Match report

Brackley Town 2 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 07/11/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton and Brackley met for the fifth time at a chilly St. James’ Park and the result was unusual. Not on current league form of course as Brackley sit behind only Farnborough at the top of the table while Tiverton reside and flirt with relegation, but unusual in that it signalled the first time the Saints had managed to put one over the Yellows. It was Tiverton’s third trip to a ground where they had won twice previously but on the whole there was little danger of this impressive streak being extended as Brackley had much the better of the game and deserved the three points.

The game did swing in favour of both teams at various stages but it was not so much “to and fro? as “to and to and to and fro? as the vast majority of the running was made by the hosts. When Tiverton were able to extend themselves and stretch the Brackley defence they looked quite decent but in a snapshot of the past two years there was a final ball missing from the equation, meaning home goalkeeper Richard Morris only needed to make one save all afternoon.

As early as the second minute left back Jamie Gould pushed forward and sent in a shot, or rather sent out a shot as the ball cleared the bar and the terrace behind the goal. And Tiverton had still not found their feet when Ben Mackey’s shot was blocked after a quick move from a throw-in instigated by Jamie Kearns.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic however, and when Mike Booth’s free kick was flicked on by Mark Saunders Morris had to be alert to rush off his line and punch the ball away from almost on the head of the waiting Joe Bushin. Brackley quickly gathered themselves together and set about racing the length of the pitch but David Joyce found Steve Book in typically fine fettle, the oldie ’keeper getting a first chance to warm his gloves in the seventeenth minute.

Seconds later the gloves were approaching the boil when Book pushed away a difficult low cross from the right and Booth needed to scamper quickly to hack the ball behind. In came the corner, outswinging off Tom Winters left boot and Chris Willmott seemed for all the world to be on the verge of opening the scoring until Saunders threw himself in the way eight yards out.

Unfortunately for Tiverton Saunders block only delayed the inevitable as Brackley took the lead with the run of play just a few clicks later. Simon Travis found space on the right and sighted even more space just inside which is where he was heading. On reaching the edge of the area he slid a square ball to Winters and the left winder made no mistake in flashing a low drive beyond Book, onto the base of the upright and into the net.

Winters may be the jewel in the Brackley crown, an honour he has held for a good few years now, but it was the front pairing of Mackey and Jerome Anderson who were causing the most concern for the Tiverton defence, and both had half chances to extend the lead. But the former sliced wide after Winters jinked around on the edge of the area, and the latter, benefitting after Joyce had robbed Mike Humphreys in midfield could only fire a shot from twenty yards or so at the reliable Book.

And so it continued in much the same manner all the way until Brackley scored a second goal near the start of the second half. The Saints had possession in good positions but dogged determination from Tivvy made up for their shortcomings in tactical aptitude, physical presence and general ability. For the final five minutes of the first half the roles were curiously reversed and Tiverton showed they could in fact take the fight to their high-flying hosts, but Saunders underlined the Yellows’ current luck when he fired a shot onto the underside of the bar that was just one Soviet linesman short of an equalising effort. Colin Marshall, already struggling with a tight hamstring curled and dipped a free kick over the wall that forced Morris into his one save of the afternoon, Karl Baker forced a defensive wall to block a second free kick after he was upended by Jamie Kearns, and that was the sum total of action before the change of ends.

With that change of ends came a change of emphasis – Tiverton had enjoyed their five or ten minutes so it was Brackley’s turn again, and they did what their visitors were unable to do by taking a chance when it presented itself. To be fair it was created rather than placed in the Nothants laps as Saunders lost a midfield battle and Winters turned provider by streaking forward before playing an exquisite through ball for Mackey to latch onto. Onto it he latched, around Book who was rushing out but always short, and the final act was to plant a low shot from an awkward acute angle just beyond the reach of Tom Gardner as the Tivvy defender retreated.

Gardner pushed wide to left full back when Baker was withdrawn, Saunders into midfield to replace Humphreys who was replaced by Adam Mortimer, and the former Okehampton forward’s first contribution was to nick a ball away from Morris that Kearns had chested too short. Away he went, wide and under pressure from Callum Burgess; alas too under pressure – the final shot was blocked almost before it left Mortimer’s foot, and aside from a header from Bushin that went unthreateningly wide five minutes before the end of the game that was all the openings Tiverton were able to muster.

Booth was running his socks off in midfield but joined the majority of his teammates in passing with increasing inaccuracy as the afternoon wore on, Saunders, by his own admission, couldn’t control the ball for love nor money despite the exemplary playing surface (which our own assistant groundsman admitted would knock spots off any other in the league, Tiverton’s included), and Hatch huffed and puffed without delivering a single cross from the right until he set up Bushin late on.

That was just the way it was, nothing wrong with the work ethic, the desire of for that matter the defensive performance. It is not even fair to question the strike force who were asked to feed off scraps. The problem with Tiverton at the moment is that lack of creative midfield play, which is a ludicrous thought when players like Booth, Bye and Humphreys are around. Are they receiving the ball in bad positions, is the movement of their colleagues so poor, are they not actually as good as we like to think they are? I don’t know the answers but while the switch away from the wingback system has given the side more balance it hasn’t actually solved the underlying problem, the same problem that has been present since - dare I say it - Jason Rees left town!

There was a little less happening on the pitch than in my brain by the closing stages although Book’s gloves were just about cooked by the end of the game. Away he tipped a rasping drive from Anderson, the striker’s final contribution before taking a deserved early break. Away he palmed Elliot Sandy’s shot – another corner. And five minutes from the end Gould stormed upfield again and Book was once again in place and in form. Bushin’s header from Hatch’s cross signalled the end of any threat on goal at either end of the field; Brackley retain second place, Tivvy are just two off the bottom of the table.

Brackley Town: Richard Morris, Callum Burgess, Jamie Gould, Jamie Kearns, Chris Willmott, Josh Green, Simon Travis, David Joyce (Ross Oulton 89), Jerome Anderson (Elliot Sandy 76), Ben Mackey, Tom Winters (Mark Duckett 80)
Goals: Winters 24, Mackey 53
Booked: Kearns 41
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Colin Marshall (Jake Wannell 46), Alex Faux, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Jamie Hatch, Mike Humphreys (Adam Mortimer 60), Joe Bushin, Mark Saunders, Karl Baker (Matt Bye 78)
Booked: None
Sent off: None

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy