Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Clevedon Town

   Tuesday 15/11/2011   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

For the second time in two matches Tiverton came from behind to take the points, the end result all-important even if the quality of football on offer once again fell some way short of that which the team is capable. Michael Nardiello cancelled out Leigh Edwards-Samuels opener on the stroke of half time, and Tom Gardner swooped to net the winner, the Tivvy captain’s first goal in over two years. Otherwise it was a quiet day to be a goalkeeper with few shots troubling either Chris Wright at one end or South West legend Jason Matthews at the other, as the game was played out regularly way up in the air, something that would have Brian Clough spinning in his grave.

The Yellows have been suffering with a number of niggling injuries of late, and this was reflected in the line-up chosen to take on Clevedon Town as Liam Ellis was given the opportunity to rest a hernia problem and Alex Faux, the victim of a horrible challenge at Halesowen at the weekend was also not called upon from the start, rather taking a place on the substitutes bench. Joe Bushin didn’t even make it that far, a turned ankle at The Grove on Saturday meant Tiverton’s top goalscorer was at Ladysmead only in a supporting capacity, but both Mark Saunders and Kevin Hill started the game despite neither being at one-hundred percent. Jules Emati-Emati was another absentee, his gallivant to España freeing up a space for Harry Nodwell, and both David Steele and Ian Sampson also earned starting berths in the full-back positions. Alongside Faux and Ellis on the bench there was a recall for Stoke Gabriel hotshot Dan Broadway and a welcome return for Chris Onoufriou as he continues to seek fitness following a nasty bout of glandular fever.

Things started well enough for Tiverton against their struggling opponents, and without ever really getting into full flow the visitors were put under a fair amount of pressure during the game’s infancy. Down the right wing came the first attack, Aaron Dawson linking up clinically with Nodwell, but when the cross came in Michael Nardiello, in search of a goal that would draw him level with Bushin at the top of the charts, was unable to get the necessary purchase on his clipped shot, and Matthews was across to his right to make a relatively easy save. There was encouragement, however, for the Yellows, as it had taken just three minutes to identify a way through the Clevedon defence, a defence that sat deep when not in possession but would soon show a good amount of counter-attacking initiative, particularly from the zippy Jordan Walker on the right side of the back four. Before he had the chance to push forward though, Walker was needed at the Devco End of the ground to help behind a goalbound shot from Dawson, the opportunity arising when Clevedon were able only to semi-clear a corner and Josh Searle quickly freed the Exeter City loanee midfielder. Dawson had cut back in from the wing, skipped two challenges and dispatched a decent shot only for Walker to find himself perfectly positioned to hack the ball behind for another corner.

Sadly for the majority of the crowd – and that is a term that should be used loosely as only 170 fans chose Tivvy and Clevedon over England and Sweden – the momentum was not retained and Clevedon were every bit as dangerous when they made their forays into enemy territory, and the front pairing of Edwards-Samules and Chas Hemmings were clearly going to prove a handful to contain for a whole evening. Hemmings, a laughing stock the previous time the sides met after he planted wide of the target a chance that even the lovechild of Fernando Torres and Dirgo Forlan would have converted, proved with a strong showing that he wasn’t as bad as he had appeared this time last year at the Hand Stadium, his strength when holding up the ball crucial in allowing Clevedon to get bodies forward from midfield to support their attacks. And he nearly scored, twice. A low shot from a long way out skimmed wide, Wright scrambling across but always comfortable that his post was the right side of the ball, and then, after a quick one-two another shot, this time beating the Tivvy goalkeeper but not the retreating Gardner who cleared from inside the goal area.

Abruptly the game petered out into one of attrition rather than skill and inventiveness but there were still openings at both ends before the first goal finally arrived. Nardiello flicked Sampson’s cross into the advertising hoardings as he continued to lead the line and pose to Clevedon the obvious threat from a Tivvy perspective, and Saunders headed Hill’s cross over the bar, not realising the ball had deflected off Steve Kingdon’s crown. For the Seasiders former Paulton leftie Charlie Rich, always comfortable with the ball at his feet and never short of energy up and down his left flank, pressed forward but narrowly missed the target with a well struck effort, and when Dawson had committed a foul five yards outside the area Rich did much the same, curling a free kick just over the top. Seven minutes from the end of the first half, and with Clevedon now comfortably enjoying the better of the game, they deservedly broke the deadlock. A move that went across the face of the Tivvy defence from right to left (or left to right if you are wearing blue) saw Hemmings move the ball on to Ashley Kington, and then finally Edwards-Samuels, free just to the right of goal, and in enough space to pick his spot, make a cuppa, and drive a low shot beyond Wright.

Tivvy had, by this stage, been flat for twenty minutes or more, and they never really woke up and wiped the sleep from their eyes until long after the change of ends, but crucially they did manage to score a dreamy goal. There was nothing subtle about the build-up, a simple long punt from deep which Kingdon and Sam Teale both decided they would have a piece of and both missed. Nardiello had caused enough confusion in the initial challenge and was suddenly in the clear as the ball bounced favourably. Twenty-five yards from goal, still a lot of work to do against a very good goalkeeper… Nards wasn’t in the mood for wasting time, took a few steps forwards and curled a surprisingly early shot around Matthews as the Clevedon custodian threw himself to his right, bringing parity at the break.

From a Tiverton point of view there was little to enthuse in the second half with the exception of a goal that proved decisive, and the visitors weren’t all that far away from retaking the lead when Kington sent in a free kick from thirty yards or more that moved and dipped and forced Wright into a save that he made look easier than it was. Edwards-Samuels lashed a low shot into the side netting as Clevedon launched a counter attack with Nardiello down injured, and Faux hacked away a goalbound shot at the last second, the visitors playing far above the level their league position would have suggested. And then, from out of nowhere it seemed, Tiverton grabbed a lead that had seemed unlikely. Dawson’s deep free kick was nodded back into the mix by Hill, typically pulling away and making his own space at the far post. Paul Kendall challenged and got just enough onto the high ball to set up Gardner eight yards out, his finish more akin to that of a goal-poacher rather than a centre-half.

Matt Thorne, making his first appearance for Clevedon having returned to the club from Bridgwater, would have been cursed at full time after he was shown a yellow card for a tug on Nardiello and an immediate second yellow card for dissent, a combination that left the visitors chasing the game for the final ten minutes with only ten men, but the imbalance in personnel was in no way apparent and through until the full-time whistle, which finally arrived after more than eight minutes of additional play it was Clevedon that looked the more likely to bulge the net. Teale’s long-range shot was the closest they came, a dangerous effort that Wright saved above his head, and although there were chances at the other end, they were counter-attacking moves and very much against the run of play. Kingdon made a superb recovering tackle to thwart Nardiello, Matthews saved from Hill after Nodwell’s free kick had been blocked by the defensive wall, and a tense finale failed to deliver any further goals, meaning Tiverton’s unbeaten home record against Clevedon continues to extend all the way back to the Autumn of 1991.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, David Steele, Ian Sampson, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Aaron Dawson, Mark Saunders (Alex Faux 46), Michael Nardiello (Dan Broadway 89), Harry Nodwell, Josh Searle (Liam Ellis 75)
Goals: Nardiello 45, Gardner 73
Booked: Saunders 27, Hill 43
Sent off: None

Clevedon Town: Jason Matthews, Jordan Walker, Charlie Rich, Matt Thorne, Steve Kingdon, Sam Teale, Omarii Simms (Reeko Best 78), Ashley Kington, Leigh Edwards-Samuels (Robbie Maggs 83), Chas Hemmings, George Brimson (Cameron Ricketts 83)
Goal: Edwards-Samuels 38
Booked: Thorne 79, 79
Sent off: Thorne 79

Attendance: 170

This report ©2011 Alan Reidy