Match report

Cambridge City 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 03/10/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

After a fortnight without a competitive match it was full steam ahead as Tiverton Town looked to kickstart the season in one of the most difficult ties they will face. Cambridge City have remained undefeated in all competitions this term, a run of ten games that has seen them consolidate a place amongst the front runners in the league as well as progress to the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup. There is little danger that City would have had one eye on their game against Hinckley United next week but they were reduced to the bare bones in terms of personnel with key forward Steve Gentle forced into the back-line due to the unavailability of Dave Theobald and Lee Chaffey.

Tiverton were close to full strength although Matt Villis was not fully fit so took a place on the substitute’s bench with Adam Faux moving into central defence. Elsewhere Dean Griffiths was serving a one-game suspension but Mike Booth and Tom Gardner were both fit to play after shaking off niggling injuries.

It was Adam’s younger brother Alex that made an early impact when he reacted quickest in the box as Cambridge ’keeper Zac Barrett could only parry Ben Cleverley’s fizzing fifth minute drive. The initial chance came when Booth combined with Dave Morrissey down the right flank, skipped over the challenge of James Krause and crossed. A deflection off Gentle's head allowed Mark Saunders to tee up Cleverley, his shot brought the best out of Barrett but the strike carried too much venom for the highly rated goalkeeper to be able to hold, and Faux was on hand ten yards out to gobble up the pieces and score his first goal of the season.

Even by that early stage the home side had shown their credentials as Lee Clarke clipped an effort onto and over the bar. And barely a minute after Tiverton had taken the lead the woodwork came to their rescue again, this time a powerful effort by City’s appropriately named captain Adrian Cambridge rattling the upright and deflecting away from danger.

Villis entered the fray late the first half when Mike Booth twisted his knee, forcing him out of the action. Booth will be a doubt for Wednesday’s match against Stourbridge, but Villis, who Martyn Rogers claimed after the match was only about 80 per cent fit, excelled when he came on and his form would have eased any potential selection headaches in the forthcoming few matches.

Steve Book ensured Tiverton maintained their advantage through to the interval with a stunning save to deny Clarke at point-blank range, the striker finding space in the area after a move down the left had freed Ashley Fuller to pull back a cross from the by-line.

Five minutes after the restart Fuller became the third victim of the woodwork when his shot across the face of goal had Book beaten only to clip the post and go wide, and just moments later the same upright denied the luckless Clarke again. Clarke’s effort was a rasping drive from the edge of the area that hit the base of Book’s left post square on, rebounded and was fortunately gathered by the veteran goalkeeper when it could just as easily have rebounded of one part of his anatomy or other and dribbled across the line.

For all the pressure they found themselves under Tiverton were able to push forward on occasions, and Mark Saunders blazed a great opportunity wide of the target after he found space in the area to meet Alex Faux’s cross from the left. It was one of a handful of promising moves that Tiverton carved out in the second half, although the main attacking threat from the Yellows came from the opposite side of the pitch where Adam Faux, who had switched to the full-back position when Booth hobbled off was combining well with the tireless Jamie Hatch. Indeed there was a great deal of huffing and puffing from Tiverton as there needed to be against such strong opponents, and although he was never afforded a real sight at goal Morrissey lead the line strongly, never gave up a lost cause and was able to link play between midfield and attack well.

But for the most part it was the home side making the running and it was only some fine defending from Villis and Tivvy captain Nathan Rudge that kept them at bay. Numerous times Villis was in position to block shots at close quarters or to head clear from the danger area as City put balls into the last third with increasing frequency. Rudge alongside him acted more as a calming influence amidst the pressure and, as is his wont, always seemed to find an extra second or two to move the ball out of defence intelligently. It is a mark of Rudge’s character and the way he has grown both as a player and a leader that this once volatile defender can now be so hugely influential on a team that is, let’s be honest, still playing a rather foreign system.

With time running out, though, the inevitable happened. City won a free kick on the edge of the area after Matt Bye had upended Robbie Nightingale, an innocuous challenge, a slightest touch, and while there were no arguments on the award of the free kick, Bye will be kicking himself with hindsight as Nightingale was going nowhere other than backwards. Captain Cambridge chipped the set piece into the area and the Lilywhite’s top scorer John Frendo got the faintest of touches to glance the ball past Book for the equaliser. Relief around Milton Road was tangible, the unbeaten record remained intact, and ten minutes remained for the hosts to try and carve out a further opening as they went in search of a winner.

The winner, indeed the opening never arrived despite a shift in formation that saw Gentle added to the forward line to make a three-pronged attack. Tiverton had by now introduced Craig Veal in place of Morrissey but he was forced to play deep as the home side pinned Tivvy back, and that effectively left 38-year old Mark Saunders as a lone striker which was unlikely to cause too much commotion in the Cambridge defence.

A draw was no more than Cambridge deserved on the balance of play, but Tiverton will take heart from a well organised and determined performance against one of the stronger teams in the league. One might argue that with the possession they enjoyed and the territorial advantage very much in their favour that City should have won by a handsome margin. But the reality is that they mustered two efforts on target, one which was superbly saved and one which went in. One school of thought is that one must be considered unlucky to hit the frame of the goal four times, but on the other hand football games are generally won by shooting on target. Sure, there was a feeling amongst the travelling support that we got away with it, but perhaps we were due the rub of the green for once after such a dismal start to the season. Whether this point acts as a catalyst to happier times remains to be seen but it was undoubtedly an important point at a venue where not many teams will fare a great deal better.


Cambridge City: Zac Barrett, Tom Pepper (Matt Haniver 67), James Krause, Steve Gentle, Laurie Stewart, Robbie Nightingale, John Frendo, Adrian Cambridge, Lee Clarke, Neil Midgley (Pat Bexfield 87), Ashley Fuller (Craig Radcliffe 74)
Goals: Frendo 80
Booked: Cambridge 37, Krause 73
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Mike Booth (Matt Villis 33), Alex Faux, Adam Faux, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Jamie Hatch, Ben Cleverley, Dave Morrissey (Craig Veal 74), Mark Saunders, Matt Bye
Goals: Alex Faux 5
Booked: Rudge 22
Sent Off: None

Attendance: 366


This report ©2009 Alan Reidy