Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 1 Merthyr

   Wednesday 08/09/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Good ol´ Auntie Beeb frequently run two or three part radio documentaries on leading artists‚ writers/composers or other luminaries of the music business. Many of their American subjects have their musical roots firmly entrenched in The Church´‚ or perhaps that should be the church´ without the capital letters since the places of worship involved are invariably Non Conformist. Latest to come under the BBC´s microscope is Aretha Franklin who is the daughter of one of the USA´s leading Baptist preachers. Listening to recordings of the man in action it is impossible not to conjure up images of fire and brimstone threatening evangelists and happy-clappy´‚ praise the Lord chapel services. Raise your voices‚ clap your hands‚ confess your sins‚ redemption is at hand. Hallelujah!
Tiverton Town´s first season in the Southern League Premier Division was not going too well. An abysmal bank holiday defeat on the Isle of Wight‚ beaten at home by Weymouth and then by Crawley. Then came a Tuesday evening at Merthyr and the corner was turned. It was last season‚ Tiverton´s third in the Premier Division‚ before the Martyrs again appeared on the Yellow´s fixture list. Tivvy had started with an opening day win‚ followed by a draw and three successive beatings. Merthyr came to Ladysmead and.... Praise the Lord! Town were back with a win! It was a feat to be repeated when in the middle of a mid winter slump‚ the Yellows crossed the border to play the Welsh team on their own patch. Land of my Fathers! Tivvy were redeemed again‚ or so we wrongly thought.
So - what now? Defeats at Bath‚ Halesowen‚ Aylesbury‚ punctuated by a single win against a poor Solihull side. Were The Martyrs again to give their blood to save the spirits of the Tiverton fans..............We prayed.....we kept the faith.....or at least a handful of us who could drag ourselves away from the television did.


It all started brightly enough for The Yellows‚ with the normal high energy of Jamie Mudge chasing a Tom Stocco flick on from Tivvy´s first big boot clearance after just two minutes. That was rapidly followed by a corner when Mudge´s cross from the left was turned for a corner - comfortably defended by the visitors - and then a free kick from Steve Winter that was curled to the far post and was cleared at panic stations by The Martyrs. Bright‚ but not really threatening unlike Merthyr´s first chance which saw Mark Ovendale stretching to tip a shot from Veteran Jeff Echardt over the crossbar as an inswinging corner was headed away but right to the boot of the Merthyr skipper. Town headed of down the other end and a long throw from David Steele won Tivvy another corner‚ this time on the right. Turned out again‚ the second attempt saw chaos reining once more in the Welshmen´s six yard box with Mike Booth lunging to poke the ball home but being denied by a goal line clearance. Tivvy continued to have the better of the play and created openings but those openings were seldom being turned into chances and looked even less likely to be converted into a goal. Mudge was at the centre of everything that did look promising for Town in and around the Merthyr penalty area and in the 20th minute He brought down a Winter cross to turn and blast in a cross goal shot. Off target the effort might have been but still could have broken the deadlock had either Stocco or Steele managed to get the touch that would have sent the ball flying into the net.

And so the game continued through the half hour mark. Plenty of possession for Town‚ plenty of territorial advantage‚ little pressure on the home defence but‚ likewise little threat of a goal from The Yellows. Even when Merthyr keeper Ashley Morris made a hash of coming out to collect a high ball and‚ under pressure. was only able to deflect it away for a throw in‚ Tivvy were unable to take advantage. Mudge took the throw to Steele before Morris realised what was going on. The keeper was still way out on the edge of the penalty area as Steele attempted the quick banana´ shot but bent the ball less than the European Standard for curve on said fruit and the ball ended up flying well wide. Mudge again provide the last hope of Tiverton establishing a half time lead as he turned and shot in one fluid movement on a long ball forward just as the watch showed 45 minutes were up. At this point it had been a pretty mundane game. Very little for either side´s fans to enthuse over in the half time interval‚ not that they were in the half time queue for tea for very long...there were just not enough customers for a line to form.

Off we went again after the requisite number of minutes and nothing much had changed apart from the predictable increase in effort and pace that a break inevitably brings. Still it was Tiverton producing the sparse moments of football and creating what opportunities there were in a generally dire game. The 46th minute saw Chris Vinnicombe and Booth exchange three uninterrupted passes before Vinnicombe found Iain Harvey with a long crossfield pass. Harvey‚ who had shown more effort in trying to get the side playing constructive football than some of his colleagues at the back‚ broke the mould by taking a poke himself with similar results to others efforts - wide of the mark. Tivvy have a reputation for being vulnerable at corners. That is normally a reference to corners conceded but in the 49th minute they looked shaky following one of their own as Merthyr showed how defending such kicks should be done and broke rapidly up field. Rob Cousins and Nathan Rudge did their job. though‚ and back came The Yellows with Harvey bursting through the middle to push the ball forward into the path of Steele who this time managed to hammer in an on target shot. Perhaps too accurate as Morris got his solar plexus behind the ball and his arms clutched round it securely despite the shortage of breath caused by the impact. Two minutes later Booth hooked in a shot that had Morris in action to turn the ball away for another corner but the frustration was beginning to show on both sides of the wall surrounding the pitch. And with the frustration came an end to the few chances and dearth of entertainment that had broken the mediocrity of the evening.

Merthyr seemed confident that they could hold onto a point and in truth they had every reason to believe in themselves. Their part in the first hour had been to contain Tiverton and they had succeeded in that task in reasonable comfort. Having the belief that they could hold onto the single point they cautiously explored the possibility of sneaking all three. Prolific striker of a few seasons ago‚ though not as frequent scorer recently‚ became a little too enthusiastic and collected a yellow card but he was not the only threat. Craig Steins tested Ovendale but the keeper came through with a safe pair of hands to a drive along the ground in the 66th minute. A martyrs free kick was lofted over the roof of the terrace from 35 yards two minutes later and the same over the top result came when Shephard connected with a long throw that was as good as a corner from Steve Williams. Mudge went solo in the 75th minute leaving three defenders tangle legged as he cut in across the penalty area but a forth Martyr deflected his fearsome shot away but only as far as Booth who crossed the ball back in to see it easily cleared away as the defence recovered its poise after Mudge´s mauling. The last throw of the dice came with the bout of substitutions. They made little difference. Both Densham and Lock added energy but little else. For Merthyr one veteran striker replaced another‚ Jason Eaton coming on for Shephard. Clearly the visitors were not going to sit on their point. They were not going to risk losing it but they were not shutting up shop. Tiverton seemed resigned to a goal-less draw when what had seemed like a dreadful night for Welsh football according to reports coming through from Cardiff - suddenly sparkled momentarily for Merthyr in the silence of Devon. One last free kick. Hoiked forward to Lee Howells. Slack marking. One touch from Howells. Another‚ a poke under Ovendale and the three points were grabbed in the 90th minute.

Tivvy can´t complain about robbery. They did exactly the same to the Martyrs at Penydarren Park three seasons ago. The difference then was that it was an open‚ competitive game that both sets of supporters enjoyed. The same could not be said of this one. Maybe the armchair spectators were right on this occasion. I wonder if they shouted at the telly´.....?


Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale‚ Steve Winter (Matt Lock‚ 81)‚ Chris Vinnicombe‚ Paul Milsom‚ Nathan Rudge‚ Rob Cousins‚ Mike Booth (Jamie Densham‚ 78)‚ Iain Harvey, Tom Stocco, David Steele, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Shaun Goff, David Hallett, Ian Nott.

Yellow card: Harvey.


Merthyr Tydfil: Ashley Morris, Steve Williams, Paul Keddle, Andrew York, Gethin Jones, Jeff Eckhardt, Chris Bale, Lee Howells, Garry Shephard (Jason Eaton, 81), Craig Steins ( Richard French. 90+), Ryan Dorrian.

Subs not used: Kris Whitcombe, Rhys Jones.

Yellow Cards: Stein, Eckhardt, Shephard

Referee: A F Bennett ( Okehampton).


Att: 323

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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