Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 2 Torquay United

   Wednesday 13/07/2011   Friendly
Alan Reidy

Trepidation? Not at all! This time last year Torquay came, saw and conquered to a degree that was frankly uncomfortable, but just twelve months on there was nothing like the hammering the Gullsdelivered, and for that credit should be bestowed upon the Tiverton management and players.

It would have been easy, on the first day back at school, to just go for a stroll, get soundly beaten and then say “hey, it wasn’t as bad as last time?, but the Yellows were having none of it and for large parts of the game were able to ask serious questions of a strong Torquay United side.

It was a familiar Tiverton side that started the game, with only Chris Onoufriou a newcomer as he took his place in a midfield three alongside David Steele and Russell Jee. With Alex Faux and Ian Sampson deployed as wingers there was little to write home about with regards to new systems or formations, and Tom Gardner and Liam Elliswere deployed as central defenders, either side of sweeper Kevin Hill. That left Jules Emati-Emati andJoe Bushin up front, and although none of the central trio offered a great deal in support there was always the threat from wide, particularly with Sampson looking fit and eager on the right wing.

It was Sampson that created the first chance of the game just a couple of minutes in as he linked up with Steele and eventually chipped in a cross towards the far post, but Gulls goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik was alert enough to pluck the cross from Bushin’s forehead.

Bushin looked lively, although a couple ofaudacious attempts from way out were never really a threat. But on 15 minutes he had a betterchance when Jee clipped in a free kick, but Bushin’s diving header at the far post was only good for the side netting.

At the other end Ryan Draper was being kept on his toes, particularly from the threat of Taiwo Attieno, the Torquay striker through whom most attacking moves from the visitors centred. Attieno shot off target from distance early on, shot straight at Draper soon afterwards, and before the game was even 20 minutes old failed for a third time when he headed weakly at the Tivvy ’keeper.

There was also a difficult chance for your prodigy James Quinn as Torquay began to dominate the game without really carving apart the Tiverton defence, and when the first goal finally arrived on 27 minutes it was more though luck than judgment.

Draper punted the ball upfield from a rolled backpass, but failed to get the desired purchase, and midfielder John Oastler was the fortunate recipient, seeing the ball land and sit up perfectly and then sending in back from whence it came. One bounce on the pristine Ladysmead turf was quite enough to take the ball back over Drapers head, another bounce and the net rippled apologetically as Oastler celebrated what can’t quite be described as a 40-yard stunner.

Without doubt the Gulls deserved he lead but Tivvy were giving as good as they got and both Sampson and Bushin looked particularly impressive, while Jules was being ever the nuisance, not allowing the Torquay defence to settle and forcing play into the central third where Tiverton theoretically held a numerical advantage.

However, despite the fact that the Yellows should have been able to make more in the centre of the park, it was from set plays that they looked the most likely to cause real trouble, a fact borne out when Jee’s corner found Bushin and Bushin’s header crept just wide of Olejnik’s right post.

On the other hand Attieno continues to be an awkward customer and ten minutes before the interval he won a corner fro the Torquay right. The ball was curled in, a teasing inswinger and the same, omnipresent forward nodded it goalwards. The header was on target, just inside the near post, but Faux was there and chested it away. Not so, according to the referee, Faux handled the ball from danger! It was a horror decision but one that was better to get out of the way when it doesn’t really matter. Attieno stroked home the penalty and Torquay had a cushion on which to rest.

There were three stories to tell of the second half. Fist and foremost Kevin Hill scored against his former club. It was one of the rare moments when everyone sort of knew what was happening yet nobody could quite believe it. Fantasy authors would have dismissed the concept as unbelievable, but Hill was having none of it. Tivvy had won a free kick slightly left of centre from an attacking perspective, and by now slowly running out of set piece ideas and Torquay gradually cottoned on to the plan. But this one was different – the blackclad layers were on the back foot as Jee stepped towards the ball, presumably expecting Hill to peel off around the back as is his style. Alas! No! Hill strode forward and Jee played a flat ball towards the centre of the area for a change. However, these schemes, best laid or nay, sometimes go wrong, and Hill failed to meet the ball, resulting in mass confusion at the far post. Up and down, left and right, and bizarrely the ball eventually skewed off towards the near post, which by this time had become the back post. And who was there? Torquay United legend Kevin Hill was there to finally prod the ball into the net from just about no yards and from an impossible angle.

The second half didn’t so much unfurl thereafter as fold upon itself. It wasn’t a pretty 45 minutes of football on the whole, and while both sides had their chances neither goalkeeper, not Tivvy’s second glovesman Chris Wright, was called into serious action following Hill’s 52nd minute strike.

Encouraging from a Yellows perspective was the performance of Harry Nodwell who looked energetic and comfortable as he raced forwards with the ball glued to his toe, and his timing of the pass also seemed well judged, although Michael Nardi8ello was sometimes less impressed with the distribution from Nodwell and other teammates.

That’s just what Nards is like – he expects high standards, and he walks the walk as much as he talks the talk. After six months of struggling with injuries Nardiello looked particularly sharp, and his intelligent movement is that of a player capable of much more that the Southern League. Here we have a player that, should he find full fitness, is one to truly cherish. It is up to the man himself to prove that, and game time is all important – maybe one day he will follow in his father’s footsteps and bang them in at Plainmoor. Maybe he will go higher…

Story two of half two – you have the gist – was the fact that the game was unsettled by substitutions. By the time Tivvy had made seven changes I only had three fingers left to track the Gulls switching of personnel, and either way it didn’t prove to be a great move for the spectacle. We shouldn’t moan, it’s pre-season and that is part and parcel of it all. Owen Howe enjoyed a run-out on the Tiverton left wing – he will be more active against Stoke – Adam Mortimer bustled around up front and James Skinner came on in lace of Hill and looked assured in the heart of defence. Ryan Turner on the right wing was trying to be dynamic but seemed to lack strength, and Nodwell kept pulsing forward and was the best played on the pitch in the second half.

And so to the bedtime story, story three, and back to Kevin Hill. With ten or fifteen minutes left he was given the honour of being replaced and being applauded off the pitch by both sets of supporters. The Torquay fans in attendance hold Hilly in high regard, almost an infatuation, and he didn’t disappoint his former terrace lovers. A goal but Gulls win; a worthy nomination as Man of the Match, a full standing ovation from all 400 plus folk in the ground, and good ol’ Kev hasn’t lost any friends. He will forever be a Torquay legend, and too right!

The game petered out, a last surge from Tiverton never materialised and Torquay held on relatively comfortably to their slender advantage. For the first day back at school it was a decent workout for both sets of players, nothing to get too excited about but enough positives to work on and a keenness to make the next step on the pre-season road.

Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, Ian Sampson, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Liam Ellis, Tom Gardner, Chris Onoufriou, David Steele, Russell Jee, joe Bushin, Jules Emati-Emati.
Substitutes: Chris Wright, Paul Kendall, James Skinner, Mark Saunders, Harry Nodwell, Ryan Turner, Adam Mortimer, Michael Nardiello, Owen Howe

Attendance: 404

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy