Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 1 Solihull Borough

   Saturday 28/08/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

With apologies to Luke: 15: 22-24. " ........ the manager said to his squad‚ "Quick! Bring the No.9 shirt and put it on him. Put cash in his hand and boots on his feet. Bring on Solihull Boro and slaughter them. Let´s have a feast and celebrate. For this striker of mine was absent and is returned again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate.

The prodigal son returns to Ladysmead! After what has seemed like months filled with speculation‚ rumour‚ not to mention a degree of red herrings thrown at the media‚ Carl Cliff-Brown was once again about to fill the big man at the front´ role for Tivvy. Like the parable´s penitent wanderer he was to be welcomed back with open arms by the majority‚ though some had remaining doubts about his motivation‚ commitment and genuine repentance.

Never-the-less he was coming back and.......Or was he? He wasn´t by 2.00pm.......nor by 2.30pm.........Just like the original biblical tale the return of the prodigal footballer was merely another story‚ an anecdote from which a lesson might be learnt. Shuffle the pack one more time‚ Martyn‚ at least the players that you decide on will all want to play for the Yellows!

The changes may have been forced but for many of the spectators they were welcome. Nathan Rudge and Tom Stocco´s absence gave opportunities for others to show their abilities or versatility. Iain Harvey dropped back into the defensive line and likewise Paul Milsom stepped in where he had trodden so effectively on occasions last season. Kevin Wills moved forward and the two midfield slots that were therefore vacant went to Dave Hallett and Matt Lock. It took a while for the new line up to settle and while they did the visitors looked the side most likely to open the scoring‚ There was one particularly worrying moment in the seventh minute when Harvey and Milsom played the ball back and forth between themselves on the left side of Tivvy´s penalty area. Luckily‚ though they tried to steal possession‚ Boro´ were unable to take advantage of the faffing around and Milsom eventually applied the boot to clear upfield. The first quarter of an hour saw two thirds of the game being contested in or near the Tivvy half with the Yellows looking lively enough on the break but hardly threatening Mark Gayle in the Solihull goal. The closet the keeper came to having to make an early save was when his defence conceded a free kick just outside the penalty area in a central position. It was perfectly placed for a replay of last season´s party piece but there was no Cheno´ to apply the finishing touch and Jamie Mudge´s shot was mishit - weak and wide. When the deadlock was broken‚ however‚ it was by The Yellows and though it might have been against the overall run of the game‚ there had been signs that the understanding within the team and its overall shape was improving. Again the move came from a free kick‚ this time wide out on the left. Steve Winter crossed the pitch to curl in a teasing ball. Mudge got the faintest of touches‚ just enough to change the path of flight and make Boro´s Jamie Petty´s attempted clearance into a goalbound deflection.

The slightly fortuitous lead lifted The Yellows and they began to dominate the game. David Hallet was looking particularly industrious in midfield and with 21 minutes on the clock his long cross caused Gayle problems as he was challenged in the air by both Lock and Wills but managed to scramble the ball into his grasp at the third attempt. Two minutes later Wills was again at the centre of the action as he burst through into the area but was shoved from behind as he went. Off balance‚ the midfielder converted to frontman‚ stayed upright and staggered on for a yard or two before hitting the deck. Play on replied the referee to the appeals for a penalty. With Town so well on top it was little wonder that Mudge was having a whale of a time and in the 25th minute his enthusiasm was rewarded. Winter‚ by now back in position on the right flank‚ sent a ball curling down the touchline. Mudge took it in his stride‚ outpacing a defender on the outside as he did. Cutting in towards the penalty area‚ another tackle was evaded before the ball was crashed into the net. What was remarkable was that Mudge had been travelling at 90 degrees or more to the goal when he delivered his shot‚ thus firing home into a net that was marginally behind him. Now there was no way that Tivvy could be accused of being lucky leaders and though the game remained quite open it was clear which was the better side. Solihull tried to play the ball around but invariably they were their own worst enemies as after two or three successful passes the next one went astray and Tiverton were then able to hold the ball for long periods. Not that they held it for long in the 36th minute when Milsom broke up one of Solihull´s increasingly rare attacks. Just as discussion was being aired about Milsom´s ability as a stopper but with a lack of distribution skills‚ he delivered a perfect pass forward to David Steele. Steele swept the ball ahead in a single move and Mudge was on the run again. Beating the offside trap‚ he was faced by the lone‚ and lonely‚ figure of Gayle. The keeper edged forward. Mudge didn´t break stride as he swayed to his left‚ sent the ball to his right and peeled away to celebrate his second strike. A minute later and Tivvy´s bundle of energy could well have been the provider as he forced in a cross from the left that Wills just failed to connect with at the near post as he closed into close quarters with Gayle. Confused by the near contact the keeper also missed the ball which flew harmlessly across the goalmouth. Wills‚ too‚ was showing an abundance of energy but his only reward‚ if it could be so called‚ was to see Solihull skipper Nick Amos being shown the Yellow card after the Boro´ man had performed his interpretation of The Beatles I Wanna Hold Your Hand´‚ but taken Wills´ whole arm as he dragged the Tivvy man back. Half time. 3-0. Don´t mention Chelmsford...........

Tivvy started the second half as brightly as they had ended the first. The forty-eighth minute saw Solihull conceding another free kick out on the wide left. Over went Winter again to take the kick‚ curling it to the far post where it was pushed out for a corner on the right. Over came the cross‚ cleared at the far post but only across the penalty area where Mudge leapt a yard in the air as he delivered a cracking scissors kick which bounced back out of the crowded six yard box to Rob Cousins just beyond the 18 yard line. Rob let fly with an effort that dipped just a fraction too late and ended up on the top of the net. A rare sight indeed‚ a Cousins shot on goal! For the opening quarter of an hour of the second period Tivvy continued to look comfortable. Both Winter and Chris Vinnicombe were getting forward and though not rampant The Yellows were still well in control with Milsom doing everything that a defensive stopper could be required to do. But then‚ like Alice´s Cheshire Cat‚ they began to fade. First sign was that there was less pressure on Gayle. When Amos luckily evaded a second card after rough-housing Hallet to the turf‚ Steele´s attempted blast through the wall was lacking in power. Though the ball found it´s way through the barrier it was it´s lack of power that caused the keeper to fumble and not it´s explosive speed. Boro´s attacks were still something of a novelty but Mark Shepherd did manage to fire in a shot that was not a million miles past the joint of Mark Ovendale´s crossbar and upright. That was the signal to the visitors that they might‚ just might‚ be able to wring something from an apparently lost cause. No Ratcliffe mentality from Boro´. They upped their game and began stringing the passes together in a sustained comeback effort, The Yellows were left chasing shadows and in the 22nd minute after the interval, Petty redeemed himself as he rounded of a neat piece of interplay to hit the net and narrow the margin.

Suddenly Tiverton looked weary and jaded. Time for substitutions, and yes!, they were made. Mike Booth replaced Milsom. Jamie Densham took the place of Wills. A moments respite from their back foot saw Tivvy remind Gayle that he was still involved in the game when Lock fired in an optimistic lob from thirty yards out, but there was a feeling that, with fifteen minutes remaining, the home side were hanging on. Even Boro´s central defender Mark Faulds managed to get in on the assault on the Tivvy goal, firing in a shot that Ovendale held well at ground level and full stretch to his left. At the other end Mudge sent a nice ball through for Densham to run onto but the youngster couldn´t find a gap to fire a shot through and was eventually dispossessed. Hallett was looking decidedly tired, his earlier sharpness gone as he was now always half a yard short of being in a tackling position. Winter seemed to have lost concentration - almost dreamily casual at times. In short, Town were defensively at 6´s and 7´s, disorganised and ragged. But somehow the line was holding, and when it was breached There was Ovendale to hold cleanly. Dean Peer grazed the crossbar, Martin Heir thundered a free kick through the wall but straight into the safe arms and body of Ovendale. The seconds ticked by. The minutes passed. Tivvy held on. Three points....let´s be grateful.

Once again, Tivvy proved that there is mileage in many a clich. A game of two halves.....well, more accurately three thirds. Is it that they are not fit enough? I don´t think so. Is the system wrong? Perhaps, but I´d like to think that it was something that could be varied as necessary. Is there a lack of motivation? Again, on the surface I´d say not, but one has to wonder if the mentality is right when they allow themselves to be forced back by teams they have previously dominated. Note: forced back, not sitting back. Give Solihull credit, they battled to the end. Maybe their sports psychiatrist could have found more remunerative employment in the Olympic village - or counselling the departed for good ( I hope) prodigal son.



Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe, David Hallett, Paul Milsom (Mike Booth, 67), Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills (Jamie Densham, 69), Iain Harvey, Matt Lock (Shaun Goff, 79), David Steele, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Darren Edwards, Ian Nott.

Yellow card: Mudge.

Solihull Boro´: Mark Gayle, Dean Peer, Martin Heir, Adam Cooper, Mark Faulds, Guy Hadland, Mark Shepherd, Matt Hawker, Adam Farrell (Junior Hewitt, 71), Nick Amos, Jamie Petty.

Subs not used: Morton Titterton, Pete Barry, Robin Judd.

Yellow Cards: Amos, Hadland.

Referee: Simon Hollick ( Plymouth).

Att: 451

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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