Match report

Bedford Town 1 - 3 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 16/04/2011   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

Where there is life there is hope, and although Tiverton Town’s hopes of Premier Division survival still hang by the thinnest of threads a deserved victory at Bedford Town has allowed the Yellows to fight at least one more day as results elsewhere went largely in Tivvy’s favour. Despite falling behind to Ian Draycott’s seventeenth minute opener Tiverton maintained their focus and goals from Mark Saunders and Joe Bushin ensured the game had been turned on its head before the break. Michael Nardiello slotted home a second-half penalty to ensure Tivvy moved to within three points of safety, while at the same time drawing Bedford back into the relegation frame.

Tiverton were supposed to be down to the bare bones but the reality was less severe than the pre-match press cuttings had suggested with both Nardiello and Adam Faux fit to start, while Saunders started a league match for the first time since November’s defeat at Cirencester, his inaugural game as manager and a match which saw the midfielder pick up a knee injury that has been nagging him ever since. Recent acquisition Lloyd Gardner was absent, however, as was David Steele, so Russell Jee made up the midfield three alongside Saunders and Nardiello, and Liam Ellis dropped to the bench.

For Tivvy the early signs were good – Jee had an early shot that was blocked well by the retreating Stuart Wall, and Alex Faux poked in an effort to complete a quick move down the right, only for the splendidly jocular Ian Brown in the Bedford goal to save low to his left. All the while Bedford looked decent enough in possession, and their main protagonist Craig Daniel was instrumental in setting up the opening goal of the game in the nineteenth minute. Daniel played a clever diagonal ball over the top of the Tiverton defence and Draycott raced onto the pass, took one touch to bring the ball under control and another to smash a shot past Ryan Draper and into the roof of the net.

It was a cruel blow to Tiverton who had edged the opening exchanges, and one that so often in the recent past has been the precursor to a limp capitulation, but this time things worked differently. There was no sign of panic, no moping about, and no delay in getting back onto the front foot. It took just four minutes for Tivvy to restore parity as Ryan Leonard opened up the pitch with a raking ball out wide to Sampson, who was finding space regularly and giving the semi-legendary Eddie Lawley a bit of a run-around. Once in possession Sampson looked up calmly and chipped in a cross nicely between goalkeeper and defenders and Saunders romped in to powerfully head the ball past Brown.

At that point it was just about as certain as possible that Tiverton wouldn’t lose the game. Saunders has scored in 136 goals in 95 competitive matches for the Yellows and only twice been on the losing side. But stats like that mean little in reality, and with over an hour still to play there was still work to be done. And there was defending to be done as Bedford enjoyed their best spell of the first half following the equalising goal. Draper tipped over a shot from a tight angle by Daniel, and when the corner that followed was only half cleared the Tivvy ’keeper had to save smartly from Wall’s header, the Eagles defender knowing that he should have done better.

Tivvy rode the storm for five or six minutes before once again pressing up the pitch and taking the game to opponents who less than a year ago ensured their Premier Division safety at the expense of the same rivals. Derwayne Stupple became the first name into the referee’s notebook when he sliced down Faux the Younger; not quite the last man and therefore not quite a red card, but nonetheless a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the area and slightly to the right of goal. Leonard took the responsibility from the set piece and his low curling effort may have sneaked inside the post only for Brown to quickly move across his line and tip the ball around the upright.

Bedford still looked half-threatening with the ball but the Tivvy defence did well to push the home players into wide positions, and although there were a few corners to deal with they were dealt with, Tom Gardner winning more or less everything in the air. The home fans were silenced through frustration and the travelling support rallied behind their team, and ten minutes before the break came a second goal that wasn’t inevitable but was always on the cards. A John Smiths No-Nonsense ball out of defence descended midway inside the Bedford half of the field, Jules Emati-Emati did everything in his power to win a header against Gavin Hoyte, and Joe Bushin raced onto the flick, beat the advancing Brown and cheekily lifted the ball over the stricken goalkeeper, up, up, up, and eventually down just soon enough that the first bounce was already beyond the goal-line, between the sticks and beneath the bar.

The early stages of the second half saw Bedford back on top but chances came and went – Josh Sozzo’s shot was expertly saved by Draper, Graham Clark, roaming forward from his right-back slot fired just too high and just too wide, and Mark Duckett showed great skill to leave Alex Faux in his wake in a move akin to that Gascoigne goal against Scotland, but unlike Gazza the finish wasn’t there and the ball flew a couple of feet wide of the mark.

And then it happened! Tivvy finally got a bit of luck, luck that has been in short supply this season, with the award of a penalty that could have been considered harsh. Emati-Emati chased and won the ball wide on the left, jinked inside and slid the ball square across the edge of the 18-yard box where the omnipresent Alex had taken up station. Faux’s first time shot (with his right foot no less) was destined to at least call Brown into action, but the Eagles stopper was spared the hassle as Stupple blocked… with his hand. Nardiello maintained his composure and sent the spot kick one way as Brown went the other, and for the first time since December 2009 (Windsor & Eton excepted) Tivvy held a two goal lead in a league match. The opponents that damp day at Ladysmead… Bedford Town!

There was little further fight from the hosts and aside from one full-length save by Draper Tiverton controlled the game well, and could have in fact gone on to increase their advantage. Twice Brown saved from Bushin, from a header after another sumptuous Sampson cross, and then three minutes from time one-on-one. But the missed chances didn’t matter; Ellis, Mortimer and Turner all came off the bench, Saunders, Emati-Emati and Nardiello making way to deserved applause. Tom Damon and Jermaine Ivy were added to the fray for Bedford but their fresh legs were unable to pierce the rock of a defence that Tivvy had installed.

With two games remaining the life-support system is still beeping regularly and this victory will give Tivvy’s charges all the confidence they need ahead of the game against already-relegated Halesowen Town. A win on Saturday will ensure it goes down to the wire, and the Yellows certainly haven’t given up the fight just yet.

Bedford Town: Ian Brown, Graham Clark (Ben Islam 87), Eddie Lawley, Derwayne Stupple, Stuart Wall, Gavin Hoyte, Craig Daniel, Jamie Cole (Tom Damon 64), Josh Sozzo (Jermaine Ivy 60), Ian Draycott, Mark Duckett
Goal: Draycott 19
Booked: Stupple 31
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, Ryan Leonard, Alex Faux, Adam Faux, Mark Saunders (Liam Ellis 74), Tom Gardner, Ian Sampson, Russell Jee, Jules Emati-Emati (Adam Mortimer 80), Joe Bushin, Michael Nardiello (Ryan Turner 90+1)
Goals: Saunders 23, Bushin 39, Nardiello 59p
Booked: Mortimer 86
Sent off: None

Attendance: 251

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy