Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Bridgwater Town

   Monday 26/12/2011   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton completed a league and cup double over Bridgwater in a manner less straightforward than it should have been, but with all three points in the bag and a first league victory for over five weeks Mark Saunders will be happy to move on and aim to round off the year on the front foot rather than dwell on a game which the Yellows so nearly threw away having worked themselves into a commanding position. First half strikes from Andy Taylor and Alex Faux had given Tivvy a comfortable buffer at the break but the nerves were set jangling when Aaron Cornwall reduced the lead early in the second half, and the slender advantage, although seldom under direct threat, was always an uneasy situation to retain, and the relief was tangible when the final whistle sounded after four minutes of added time.

Tiverton made three changes to the side that had drawn at Poole – Jules Emati-Emati dropped to the bench as Joe Bushin started up front, while Tm Gardner, struggling with as hamstring injury, missed his first action of the season, and Aaron Dawson was absent having been recalled to parent club Exeter City. That meant a reshuffle was required so Kevin Hill dropped back into central defence with David Steele recalled to midfield, and Andy Taylor, over the illness which had kept him out for two games, regained his place on the right wing. And the changes proved to be fruitful as Steele delivered a near-faultless performance, showing plenty of forward motion, intelligent use of both space and the ball, and plenty of grit in the tackle as he pressed high up the pitch and refused to allow the Bridgwater defenders time to settle in possession. Taylor was afforded plenty of freedom to roam from side to side, and even beyond the strikers and he was involved in the majority of positive play in the final third as the Yellows bossed the game for a large part of the first half, the midfielder finding space inside the opening minute to get a shot away that sailed wide of the target but perhaps should have given Tivvy the perfect start.

By the time the deadlock was broken Tiverton had already spurned a number of opportunities; after Taylor’s early miss Bushin headed straight at Sam Hutchins in the Bridgwater goal and Josh Searle failed to direct a difficult volley on target from Taylor’s cross. As much of a concern for the visitors was their poor timing in the challenge, and Peter Monks was cautioned for a badly executed tackle on Faux, and ten minutes later the gangly and incomprehensively poor Josh Turner also picked up a yellow card when he chopped down Taylor twenty-five yards from goal. With three decent chances in their wake Tiverton could ill-afford to fail to convert many more, and Taylor duly obliged from the free kick he had earned when his shot deflected off Mat Pitcher and looped into the goal with Hutchings stranded.

There was no respite for the Somerset team as Tivvy poured forward immediately after the restart, and Nardiello was unlucky, or rather Hutchings was lucky when a low shot from an acute angle squirmed beneath the visiting ’keeper and across the face of goal before being hoofed away from danger. Nardiello then turned creator with a piercing diagonal pass which Searle took beautifully, cleverly clipping the ball between the closing pair of Craig Morford and Kye Palmer, but, having wriggled through the gap just before it had become too narrow Searle lacked the composure to round of a technically excellent move as he hit his low shot a fraction wide of Hutchings’ left upright. Searle then would have been delighted that his miss was not costly, and just two minutes later Tiverton doubled their advantage. Steele was freed on the left and stood up a cross which was only partially cleared, and before the ball was even beyond the penalty area Faux nipped in, forward from his defensive duties, and slammed in a purposeful shot which blazed beyond Hutchins before he even had time to set his feet and think about throwing himself off to the left in an attempt to save.

Bridgwater almost gave themselves a less intense half-time team-talk when, in added time, a foul by Hill earned a free kick twenty-seven yards from goal. Andy Robertson did everything just about perfectly but his shot, comfortably beyond the wall, was a matter of inches too high and crashed off the underside of the crossbar. Tivvy survived the scare and the immediate aftermath which saw Turner redefine the definition of incompetence as he headed the rebound well over the crossbar, eight yards out and the goal at his mercy as Chris Wright remained stranded on the deck.

Tiverton had been well on top throughout the first half but there were alerted to the fact that their narrow advantage on the scoreboard wasn’t a reflection of their dominance of the pitch as Bridgwater went in at the interval just a fraction away from being within one goal. Two minutes into the second period there were within one goal as they scored in the most direct manner imaginable. Hutchins saved from Steele and immediately set his side on the front foot. From deep and unchallenged Danny Wring was allowed to roam through the heart of the Tivvy midfield, and although his initial shot was blocked the rebound was gobbled up and effectively finished off by Cornwall, giving the visitors the impetus they needed, and plenty of time to get back onto level terms.

Wring and Graham Mercieca combined soon after the goal but the former saw his shot well saved by Wright, and Bridgwater’s momentum was gradually scuppered, and they ran out of puff before the hour mark, allowing the Yellows to control the pace of the game once again. For most of the final half-hour the centre-back pairing of Hill and Paul Kendall were relatively unflustered, doing everything they had to do by cutting out high balls and the occasional searching pass from deep, but never finding themselves stretched or outnumbered. At the other end Steele continued to pull the strings and on several occasions the single-goal advantage might have been extended; Hutchings parried a shot from Nardiello, watched on as Bushin missed the target, and then had Mawford to thank as the defender headed away Steele’s curling goalbound effort. Kendall headed over from Clay’s cross, Bushin held onto the ball for too long and then overhit a pass which would have freed substitute Harry Nodwell, and with five minutes remaining Bushin won a challenge near the left touchline against the wandering Hutchings but his early shot hit the outside of the post.

There was a late rally from Bridgwater but the visitors were unable to break down a Tiverton defence that had stood firm enough but for one brief moment at the start of the season half and few would argue that on the balance of play the points deserved to stay in Devon. One last moment of excitement came when Neil Peek, on for Turner fifteen minutes from time, instigated a mêlée and walked away with just a yellow card to his name despite appearing to swing out at Searle, but by that stage it was clear that Bridgwater didn’t have what was needed to find an equaliser.


Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, David Steele, Andy Taylor, Danny Clay, Michael Nardiello (Harry Nodwell 74), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle (Jules Emati-Emati 90+3)
Goals: Taylor 33, Faux 40
Booked: Hill 45, Clay 73, Steele 88
Sent off: None

Bridgwater Town: Sam Hutchings, Craig Mawford, Peter Monks, Josh Turner (Neil Peek 79), Mat Pitcher, Andy Robertson, Kye Palmer, Danny Wring, Graham Mercieca (Tom Hurley 59), Aaron Cornwall, Dave Pearse
Goal: Cornwall 47
Booked: Monks 23, Turner 32Palmer 76, Peek 90
Sent off: None

Attendance: 286


This report ©2011 Alan Reidy