Match report

Halesowen Town 3 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Monday 30/08/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

That master of British humour‚ Peter Sellers‚ hit one of 60´s comedy´s high spots when he recorded a mock documentary soundtrack highlighting the dubious delights of Balham - Gateway to the South´. Far be it from me to decry the attractions - largely unknown to me‚ I admit - of the West Midlands Town of Halesowen‚ but I couldn´t help wondering as we sped (?) up the M5 if the good burghers of the said borough might not benefit from investing in a little similar exposure. Paris‚ Rome‚ Athens‚ all have an image and generally an attractive one at that. But what has Halesowen got? True‚ the same might be said of Tiverton‚ but had it not been for Tivvy´s two visits since gaining promotion to the Southern League I can think of little logical reason for going to Yeltzville. Even when this season´s fixture list finally hit the streets the prospect of 100 plus miles of M5 on a Bank Holiday was a far from enticing prospect. Ever loyal to the cause the arrangements were made‚ with the consolation that having allowed time for the expected traffic chaos‚ if it failed to materialise we would have time to seek out and sample some of the unknown delights of the Black Country. Until‚ that is‚ the game was moved from the expected afternoon slot to an evening kick off. Short of making an entire day out of it‚ any spare time would only be in early evening - not the best moments to judge the vitality of any town. Never-the-less the journey was made - Tiverton´s second visit to the mysteriously named Yeltz´ and their second evening one at that. Hopes for an improvement on the last result‚ a 0 - 0 draw‚ were high as we peeled off the motorway and headed into Halesowen - Gateway to .....Dudley?....Stourbridge?...Kidderminster? No wonder they call it the Black Country and Brummies regard it‚ with a certain amount of disdain‚ as being almost in Wales.



The Yellows kicked off and almost straight away lost the ball and found themselves under pressure and conceding the first free kick of the game as the watch clicked into the third minute. Hoisted high into the goalmouth‚ the ball should have proved no problem on his previous showings for Mark Ovendale so it was something of a surprise when he came‚ rose‚ and dropped it. Grabbing the ball to safety it was cleared away upfield but possession was again lost to the home side and they pushed forward once more into the Tivvy half. Craig Strachan‚ son of the former Scottish star Gordon‚ carried the ball forward down the right flank with the Tiverton defenders backing off. Up looked Strachan and chose his moment to fire in a cross to the far post. At least it appeared to be a cross and not a shot. Regardless of intent the ball sailed across the sixyard box where it evaded everybody - regardless of shirt colour - and crept just inside the far post with Ovendale standing statuesque in the middle of his goal-line. Not an auspicious start for Tiverton.....if they had started at all! But an early goal conceded is nothing new to Town‚ certainly there have been even quicker ones in the last few seasons and The Yellows have often managed to recover from such setbacks and there were signs that they were not too demoralised by having conceded. Three minutes later they created their first real chance of hitting back when Jamie Mudge‚ still apparently bubbling from his performance two days earlier against Solihull‚ crossed the ball in from the left. Tom Stocco‚ who was already beginning to look the part as target man‚ had his back to goal but rose to nod the ball down and back into the path of David Steele who fired in a shot that never left the turf but was short of the power needed to beat Halesowen keeper Chris Taylor. But oh dear! Though the forwards were clearly now awake the same could not be said of the defence and/or midfield. Eight minutes gone and like a re-occurring dream - or should that be nightmare - Strachan found himself in exactly the same position as five minutes previously. And he did almost exactly the same thing. Not quite the same for this time his cross was more accurate and floated not into the goal but to where it was intended to go‚ the back of the six yard box where Richard Burgess was waiting to blast it into the net with nary a defender to challenge him. One - Nil became Two - Nil and the uphill slope became a far more severe gradient for The Yellows.

The Yeltz had their tails well and truly in the air and Tivvy were pinned back in their own half for the next five minutes as the home side sought to apply the coupe de grace. It might have been a blessing in disguise as there was no option but for the defence to wake up and having withstood the storm the whole team started to look capable of mounting a recovery of some sorts. The youngsters in midfield began to come to grips with the pace of the game. The back line found that they could play the ball forward without lifting it to the sky every time. The front pairing continued to look lively. Not everything in the garden was rosy‚ there were still areas that the hosts were still superior but Tivvy at last began to give as good as they were given and in some places even more. Mudge brought a decent save from Taylor in the 21st minute‚ Winter lifted in a cross that Stocco headed down to Steele who was tackled just as he was about to hit in a shot and by the half hour mark Tiverton were on top and the majority of the action was taking place in the Halesowen half of the pitch. Mudge´s third goal in two games was not unexpected nor undeserved for either the individual or the team. It came from a throw in on the left. Chris Vinnicombe to Stocco who turned infield and seemed to be in full flight towards the centre of the field when the ball was taken off his toe by Steele heading forward in support. Let´s be generous and describe the event as a neat scissors´ move‚ since Steele then sent a pass where Stocco might have carried it‚ into the edge of the penalty area to Mudge. Jamie collected the ball and promptly found a gap in the wall of defenders converging on him to fire in a curling shot that had Taylor stretching in vain and the net rippling as the margin narrowed to a single goal. The gradient was once more a mere slope and the way Tivvy were playing seemed well within their climbing capabilities despite a late flurry from Halesowen that was brought to an end by the half time whistle.



If it had been a boxing bout that we´d been watching then the second half would have been the second round and would have started with a jangling bell. Tivvy would have stretched out their arm and hit the snooze button....they were caught dozing again. Halesowen won a corner in the third minute. The ball was lofted in. Ovendale remained anchored to his line. Dave Hallet sleepily allowed the man he was marking to make his run to meet the ball and head it into the net. Sound familiar? Once more there was a mountain and not a molehill in front of the visitors. Oh‚ and who won the corner with a full blooded run at the Tivvy defence?....That man (boy) Strachan again! So off The Yellows set again‚ on the steep uphill road to recovery - we hoped. Halesowen‚ though‚ weren´t about to concede the initiative again. It became a quite evenly matched contest with both sides enjoying their purple patches between long periods of midfield stalemate. Entertaining stuff with just about every variation of play from both sides. Running forwards‚ slick passing moves‚ hoofing clearances as well as constructive play out of defence. Both sides were as good and as bad as each other with Tivvy probably just having a slight advantage‚ reflected in the fact that the only yellow cards to be shown were lifted above the heads of home players. Mind you‚ it has to be said that there were some strange decisions coming from the main official and he could be thankful that both sides were playing the match in a hard but fair manner. The fifty sixth minute saw a repeat attempt of last season´s successful free kick scenario. Mudge connected well this time but the wall deflected his drive and three minutes later from a free kick in the same position Winter crashed a shot over the wall that flew between Taylor´s hands but made just enough contact with the keeper´s gloves to see it over the bar for a corner. Even Rob Cousins managed to get forward on a run and deliver a swinging cross into the Halesowen goalmouth. Stocco once more was up to head the ball down but it fell just short of Mudge. For The Yeltz a long throw in provided Lewis Barker with the chance to execute a spectacular overhead bicycle kick that sailed over the crossbar in a period of play disrupted by substitutions.

Tivvy continued to shade things if you judged matters by the activity of the receptive keepers‚ Taylor might not have been Halesowen´s first choice but he was certainly capable of dealing with most things that Tivvy could throw at him, including a long range effort from Harvey which he held cleanly at full stretch on the ground to his left and a Wills header directed right into his arms from a Tiverton corner on the right. The home side also found an effective means of defence was to push the ball out to their diminutive No. 9, Jimmy Haarhoff and let him run at the Tiverton defence. It seemed to make little difference which of the back men picked him up, they all had trouble dealing with both his speed - Paul Milsom looked particularly pedestrian against him - and ball control, though he might have been far more effective had he not thrown himself to the floor every time there was the slightest hint of physical contact. With nine minutes remaining and time running out, Tivvy were awarded an indirect free kick a yard inside the Halesowen penalty area. What a palaver! Over a minute taken in placing the ball, measuring out the distance where the wall was to be placed, changing the line up in the wall, trying to cut out the pushing and shoving that inevitably goes on in such situations. And for what. A shot by Mudge that thundered against the wall for a corner. Tivvy fought to the end. Stocco headed wide from a Winter free kick; Wills burst through onto a free kick from deep in the Tiverton half but slipped his cross behind Stocco coming through the middle; And Stocco went close himself with a neat back heel flick that looped up onto the roof of the net. Chances, though, do not win games. You have to put them away and Halesowen did that despite having fewer. On that measure they deserved the points.



This time four seasons ago, in their second year in the Southern League, Tiverton Town had six points from their first six games. Some folks were writing them off as contenders for anything other than mid table mediocrity. Heads were being called for. Tactics were being criticised by terrace managers. Other teams´ supporters were posting on our forum gloating over The Yellows fall from grace. Nothing much changes, eh? That season ended with Tivvy winning promotion. All is not lost. Yet.



Tiverton Town: .Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe (Jamie Densham, 83), Dave Hallett (Matt Lock, 65), Paul Milsom, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, Iain Harvey, Tom Stocco, David Steele, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Shaun Goff, Mike Booth, Darren Edwards.

Booked: None.



Halesowen Town: Chris Taylor, Craig Strachan, Dave Haywood (Ian Cooper, 62), Dan Jones, Steve Pope, Asa Charlton, Alex Cowley, Richard Burgess, Jimmy Haarhoff, Lewis Baker, Simon Forsdick.

Subs not used: Ben Stean, Darren Grocutt, Nick Preston, Paul Danks.

Booked: Jones, Forsdick.

Att: 406

Referee: S.T. Cook (Lydney, Glocs.)

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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