Match report

Crawley Town 2 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 06/12/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

When I first started submitting my reports to this site they often drew comments. Most frequent were 'What game was he at?'‚ or 'What is he on?'. Well‚ as far as the former went‚ I always was at pains to point out that my writings were a personal view‚ and that you only have to stand on the terraces to realise that everyone sees a game of football from a slightly (at least) different perspective. As to what I 'was on'‚ well that is a private matter between me and my doctor‚ and I could have‚ though never did‚ assure the enquirers that everything was above board and there was no need to worry about calling in the IOC to arrange for specimens to be taken. Yes‚ body and soul are kept together and comfortable thanks to the National Health Service and such are my conditions that I only have to make a phone call to my GP's surgery to replenish supplies. It's a simple procedure. I call. Ask for a repeat prescription. Answer four questions. What is my name? What do I need? Where would I like to collect from? And who's my doctor? Last week‚ though‚ there was a slight change. The final question came out as‚ 'Which doctor?' Despite the images that were instantly projected into my mind‚ I refrained from giving a 'smart arse' answer. Nevertheless those mental pictures‚ politically incorrect though they might be‚ of leopardskin draped natives with bones through their noses‚ lingered. And as the visit to Crawley crept closer they intruded upon my pre-match thoughts. Hardly surprising since there seems to be some curse or voodoo spell at work when it comes to matches between The Devon Yellows and The Sussex Reds‚ and all the vibes seem to be in favour of the Broadfield Stadium outfit - maybe it's something to do with their crest! Is that a Tivertonian heart impaled on the demon's trident? It could well be‚ considering Tivvy's failure to beat 'Creepy' in eight and three quarters attempts.

The prospects for breaking the spell looked bleak. The rash of yellow cards a fortnight ago against Grantham had resulted in the simultaneous suspensions that left the squad pared to the bare bones and beyond. Paulton Rovers' Nick Bunyard was drafted into the starting line up‚ his Western League team-mate Lea James occupying one of just three substitute seats on the bench that the Yellows were able to fill. It was a bench made even sparser by the departure of Assistant Manager Martyn Grimshaw to the hotseat at Mangotsfield United‚ though it is debatable whether that later shortfall would have any bearing on the afternoon´s events.

There was a different look to the way that the Yellows lined up. A back four which included Graeme Power but with no wing backs. Four across midfield; Paul Milsom fitting in alongside Kevin Nancekivell‚ making a rare start‚ and Bunyard; and the only unchanged area being the front pairing of Richard Pears and Jamie Mudge. Little wonder then that Tiverton took a while to settle. Not so their hosts who were out of the traps like a fire engine responding to a call to rescue a cat from up a tree. Full steam ahead‚ forward they poured and within two minutes were gathering in the Tivvy goalmouth to attempt to capitalise on their first corner. Stuart Fraser launched what was to turn out to be an excellent display by collecting the high cross cleanly above his head and allowing his colleagues to gather themselves into their unfamiliar formation. Clearly there was going to be an afternoon of hard defensive graft for the Yellows . For the first ten minutes Crawley had most of the possession but Tivvy kept themselves in contention with some quick breaks through Pears and Mudge who were prepared to give chase to the long clearances that were coming from their own half. David Steele was another player making a rare start and brought with him an aspect of the game that no other Tivvy man seems able to provide - the looooong throw in. And that ability to hurl the ball a great distance came close to providing an illogical opening goal for the visitors in the ninth minute. Steele's throw was headed back across the penalty area by Milsom‚ despite the (very) close attention of two Crawley defenders but the ball flew behind Pears and too far in front of Mudge. It was a fleeting moment of attack though as the ball was soon back at the other end. where Nigel Brake saw his free kick from the just outside left hand corner of the penalty area cannon off the crossbar, and minutes later Fraser threw himself full length to grab Joff Vansittart's header from Justin Gregory's cross. Then came the opening goal - a virtual replay of Tivvy's previous attack. Another long throw from Steele‚ again won by Milsom from among a tangle of red-clad arms and torsos. This time Mudge was free at the back of the area and the ball found its way too him. Jamie moved in a yard or two and drove in a low shot from the left that looked as if it was doomed to carry right across the goalmouth until Kevin Nancekivell slid in to poke the ball home from no more than two yards out. Crawley probably felt aggrieved at being behind‚ but they came back at the Yellows by upping their pace‚ having even more of the ball and pushing forward. But they were contained comfortably by the Tiverton troops who still managed to threaten on the break; a twentieth-minute clearance from Jason Rees was pursued by Mudge but ran through to Holloway in the Crawley goal as the spin on the ball caused it to accelerate out of the bounce, and another run by Jamie saw him cut across the face of the penalty area to force in a weak‚ miss-hit‚ off target shot that deflected of Nancekivell to spin inches past the upright.

With 26 minutes gone Crawley were presented with a golden opportunity to pull level. It was also a 'first' for me. The first time that I can recall a referee applying the rule about goalkeepers releasing the ball. Mr Mason did. Fraser held it too long and The Reds were awarded a free kick three yards inside the Tiverton penalty area. As the wall lined up to face the kick the first rule of business was openly applied by every man in the line:  protect your assets at all costs! The ball was blasted at the wall‚ obviously in the hope that it would take a deflection since the kick was indirect. It did deflect - away to safety‚ and the pressure eased for a while. With the interval approaching Crawley turned it on again. Vansittart nearly beat Fraser with a lobbed shot but Stuart found that extra inch to grab the ball‚ and with three minutes still on the scoreboard clock The Reds forced the ball into the net. It was never going to be allowed as Fraser had been charged into in mid air by Charlie MacDonald‚ forcing him to drop the ball at the feet of Vansittart who touched it over the line. A minute later it was nearly there again but a spectacular leap to his left by Fraser saw Mo Harkins shot turned round the post for a corner and Tiverton survived‚ lead intact to the half time whistle.

From the restart it was clear that the game was likely to follow the same pattern - the home side pressing and Tivvy trying to hold them at bay. So it proved but from the first notable attack The Yellows were further handicapped. Fraser held another high cross‚ being challenged as he landed by two red shirted forwards. Fraser landed awkwardly and crumpled to the ground. The referee awarded the foul but that was of little consolation to the keeper who continued after treatment but was clearly restricted in movement‚ limping around his penalty area for the remainder of the game. Eleven minutes after the restart the continual pressure from the home side paid dividends‚ though there was certainly a degree of fortune (voodoo spells at work?) about their equaliser. Fraser made another fine save as Mo Harkin drove in a free kick from thirty yards out‚ palming the ball far out to the right wing such was the power behind the shot. A yard from the touchline and level with the penalty area the ball was collected by Robert Smith who swung in a cross which evaded defenders and forwards alike to creep inside the far post to put the Reds level. Like their first goal in the FA Cup replay last season‚ the strike lifted the home team just when they needed it. Fired up‚ they were rampant and set about the Tivvy defence in search of a second. For ten minutes or more we witnessed some desperate defending from the Yellows‚ desperate but effective for the barricades held. With their lack of success and the frustration that went with it Crawley's effort began to falter and the game descended into a scrappy physical contest, though still taking place mainly in the Tiverton half of the field.

Mudge was a lonely figure at the front and when he did manage to latch onto a clearance he inevitably lacked instant support, having to hold the ball until someone made ground out of midfield to come to his aid. That was what happened in the 76th minute. It was Nancekivell that chased forward to leap at Jamie's cross to the far post but Tiverton's goalscorer failed to make contact and another half (quarter?) chance went begging. Then the continual pressure from the home side brought its reward as the Tiverton defensive blockade was breached for the second time. A prolonged attack on the Crawley right flank survived some determined tackles. Every time the ball was forced off one Crawley boot it seemed to find its way to another, finally ending up on the toe of MacDonald who found a little space on the edge of the area to flight in a shot that flew past Fraser. The woodwork came to The Yellows rescue again as MacDonald came close to doubling his tally and substitute Carl Wilson-Denis missed a sitter when trying to lob the ball over Fraser. There was no way back for Tivvy, even the late introduction of Steve Ovens, who did manage to wake Holloway up with one stinging shot, failed to bring much hope of a late rescue bid.

So the jinx continues. The last thing I needed on arriving home was to open the door to the strains of Ella Fitzgerald going on about 'That Old Black Magic'. I, like the 'lady', prefer Milk Tray (Christmas hint!).


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, David Steele, Paul Chenoweth, Jason Rees, Graeme Power, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Nick Bunyard (Steve Ovens, 86), Richard Pears (Shaun Goff, 90), Paul Milsom, Jamie Mudge
Subs not used: Lea James.
Booked: Milsom, Rees, Chenoweth

Crawley Town: Craig Holloway, Ben Judge, Mo Harkin, Kevin Hemsley, Karl Ready, Robert Smith, Justin Gregory, Paul Armstrong, Joff Vansittart ( Carl Wilson-Denis, 76), Charlie MacDonald, Nigel Brake ( Ian Payne, 87)
Subs not used: Peter Fear, Scott Kirkwood, Marc Pullan
Booked: MacDonald

Att: 848

Referee: Tony Mason (Sidcup)


This report ©2003 John Reidy






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