Ben Cleverley. At the other end there was just enough time before the interval for Book to excel by batting away a close-range volley from Paulton’s Cleverley, and the deadlock would remain unbroken until after the change of ends.

That deadlock remained despite the best efforts of Mark Saunders just four minutes into the second half. Ben Cleverley lifted a free kick into the penalty area, Griffiths flicked a backwards header towards the far post, Morrissey then nodded across the face of goal, and Saunders rushed in but was a hairs breadth shy of making full contact and the ball grazed the veteran’s forehead before drifting just wide of the upright.

It was just about as close to scoring as Tiverton would come and no sooner had Paulton’s players breathed a collective sigh of relief hat they went up the other end and took the lead. Jamie Hatch fouled Charlie Rich, earned a yellow card and this allowed Rovers to pump the ball into the area. Matt Villis seemed to have cleared the danger but typically for the afternoon it was a maroon shirt that was first to collect the loose ball. That maroon shirt belonged to Chris Lane and he quickly nipped back into the box before chipping a cross to the far post and onto the head of the unmarked Rob Claridge. For the Paulton number nine the rest was easy – free header, six yards out, one-nil and a deserved lead for the hosts.

This should have been the time for Tiverton to increase the tempo and search for a way back into the game, but there was no such reaction as the Yellows continued to play cumbersome football, long balls onto the heads of the opponents defence, and all-round uninspiring football. Taylor, on the other hand, became more and more influential, particularly when Tivvy modified their system and opened up some more space on the winger’s side of the pitch. Twice Taylor shrugged off the attentions of Nathan Rudge with consummate ease and twice his reward was to see a chance go begging. The first culprit was predictably Lacey who was in place to receive a low cross from the right but was unable to beat Villis on the line, and soon afterwards Taylor took matters into his own hands only to be denied by another fine Book save.

Cleverley (the Dan variety) once again volleyed a powerful strike over the top as Rovers continued to make a mockery of the English pyramid system, Book saved from Lacey and with time running out Tiverton simply didn’t have any answers to the questions their hosts were posing. There was half a chance for the Yellows but glovesman Redwood remained unworked as Jamie Hatch fired a free kick into the side netting, and Villis sent a difficult volley over and out.

In added time there was finally something for the travelling support to smile about but it was a glaring miss from Lacey rather than a goal at the other end. Again Taylor was at the heart of the move, racing free into the expanses out wide, and he rolled a cross perfectly into the path of Lacey, eight yards out at best and faced with an open goal. One-nil really should have been two-nil but Lacey has seemingly been taking lessons in finishing from Ronny Rosenthal and Chris Iwelumo – his shot, which should have been a simple tap in, went up, up and away, over the stand and into the car park. It was remarked that this miss was worth the entrance fee alone, but as the full time whistle sounded and Tiverton hung their heads it became apparent that even having the opportunity to spurn such a sitter would be a step in the right direction for the Yellows.

Paulton Rovers finished the day three-thousand quid better off and in the next round of the FA Cup. Tiverton finished the day contemplating perhaps their worst performance since a similar FA Cup game at Falmouth Town ten years earlier. Ideas seem to have been extinguished, and the supporters’ patience is quickly coming to an end. Something needs to change before this once proud football club becomes a laughing stock.


Paulton Rovers: Courtney Redwood, Dean Pendry, Charlie Rich, James Tyrrell (Rob Cousins 46), Ollie Price, Ben Lacey, Josh Jeffries, Chris Lane, Rob Claridge, Dan Cleverley, Jamie Taylor
Goals: Claridge 52
Booked: Lacey 37, Cleverley 53
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Adam Faux, Luke Cole (Craig Veal 70), Matt Villis, Nathan Rudge, Mike Booth (Matt Bye 18), Jamie Hatch, Ben Cleverley, Dave Morrissey (Mike Humphreys 77), Mark Saunders, Dean Griffiths
Booked: Faux 39, Griffiths 40, Hatch 52
Sent off: None

Attendance: 243

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy