Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 2 Didcot Town

   Saturday 14/11/2009   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

As the 2009-10 Southern League season rolls on it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw positives out of Tiverton Town’s performances, and this is reflected by the fact that the Yellows now sit just one place off the bottom of the league table with only Rugby Town trailing in their wake. Halesowen and Merthyr, both of whom have the burden of seeing ten points wiped out for off-field matters are now ahead of Tiverton, and the latest in a long line of defeats gave struggling Didcot Town a bit of breathing space from the relegation zone.

Didcot’s first ever visit to Devon started brightly and in a first half in which they dominated it was perhaps surprising that they didn’t change ends with more than a one goal advantage. Morgan Williams was the first player to cause problems but after a brisk one-two with Michael Bartley he shot wide to bring to a close a swift counter attack. Williams was finding space on the left wing but his crossing left something to be desired as twice he sliced the ball behind from a good position, although one key factor could have been the strong wind at Didcot’s backs which made any clinical play difficult.

Inside the first fifteen minutes Alex Stanley had Steve Book beaten but his header from Philip John’s free kick hit the top of the bar and looped skywards. Book attempted to punch the ball clear as it came back down in his goal area but flapped and eventually it was left to Mike Booth to hack away the threat. And Book was back in the action soon after as he parried John’s long range effort, this time being thankful to Colin Marshall to belt the loose ball behind for a corner.

Didcot continued to press forward and when Marshall lost possession in midfield the Oxfordshire side again broke with pace. James Mortimer-Jones drove through the middle and declined to use Mark Draycott who was offering support, instead smashing a low shot that Book fingertipped around his left post. And the chances kept coming; Bartley comfortably outpaced Tom Gardner down the Didcot right and rolled in a cross that left Draycott presented with a perfect opportunity to turn dominance into a lead, but from no more than two yards Didcot’s top scorer conspired to only meet the cross half-heartedly and Book somehow managed to make the save.

However, it was inevitable that such incessant pressure would eventually lead to a breakthrough, and two minutes before half time the goal came. In perfect route-one style it took just three touches to make up eighty yards – the first from Ian Sampson deep inside his own half, the second from Tom Gardner who misjudged the flight of the ball in the breeze and failed to connect as he attempted to head the ball back to Book, and the third from Bartley who raced onto the loose ball to fire into the net.

The second half started with much the same pattern but Tivvy were grateful to Mike Humphreys for cutting out a low cross after John had left Gardner in his wake and the lanky Michael Hector blazed high a shot that was more hopeless than hopeful. But gradually the Yellows found their feet and explored Didcot territory and Booth almost turned in a deep corner only for his awkward looking effort to drift just wide of the upright.

Soon Jamie Hatch, who had hitherto been typically busy but too fond of feeling ball on boot burst into the area and half skipped around Didcot ’keeper Matthew Trott only for his eventual shot to be immediately blocked, and in desperation Shaun Lewis took a leaf out of the David N’Gog school of penalty seeking, rightly seeing yellow as a consequence.

Matt Bye and Adam Faux entered the fray as Tiverton briefly returned to a 5-3-2 system and the former met Hatch’s near post cross but his first time shot was deflected wide and no sooner had the corner been wasted that Didcot raced up the other end and won a dubious yet ultimately crucial free kick. John went down near the right touchline as he tangled with Alex Faux, the Tivvy defender was cautioned for his protests and Williams took the set piece a good ten yards infield from where the foul occurred. The initial cross was half cleared as far as Bartley, the goalscorer lifted a cross back in towards the edge of the area and Stanley met it with a sharp volley that saw the ball throttle down off the crossbar and behind the line. No Tivvy protests could change the fact that Didcot had taken a two-goal lead, and for once it didn’t even require a Russian lineman to make the call.

And so the much maligned wingback system had failed after four minutes and soon enough it was that desperate 4-3-3 version as Adam Mortimer took over Hatch’s place in the side. Marshall fired a free kick that stung the wall behind Trott’s goal and three minutes later there was hope as Adam Faux swung a deep cross in from the right and Joe Bushin managed to bundle the ball over the line from close range as Trott and his defenders were busy getting in the way of each other.

Game on, fifteen minutes to turn a certain defeat into a point or more. But it wasn’t to be – Trott saved superbly from Bye after Mortimer had picked out the diminutive midfielder with a pulled back cross from the left, and in the fourth minute of stoppage time the Didcot shotstopper did it again, helping Bushin’s goalbound header over the top and out for a corner. This was the last chance and Book raced forward to cause some unrest in a penalty area packed by twenty players. Bye crossed, the ball quickly pinged and quickly ponged about amid a mass of confused legs and fell to Book. One last swing of the leg and the ball zoomed into the net! And as it did so the lineman raised his flag. Bushin was in an offside position, supposedly interfering with play and the goal didn’t count.

Nathan Rudge became the fourth Tiverton name in the referee’s notebook as the Yellows surrounded the match officials as much in hope as anything else. The stark reality is that if the game had been drawn then Tiverton would have been lucky. Performing for the final twenty minutes only simply isn’t good enough; some might say it is an insult to the paying spectators. They can do it as they showed when chasing down the deficit. A little more often would be nice.

Tiverton Town: Steve Book, Colin Marshall, Alex Faux, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Tom Gardner, Jamie Hatch (Adam Mortimer 72), Mike Humphreys (Adam Faux 62), Joe Bushin, Shaun Lewis, Karl Baker (Matt Bye 62)
Goals: Bushin 77
Booked: Lewis 57, Alex Faux 65, Adam Faux 82, Rudge 90
Sent off: None

Didcot Town: Matthew Trott, Ian Sampson, Jamie Heapy, Michael Hector (Jason Castello 72), Martin Brown, Alex Stanley, Philip John, James Mortimer-Jones, Michael Bartley, Mark Draycott (Ian Concannon 90), Morgan Williams (Michael Hopkins 81)
Goals: Bartley 43, Stanley 66
Booked: Bartley 84
Sent off: None

Attendance: 268

This report ©2009 Alan Reidy