Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Exeter City

   Wednesday 21/07/2004   Friendly
John Reidy

uch as it might pain me to admit it‚ I probably owe Exeter City a debt of gratitude. My first encounters with the Grecians were memorable only for the fact that they proved to be the proverbial thorn in the side of Oxford United during their first couple of seasons in the Football League. Oxford´s Manor Ground always seemed to bring the best out of City‚ even Arnie Mitchell was magnificent going down the slope. But despite the fact that Exeter had impressed on their visits to the City of Dreaming Spires they did not have the charisma to really enthral me when I became an exile from the south midlands. I tried‚ I have to admit‚ but I could never get into´ the St James Park side. So I began to do the rounds of the local sides. Western League mainly. Heavitree United‚ Exmouth and Dawlish Towns‚ the genuine students of St.Lukes. The debt to Exeter City is that they were so appalling against the likes of Workington and Barrow in the League and Alvechurch in the FA Cup that they drove me to a course that saw me watching football with an open mind - but likewise little passion. But things change and now there is a little more bite about watching City‚ particularly since the passion has returned thanks to my allegiance to a second yellow clad side. Even more so since Tivvy closed the gap on their neighbours‚ albeit a gap that has re-opened a stage since last season´s encounter. As Martyn Rogers said...There´s no such thing as friendlies!

Neither side seemed to disagree as the game got underway. The result and performance were clearly important and there was a vast increase in the competitiveness of the game compared to Tivvy´s opening encounter two evenings previously. First out of the traps were City as Danny Sullivan left Steve Winter for dead on the left flank but saw his ball into the middle comfortably cleared away. Town were not overawed by the Conference side´s start and matched their effort as David Steele powered his way forward from midfield but Kevin Wills was well off target when the ball was fed forward. Steele again went on the run in the 10th minute to fire in an effort that was only inches wide. There was little to chose between the sides in the first half and if one were to be given the points victory it would probably go to the Yellows. They threatened more on the break‚ fought well and matched City in midfield and looked comfortable in defence. Former Grecian Chris Vinnicombe showed that he will be a valuable asset‚ Mike Booth similarly looked the part of a replacement for Kevin Nancekivell and David Hallett provided a surprising amount of drive in the central areas. In the middle of the back five Tom Stocco continued where he left off at Bridgwater - looking supremely comfortable and at ease despite the better´ opposition. There was‚ of course‚ one totally new face in the line up. Goalkeeper Danny Brimble was given a try out and though he had a quiet first 45 minutes looked competent‚ and at no time more so than just past the half hour mark when he was alert and agile to turn Alex Jeannin´s free kick from outside the area round his post for a corner. It was possibly relevant that Eamon Dolan had elected to start the game with his trialist front runners. They did little to impress against what was probably close to being The Yellow´s first choice defence. An interesting battle but few chances before the break. City‚ we knew were changing all 11 players at the interval. It was clearly likely to be a game of two halves.

Act two. For the resident troupe there were only three changes to the cast list. Jamie Mudge at the front‚ Matt Locke in midfield and Jon Haytor at the back. First to make his mark was Jamie Mudge with an effort on goal from the left hand side of the penalty area. Little option for Jamie than to have a go himself‚ he´d broken onto a long ball and was the only yellow shirt forward. Under pressure from the defenders he miscued the ball to send it crashing against the adverts over the Leisure Centre End Terracing. City´s second half squad was far stronger than the one they replaced. There were more familiar names and more familiar faces. Familiar not only to the fans but also to each other and it began to show as the side began to take control of proceedings. Nothing too dramatic‚ but a gradual increase in possession and territorial advantage. Brimble had to be more alert but even when Thomas Bonner looped in a shot after breaking into the clear the ball was far enough above the goal to allow the keeper to merely watch it over. Town were creating fewer inroads into the Exeter defence but had to regard themselves as being a little unfortunate on the hour. Paul Milsom worked hard to win the ball out on the left and his low ball in was met with a fearsome shot by Locke. Denying Matt the first entry on the scoresheet‚ the ball was deflected vertically and as it descended it was Wills that won the battle to reach it and stab a shot goalwards. Although he had failed to claim what should probably have been his ball originally City keeper James Bittner had not taken his eye off the ball and was able to field Wills´ shot without too much trouble. It was to be Milsom´s final contribution to the evening as he was replaced by Jamie Densham as the front man with Mike Booth coming on for David Steele and a few minutes later Vinnicombe and Wills were replaced by Goff and Brown as Martyn Rogers shuffled his pack. Dolan joined in the fun by introducing his third keeper of the evening in the form of Martin Rice.

With so many of the Tivvy players chasing contracts‚ as well as being fresh‚ it was little wonder that their pace increased a little. Locke broke through the middle and was foiled by Rice as he dashed off his line to get his legs in the way of the ball and Jamie Densham tested his aerial ability with a header after good work between Mudge and Brown. But these were isolated incidents in a game that was being played mainly in the central and Tiverton thirds of the field. Sean Devine‚ Jake Edwards and Martin Belforrte were all causing the Tiverton defence to work hard and when the first two of them combined to set up Andy Taylor it took a fine save by Brimble to keep things level. But there is only so much a keeper can do and with just over ten minutes remaining Devine pounced on a long ball out of the City defence. Powering his way towards goal the City marksman picked his time and place to drive the ball under the advancing Brimble. A hand to the ball deflected it minimally and the ball hit the net for what was to turn out to be the only occasion of the match. Not that the game died: there were to be two more outstanding chances before it did that. First was Edwards powering a header inches wide from a corner then in the dying seconds Mudge brought out the best from Rice as the keeper turned a fierce shot away for a corner that was never to be taken‚ thus denying The Yellows the honour of a draw which on the balance of play they deserved.

So‚ honours not quite even but there was enough on display by Tivvy to suggest that they will justify the bookmakers odds through the season. It was pleasing to see the cohesion and understanding between the players has improved so much in just one game. Even the mass substitutions failed to disrupt the shape of the team.

Tiverton Town: Danny Brimble‚ Steve Winter (Ian Patchett‚ 81)‚ Chris Vinnicombe (Shaun Goff‚ 65)‚ Tom Stocco (Jon Hayter‚ 46 (Jack Martin‚ 72))‚ Nathan Rudge‚ Rob Cousins‚ Kevin Wills (Steve Brown‚ 65)‚ Dave Hallett (Matthew Locke‚ 46)‚ Darren Edwards (James Mudge‚ 46)‚ Paul Milsom (Jamie Densham‚ 62)‚ David Steele (Mike Booth‚ 62).

Sub (not used ): Paul Edwards.

Att: 916

This report ©2004 John Reidy

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