Match report

Rugby 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 14/08/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

It is almost impossible for a simple soul like me to think of football and Rugby in the same breath (confused metaphor or what?) without also thinking of William Webb-Ellis. Yes‚ I know all the old jokes are corny and have been trotted out before so I´ll try to avoid them. As the opening fixture of season 2004-5 approached I also had reason to be considering the fact that under the British system of justice‚ ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. Clearly the hardened offenders that break the rules can expect little sympathy but those unfortunates that get caught out by their own ignorance might be allowed a little pity. Then of course there are the worse of the lot. Those that know the rules and push them to the limit. Poor old Billy can hardly be blamed for picking up the ball. Nobody told him it wasn´t allowed. At the other end of the scale is the player who having committed a foul‚ for which he knows he is going to be punished‚ then compounds the offence by committing another. A bit like the burglar who on getting caught knows he´s going to spend 5 years inside so decides to shoot everyone in sight and make it 20 years. The really unpalatable ones‚ though‚ are the ones that are always just on the fringe. Pushing to the limit themselves but always prepared to make sure it is the other man that takes the rap. Those Tiverton fans that followed The Yellows up to Rugby will be able to relate to where I am coming from...and can fill in the names to fit the descriptions. The naive‚ but guilty. The guilty that compounded the crime. And the sneaky little weasel that caused all the problems but was never caught himself.

Pre season had seen some promising signs from Tivvy. The rebuilt side had played some good football‚ steadily improving their togetherness and understanding as the level of opposition improved - with the exception of the encounter with the Curse of Exmouth of course. The supporters ire at the excess of cards of both yellow and red that many saw as a major contribution to last seasons failure had been partly allayed by the public announcements that players would be financially penalised by the club for on pitch misdemeanours. the ball was staying on the green a lot more. Everything in the garden was rosy or getting that way. When the first earnest kick of the ball got the season underway in front of Rugby United´s new and impressive stand‚ it continued to look as if things were about to bloom again for The Yellows. the term kick of the ball´ was not casually chosen for the first serious kick´ was not of the ball but of Nathan Rudge as Rugby´s skipper‚ the diminutive Robbie Beard launched himself at the Tivvy defender before a minute had flicked by on the stopwatch. Amazingly the referee awarded just the free kick‚ settling only for a quite word of calm down´ to the offender. It was to turn out to be a misjudgement that was to spoil the afternoon´s entertainment and lead to a niggly and scrappy contest. Initially Tivvy overcame the terrier like attentions of their opponents and managed to show some of the keep ball skills they had displayed in pre season outings. Two consecutive corners in the 5th minute were swung in close from the right quadrant by the left boot of Chris Vinnicombe‚ the second really testing the home keeper‚ Dean Thomas who did well to fist the ball away to be cleared upfield. Tivvy were well on top and Kevin Wills pushed up well to break clear and fire in a strong shot that flicked off a defender and soon afterwards was again involved as he touched the ball to Jamie Mudge to hit another shot‚ again deflected by a defender for another corner. As The Yellows squeezed for the opening goal so the home side became more physical. with quarter of an hour gone Gary Redgate repeated his captain´s manoeuvre on Rudge of the opening minute‚ his chosen victim being Darren Edwards. This time the referee‚ perhaps realising he had to be stronger in order to avoid losing control of the game‚ reached into his pocket to produce the yellow card. No sooner had he put it away than he was presented with the ideal opportunity to repair his earlier failing when Beard foolishly handled a high cross into the penalty area semi circle. The earlier remiss was amended as the still warm card was raised a second time. Despite the constant interruptions to the flow of play‚ each heralded by the peep of the officials whistle‚ Tivvy continued to create the majority of the forward movement. Twenty minutes in and Mudge chased a loose ball down into the right hand corner into the goalmouth that produced a moments chaos but no more as it was turned out for yet another corner kick. Twenty five gone and Winter carried the ball forward (NOT in the Webb-Ellis style‚ you understand) and sent an inch perfect pass the width of the field‚ finding Chris Vinnicombe on the left touchline. Vinnicombe moved the ball forward before sending it back across to the far side of the Rugby penalty area where Mudge again hit a decent shot that was deflected for a corner.

There were signs of the way the game was going having opposite effects on the respective teams. Tivvy were beginning to look a little frustrated by their failure to make the breakthrough. Their play was not as smooth. They looked less comfortable on the ball....and that ball was spending more and more time airborne. And Rugby too were spending more tome with their eyes upturned. Not only following the flight of the ball but in thanking the gods for being on their side and assuring them that they would repay them by taking advantage of the situation. They came very close to sneaking the lead in the 32nd minute. A bout of slick passing and running off the ball‚ particularly by Beard and Justin Marsden saw them create their first real chance as Marsden made it to the by-line and fired a shot in that caused Steve Ovendale to exert himself for the first time. More running at the Tiverton back line brought chaos in the Tiverton penalty are as the defence failed to clear the lines. The ball eventually came to rest just inside the penalty area with Rob Cousins vainly trying to force it away. Having failed in his quest‚ Rob smothered the ball with his body preventing any of half a dozen boots getting a telling contact. Inevitably the game was stopped. Cousins penalised for obstruction. Arm raised. Indirect free kick. The wall did it´s job in blocking rather than deflecting the shot. In the ensuing scramble another shot was fired in...and on target. This time there was no wall but just a single yellow shirt. Yes‚ Cousins was in position again! Tivvy broke. There was an impressive sweep down the middle of the field as Mudge and Edwards swapped passes. Thomas held Mudge´s 35 yarder with little trouble. Right on the break it was Beard´s turn as he attempted to poke a little lob shot over Ovendale. The big keeper plucked the ball out of the air with consummate ease and we all went in search of something more invigorating as the half time whistle sounded.

The first half began as insipidly as the interval tea. Wishy washy‚ a pale imitation of what it was intended to be. The first noteworthy action occurred between Winter and Steve Evans. Their reward? A yellow card a piece. The home side won their first corner of the game in the 53rd minute. Winter was again in the action as he headed it clear but the ball came back in double quick time from the boot of Jamie Williams. Not quite back as the defender delivered a typical defenders scooped shot: high‚ high‚ and getting higher. Upfield from the goal kick went Town and they in turn won a corner to maintain their leading margin of such kicks. Over to take the kick went Vinnicombe. But this one was different‚ and the variation was not as might be expected‚ the short one. It still came in high but not close in but to the central back area of the penalty box semi circle. Nathan Rudge connected with a bullet header. Thomas parried the effort away. The ball was poked back goalwards and again the keeper failed to hold it‚ only pushing it as far as Tom Stocco who lifted his foot knee high to hook it into the net from a dozen or so yards out. The deadlock was broken. The goal brought the game to life somewhat as the home side battled more energetically in attempting to find an equaliser and Tivvy‚ likewise‚ raised their effort in trying to keep them at bay. And unsurprisingly the niggling continued. Nothing too violent but a series of petty fouls and petulance. It was the later that saw David Steele collect a yellow card for kicking the ball away at a free kick in the 62nd minute but the fire might have been taken out situation if‚ a minute later‚ Wills had managed to kill the game off. Busting through the middle the Tivvy midfielder was one on one with Thomas but it was the Rugby keeper that kept his side in the game with a brave save at Wills´ feet.

Then‚ midway through the half‚ came the watershed. The turning point of the game. Stocco‚ who apart from scoring the goal‚ had been a strength at the back‚ launched a late‚ late tackle. For the sixth time (3-3‚ ergo the Tivvy equaliser!) in under an hour the yellow card was given an airing. There could be few complaints. It left the youngster in a difficult position as the home side pressed forward. To risk the tackle or to stand off? Not that it was by any stretch of the imagination a desperate situation for the visitors. Though Rugby were on the ascendancy Tivvy were still breaking and creating chances. Wills sent Mudge on a run through the middle‚ frantically chased by a defender that just got close enough to disrupt Mudge´s shot and give Thomas a reasonably easy take. But the majority of attacking play was coming from the home side and that man Beard was involved in most of it. When Stocco went in with a strong tackle that took the ball, Beard went over yelping like a castrated puppy. Had Stocco been able to stay on his feet and carry the ball away he might have got away with it. As it was both defender and forward were on the deck, the later rolling around as if he were giving birth. It convinced the referee that it must have been a foul, and a serious one at that. Out came the yellow again, inevitably followed by the red. The cat was really among the pigeons for The Yellows now. With tails high Rugby knew they had ten minutes against ten men. Would it be long enough for them to salvage the game - even turn it round and take the victory they had seldom really looked capable of? It took less than three minutes for the first part of the question to be answered. Yes, it would be enough time. Another free kick midway into the Tiverton half wide on the left. A touch from Beard. A cross floated to the back of the penalty area. The head of Rory Squire making contact, just. No power and a lack of intended direction but the ball hit the ground, bounced weakly up, against the post and dropped again just over the line. The equaliser. Not a classic goal but enough for a point. Off they went in search of the clincher but Tivvy held them....until the 90th minute. Beard broke free on the right. Rudge was a foot behind and the pint sized striker looked to be capable of increasing the gap. Rudge hauled him down. Fine...if it had stopped there. It didn´t. Instead of going to ground himself and staying there, or trotting away, Rudge released the frustration of his afternoons torment by the Rugby man by stamping down at him before moving on. Right in front of the referee´s assistant. The second airing of the red card. Tiverton survived the free kick and two further corners to hang onto a point.

It could have been worse but it should have been better. Town will have to learn to rise above many difficulties this season. Pitches like ploughed fields; physical opponents; spoiling tactics; and not least off all their own tendency to loose their heads.

Tiverton Town: .Steve Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe, Tom Stocco, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, Iain Harvey, Darren Edwards (Dave Hallett, 82), David Steele, James Mudge (Jamie Densham, 82).

Subs not used: Matt Lock, Shaun Goff, Mike Booth

Booked: Winter, Steele, Stocco,

Sent Off: Stocco, Rudge.

Rugby United: Dean Thomas, Gary Morgan, Jamie Williams (Richard Wesley, 87), Andy Commander, Gary Redgate, Rory Squire, Craig Dutton, Robbie Beard, Justin Marsden, Steve Evans (Jon Douglas, 75).

Subs not used: Kevin Charley, Dave Pearson, Jermaine Gordon,.

Booked: Redgate, Beard, Evans,

Att:: 315

Referee: W Barratt (Halesowen).

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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