Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 0 Oxford City

   Saturday 20/11/2010   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

It is rather curious that there was a feeling of mild satisfaction amongst Tiverton supporters on Saturday evening. Seldom would a goalless draw at home to the team who started the day 20th in the table be welcomed, but Tivvy had lost their last six league games on the spin and delivered a number of performance that were, to put it mildly, below par. So an improved showing, a clean sheet and at long last a point to call their own was at least a step in the right direction. Goalscoring remains a tricky task, but against Oxford City the blank wasn’t due to a lack of trying, and the visitors were grateful to their goalkeeper who made three excellent saves to keep the Yellows at bay.

The early stages were understandably tense with neither side willing to risk too much by committing men forward as the basement battle was to crucial and opportunities too valuable to waste. And so it came to pass that only a few half-chances were mustered in the opening twenty minutes with David Steele and Kevin Hill off target for the hosts while Ashley Kington blazed high for City. Oxford stopper Jakub Jesionkowski was forced into one save which he dealt with consummately, denying Steele after the Tivvy midfielder had cut in from the right and shot low towards the bottom corner with his less favoured left foot.

Oxford’s best spell of the game followed and Kington once again failed to work Ryan Draper in the Tiverton goal as he curled a cheeky shot just over the top from the edge of the area. At that stage City were still reeling after being denied a penalty that they felt was warranted as Draper slid out to collect the ball and his momentum whilst making the save upended Mark Pritchard. However, the referee showed no interest, but perhaps five minutes later he at least showed the visitors a little sympathy when he waved away a handball in the opposite penalty area with Tivvy players protesting vociferously for a spot kick of their own.

Having ridden a storm for a ten-minute period Tiverton began to get a stranglehold of the midfield and Liam Ellis enjoyed his best game for some time on the right wing. Taking full advantage of the fact that his marker was not a natural left back Ellis found space out wide on a number of occasions and as the afternoon wore on it was clear that Tivvy’s main attacking threat and therefore their best chance of breaking the deadlock came from the former Exeter City player. It was perhaps ironic, therefore, that it was a move through the centre that finally unlocked the Oxford defence and had them properly beaten for the first time, but Jesionkowski stood up and made himself big when Mark Saunders powered through and found himself one-on-one with the City ’keeper. And in keeping with Tiverton’s horrid luck of late, the big Pole’s parried save fell a foot or two behind Hill who was following up, allowing the blue-clad defence to hack clear and relieve the danger.

But the danger was relieved for less that sixty seconds before the same combo once again contrived to see that the scores remained tied. Steele crossed from the left, Saunders turned back the years to acrobatically volley towards goal from eight yards and Jesionkowski blocked the shot at point-blank range, forcing the mother of all goalmouth scrambles which once again went in favour of Oxford.

While both teams had their own prolonged spells of pressure in the first half – at least after the non-event of the early stages – it was Tiverton who enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the second half, and seldom were City able to retain the ball long enough to seriously threaten an away goal. Ellis shot straight at Jesionkowski soon after the restart, and the Oxford number one rushed out quickly to deny Adam Mortimer just a couple of minutes later.

City’s one and only goalbound effort of the second period fell to Dave Savage, and the veteran midfielder almost struck it lucky as his shot from 25 yards skipped off the surface and Draper needed a helping from Lady Luck to deflect the ball away with his legs. But that was as good as it got for the visitors and as the game progressed so Ellis was thrust more regularly into the thick of the action, still scampering down his touchline and showing no signs of fatigue despite the milometer clicking over and again.

With fifteen minutes remaining Ellis raced away and crossed only for Steele to nod harmlessly over the bar, and another cross from the right by Ellis was retrieved by Steele, teed back for Perry Carpenter and then sent over the top again. Time had just about run out, Oxford were hanging on but generally with a firm grasp as long as they kept the ball away from the Tiverton right, and a goalless draw was beginning to look odds on. That was until Ellis again crossed having been released by Russell Jee, and Mortimer headed powerfully on target. At that stage it looked odds on that Tiverton had snatched a victory that their dominance deserved, but in one final act of heroism Jesionkowski leapt backwards, stretched up his left arm and marvellously palmed the ball over the top. Jee sent the resulting corner skidding pitifully across the grass and into the side-netting, an infuriating climax to a run of sustained pressure, and although Hill had one last shot in the fifth minute of time added on the ball sailed over as it had so many times before and the stalemate was confirmed.

Tiverton played infinitely better than they had in the sorry hammering at Swindon three days earlier but captain Adam Faux was forced out of the game with a groin strain after an hour, an injury that could well keep the defender out of action for more that the two games he is already set to miss due to his imminent suspension. Andy Ballard, who had had a torrid time for Oxford also hobbled out of the game, and with his departure went his mammoth throw that had proven a novel means of offence, albeit one that Tom Gardner in the heart of the Tivvy defence lapped up every time. The point apiece doesn’t really help either team a great deal (although Oxford overtake the dormant Halesowen in the standings), yet both teams were generally satisfied with the outcome, such are the vagaries of form and fitness.

Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, Adam Faux (Russell Jee 61), Jordan Trott, David Steele, Jak Martin, Tom Gardner, Mark Saunders, Kevin Hill, Jamie Densham (Perry Carpenter 76), Adam Mortimer, Liam Ellis
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Oxford City: Jakub Jesionkowski, James Clarke, Andy Ballard (Adam Morris 66), Dave Savage, Craig McIlwain, Wayne Blossom, Mark Janes (Felipe Barcelos 76), Liam Malone, Mark Pritchard, Lee Steele, Ashley Kington
Booked: Clarke 33, Savage 45, Pritchard 90+4
Sent off: None

Attendance: 195

This report ©2010 Alan Reidy