Match report

Bishop's Cleeve 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Wednesday 05/10/2011   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Seldom can two consecutive Tiverton games have been played out in such contrasting conditions and fresh from the sweltering climes of Abingdon the Yellows re-donned their normal colours and took to the field for the first time at Bishop’s Cleeve with Noah cautiously looking on and pairs of zebras, giraffes and marmosets awaiting their boarding passes. And not only did the rain fall in biblical proportions but the winds swept ferociously from right to left as Tiverton began by attacking the clubhouse end of the ground, David Steele and Joe Bushin in for the beach-bound Liam Ellis and the drained Mark Saunders.

In truth Tiverton did little in the way of attacking in the early part of the game, and it was the hosts who poured forward, slightly into the moderately diagonal yet annoyingly influential crosswind. It was a breeze that played havoc with the judgement when the ball was in the air, and Chris Wright in the Tivvy goal found this out after eight minutes when he stepped from his line and flapped at a right wing cross from Lee Davis. Wright was almost punished but the Bishops player-manager Alex Sykes couldn’t quite beat Tom Gardner who had retreated smartly as his goalkeeper wandered.

Michael Jackson stepped up to ram a free kick into the wall soon afterwards following Gardner’s foul on Lee Smith, and thereafter a period of twenty or more minutes ensued with little in the way of quality as conditions continued to deteriorate. Direct play had been impossible from the kick-off, now even short passes proved challenging as the rain lapped the pitch into a green and slick rink of randomness. Time and again James Nortei in the home goal was asked only to step towards the edge of his area to clean up through-balls that had seen their power accentuated by the constant gusts, and the one time the ball did hold up to a degree Nortei sliced a clearance under pressure over the stand and into the dark wilderness beyond.

Something inexplicable happened towards the end of the first half and Tivvy really started taking the game to their hosts. Perhaps the wind dropped and the rain eased a little, perhaps the Yellows had gained enough experience and learnt to deal better with the elements, perhaps it was just the natural pulse of the game. Michael Nardiello scampered through on the left and fired in a low shot which Nortei blocked with his legs and deflected for a corner, and then from a clever throw-in manoeuvre Kevin Hill flicked the ball on and Aaron Dawson was also denied by the Cleeve custodian, a fine save, yet an encouragement for Town as they were able to finish the half with the momentum.

Tiverton continued in the ascendancy after the interval, forcing Jon Crowford into the book for a tardy challenge on Josh Searle, and three minutes later the visitors forged ahead. Ian Sampson, on at the break for Harry Nodwell, was released on the right and breezed like an Olympic sprinted beyond the cumbersome Mark Pritchett before pulling a back a cross. The ball was behind both Nardiello and Joe Bushin but Searle arrived late to carefully place a shot beyond Nortei and into the top corner, a shot that frankly could have gone anywhere but was superbly controlled given the unpredictable nature of the pitch and the weather.

Sampson squandered a great chance to double the lead just three minutes later when he once more used his pace and fresh legs to break free, this time in a more central position, but with only the ’keeper to beat the Tivvy winger opted for an early lob rather than a placed finish and the ball sailed harmlessly wide of the target. It could and should have been a second goal but poor decision-making proved crucial, and perhaps ultimately costly.

Thereafter it was all Cleeve – they piled forward, pinned Tivvy back inside their own half and prodded and probed in search of an equaliser. Sam Avery struck a snapshot that Wright tipped around the post with twenty-five minutes still to play, and a couple of clicks later Alex Faux was penalised for a foul by the touchline that allowed the home side to ping the ball into the danger area. Sykes did just that and Paul Kendall handled as he attempted to clear, gifting the Bishops a penalty and earning the Tivvy centre-half a yellow card for his misjudgement. Jake Lee rolled the ball to Wright’s right, Wright stepped and fell to his left and the game was tied again.

Bishop’s Cleeve continued to pump the ball forward but seldom worked any real chances as they sought to build on their new-found confidence, and twice in quick succession the game was disrupted as first Smith and then his replacement Stuart Midwinter came off second best in tangles with Faux. Smith, ironically, escaped a caution of his own as his clumsy challenge saw him end up with concussion and an early shower, while Midwinter felt the full force of flailing arms as he tried to pounce on a ball into the area that Gardner had shepherded away, without the use of his arm according to the referee but not according to many others in the ground.

Russell Jee came on late in the game for Tiverton to sure up the midfield, Nardiello giving way, and after Kendall had unnecessarily chopped down Sykes (or perhaps it was Pritchett; by not the rain lashed almost horizontally and visibility was ssignificantly less that the width of the pitch) to see a second yellow and a red Saunders replaced Serale for the final onslaught. And that final onslaught was one free kick, from wide on the left which the Tivvy defence saw out for a goal kick.

There was nothing pretty about this game and two much better sides would have struggled to play anything resembling creative football. For Bishop’s Cleeve a point will be disappointing considering they bossed the final thirty minutes, while for Tiverton the share of the spoils must be greeted with more than a modicum of satisfaction. Regardless of how the game panned out, grabbing a draw away from home against a team higher in the standings is surely a good thing.

Bishop’s Cleeve: James Nortei, Jon Crowford, Mark Pritchett, Lee Smith (Stuart Midwinter 76 (Warren Mann 81)), Ashley Caldwell, Jake Lee, Lee Davis, Michael Jackson, Elliott Kennedy, Sam Avery, Alex Sykes
Goal: Lee 67p
Booked: Crowford 47
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Aaron Dawson, Harry Nodwell (Ian Sampson 46), Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Josh Searle (Mark Saunders 90+7), David Steele, Michael Nardiello (Russell Jee 88), Joe Bushin, Alex Faux
Goal: Searle 50
Booked: Kendall 66, 90+6
Sent off: Kendall 90+6

Attendance: 103

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy