Match report

North Leigh 2 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 10/09/2011   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

North Leigh Assistant Manager Terry Merriman said after the dust had settled that Tom Blanch is one of the few referees he has seen at this level of football that performs at a consistently high level, and that he would have no qualms should Blanch referee all of North Leigh’s matches. But even Merriman and his superior Mark Gee had been left perplexed by a couple of Blanch’s decisions on as blustery afternoon which saw Tiverton Town’s chronic form boast no indications of alleviation. Unfortunately for Tivvy, the only thing they benefitted from during the match was the odd decision to rule out a North Leigh goal, but that was in the final minute of the game, and even had the hosts not scored immediately afterwards there was seldom any indication that a point would be coming back home to Devon. And that was because North Leigh’s wide players were too hot to handle and the hosts found it easy to break upfield quickly and relieve any early threats of pressure that Town attempted to put them under.

Blanch’s first error was the award of a penalty against Chris Wright after fifteen minutes as Andy McCabe went down under the challenge of the Tiverton goalkeeper. Wright had made up ground and dived at the feet of the home striker, pushing the ball back into McCabe’s legs and seemingly gaining a goal kick. But the man in the middle peeped on his whistle and pointed to the spot, despite not a single North Leigh player making a claim for a foul. To the referee’s credit he consulted with his linesman and reversed his decision, leaving the scored tied, and to the credit of the North Leigh players there were no vitriolic protests.

There then followed a number of half-chances, with Jules Emati-Emati and Joe Bushin both shooting wide at one end, while John Mills shot straight at Wright and McCabe charged down a clearance only to see the ball fly over the top at the other end. But five minutes before half time the hosts finally grabbed a deserved lead when the same pair played a neat one-two on the edge of the area and McCabe fired into the net from twelve yards.

Kevin Hill missed with a difficult header at the start of the second half but otherwise it was more or less one-way traffic with North Leigh growing into the game as the afternoon wore on. Wright denied Elliott Osborne-Rickets with a tidy save, and pulled off a better stop to keep out substitute Andy Caton. Exciting winger Kieran Sanders twice went close, chipping an audacious effort onto the inside of the post, and then moments later finding Wright in excellent form once again.

With time running out and Tiverton struggling to create anything even slightly resembling a noteworthy attack North Leigh broke quickly from deep and Sanders shrugged off the attentions of Liam Ellis before winning a challenge from Wright who had rushed out in sweeper-keeper style. Wright did enough to slow Sanders’ progress and Ellis was able t get back goalside, but Sanders executed a clever lob at which Ellis instinctively threw up a hand. As the ball bobbled towards an unguarded goal Mr. Blanch blew for handball on the edge of the area. This time the home players and management were furious as the ball finally trickled into the net but the goal wouldn’t stand. Ellis was served a straight red card for his part in the comedy, and justice was finally done when Caton swept the free kick low around the defensive wall and into the bottom corner.

There was just enough time left for Wright to again save well from Osborne-Ricketts, but by then the destination of the points was a formality and Tiverton’s lack of edge up front, arguably down to a lack of creativity in the middle, meant the Yellows had now completed three full games without a goal.

North Leigh: Sam Warrell, Stuart Hole, Mark Flanagan, Toby Clark, Tom Franklin, James Organ, Kieran Sanders, Brian Bowles, John Mills (Andy Caton 73), Andy McCabe, Elliott Osborne-Ricketts
Goals: McCabe 41, Caton 89
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Liam Ellis, Josh Searle (Michael Nardiello 68), Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Harry Nodwell, avid Steele, Jules Emati-Emati, Joe Bushin, Chris Onoufriou (Ian Sampson 50)
Booked: Onoufriou 47
Sent off: Ellis 88

Attendance: 63

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy