Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 2 Stoke City XI

   Saturday 16/07/2011   Friendly
Alan Reidy

Two defeats from the opening two pre-season friendlies doesn’t look all that clever on the face of it, but considering the quality of opposition facing a Tiverton Town side blessed with a large degree of continuity it is certainly not the end of the world. On Saturday afternoon, on a surface slickened by a morning downpour, a young Stoke City selection provided the challenge, and although we will only know in half a decade just how strong a side it was, the fact that Tiverton improved as the game went on is a testament to a squad that should theoretically have found the going tougher as the afternoon passed, against a team of eager beavers, all of whom had the blessings of youth on their side.

Mark Saunders’ starting eleven was much changed from Wednesday evening’s game against Torquay, with only four players chosen to begin both games, and it was Adam Mortimer, one of seven replacements, who was the first to threaten a goal net that had so far been unflustered since its installation in the summer. Morts raced into the box late and was able to get just the deftest of flicks onto Michael Nardiello’s left-wing cross, but it wasn’t enough to beat Stoke goalkeeper Dale Eve.

Six minutes later and the other net did bulge when Lucas Dawson was allowed to press forward from midfield to pick up a poor clearance and hammer in a low shot from twenty yards that had Chris Wright scrambling right across his goal in vain, the ball nestling perfectly just inside the post.

And barely a couple of minutes later City doubled their lead thanks to a splendid curling shot from a similar position by Michael Smith, a tall and gangly yet particularly useful centre forward.

There was a danger of the game becoming distressingly one-sided but Tivvy, to their credit, refused to buckle following the quickfire double, and it was the Yellows who carved out the better chances of the first half. In quick succession Kevin Hill had a powerful volley saved by Eve and Saunders nodded the rebound goalwards only for a desperate Stoke defence to somehow scramble the danger away. And with just a couple of minutes remaining before the break Harry Nodwell, so impressive on his first run-out in a yellow shirt three days earlier, once again caught the attention as he slammed in a low shot that Eve saved brilliantly, and then saved again as Nodwell charged in on the loose ball.

Eve’s second save was good enough to earn Tivvy a corner, and it was from this set piece that a deserved goal arrived, albeit fortuitously. Paul Kendall flicked the cross at the front post, and with both defenders and attackers watching and expecting the ball to drift out of play and behind for a goal kick Owen Howe was the only player to stay switched on. The young striker raced away, stretched out a leg and hooked the ball back over his shoulder, over the Potters’ ’keeper, and crucially beneath the crossbar and inside the post.

Substitutions didn’t necessarily disrupt the second half but they did mean it became increasingly difficult to follow the pattern (on closer inspection it may have been the cider I had consumed that made the game difficult to follow).

A few things were clear, however; Jamar Dobson should have scored but contrived to scuff the ball over the top from three yards after his initial effort had been parried by Wright; and Tiverton were the better team by some margin after the change of ends. There were flowing moves on both flanks as the Yellows took the game to a bunch of kids that at times looked desperate and at other times appeared disinterested. Substitutes Jesse Howe and Jules Emati-Emati almost combined deliciously but Jesse failed to read Jules’ intentions at the last moment and a cheeky backheel was hammered back towards the halfway line. Jules was clearly enjoying himself out there and danced a fine jig on the edge of the area only to see his eventual shot saved well by replacement glovesman Daniel Bachman. And Howe (of the Jesse variety) came within the smallest whisker of equalising with a low shot after superb work on the left by David Steele and Alex Faux had found him waiting at the far post.

With thirteen minutes left that was the last of the genuine chances, but it must be said that Tiverton controlled the tempo well with each and every player making a positive impression, from Nodwell and Eamti-Emati who shone brightly, right through to James Skinner, once more a late replacement for Hill and once more faultless in the tackle and with his distribution of the ball.

Ryan Draper was unavailable due to being a party-animal so Chris Wright was backed up by Aiden Barrett, and the sub- gaolie had ten minutes and a few hairy moments but came through unscathed, leaving Kendall and Mortimer, along with the already injured Russell Jee to keep the medical team busy for the next few days. Mortimer picked up a back injury, Kendall was in discomfort and boasted a badly blistered right heel, while Jee spent the afternoon with heavy strapping on a knee injury.

There are suitable replacements in the squad, and Saunders will be mindful of Kendall’s lack of action and the requirement not to over-push the defender who will certainly be finding the going tough after nine months out of action.

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

Attendance: 198

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy