Match report

Bideford 1 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Monday 02/01/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

French existentialist and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre put a less mundane spin on the idiom that familiarity breeds contempt when he quipped that hell is other people, a brutal acknowledgement that a person’s logical intuition that respect and liking is gained for an acquaintance the more that is learnt is a flawed outlook. He probably wasn’t referring to the meetings fifty years later of Bideford and Tiverton Town but there was a feeling for a couple of hours at the start of 2012 that his words held true as the two sides entered into and played out an ugly game of football, their fourth meeting of the current season and undoubtedly the most unsavoury encounter either squad had been a part of for some time. At this stage there is little point in pointing the deathly finger of blame in any direction, only to thank the Lord it is over and we can all get back to the regular toils of trying to finish as high u the league as possible.

It is true to say that the Bank Holiday game was never set up to be a pretty affair of flowing football. The rains that had battered the South West saw to that, and it was clear early in the match that things were going to unfold into a structureless mish-mash of a game. And for thirty minutes the fears were realised as there was a dearth of class with every player involved focusing as much on not slipping onto their backsides unless they were provoked as they were on pushing on and making the best of a bad situation. The referee Mr. Roberts from Camborne set his stall out early in the first half and frustrated both teams with his keenness to caution and this ploy certainly didn’t help what already had all the ingredients of a niggly encounter, and so we had to wait for over a third of the match before there was a genuine opportunity to break the deadlock. By that stage Kevin Squire had given his name to Mr. Roberts following a confrontation with Danny Clay, and Matt Bye doubled the list after twenty-four minutes when he lunged in on Josh Searle. Bye was fortunate to stay on the pitch and could thank his lucky stars that the referee was slow to turn and missed the challenge; after a consultation with his assistant the Cornishman opted for the liberal yellow card and Bye was allowed to carry on. Tivvy’s Harry Nodwell was the next name into the book for a clumsy challenge on Matt Hockley, and even before the half-hour mark Ian Sampson became the fourth player to be booked when he stood his ground and thwarted a quick free kick. Sampson’s yellow card was as much the result of a cynical ploy by David Steele who attempted to take the free kick knowing full-well what the result would be, and surely without much intention of really just getting on with the game in a prompt manner.

Every challenge, every foul, every tackle and every loss of footing was followed by an appeal from the terraces for a free kick and a yellow card, an indication that the fans were as annoyed by the stop-start nature of the game as the players, and in the rare moments when the referee wasn’t blowing on his whistle supporters of both sides were at a loss to understand just what was going on. Happily there were brief moments of respite from the comedy, from the whinging and moaning and from the oxymoron that they call gamesmanship. Sampson had long since sent a shot over from Bye’s corner, and Liam Ellis did much the same at the other end of the pitch after Steele had managed to keep his feet and lay the ball back. Towards the end of the first half Bideford began to get themselves well on top and twice spurned glorious chances, both times missing the target by some distance. Sean Downing was the first guilty party when he volleyed over the top at the far post from Sampson’s cross, and a few minutes later the roles were reversed as Downing’s penetrating run and cross freed Sampson but, with the goal at his mercy he cut back onto his weaker left foot and somehow shot several yards over the crossbar. And so it was left to Joe Bushin, starved of service but always happy to put in a shift, to give Tiverton a half-time lead. A long free kick was pumped forward, Biddy goalkeeper Grant Fisher advanced and fumbled under pressure from Kevin Hill, and as he tried to recover and as the ball bounced around randomly Bushin was tripped perfectly so that the ball cannoned against his midriff and bobbled apologetically over the line; an ugly goal typical of the game as a whole, but one that both the travelling team and supporters were understandably delighted with nonetheless.

The second half was almost a replay of the first with both sets of players back to fighting it out, at times literally, and the referee often the busiest man on the pitch. Jack Furzer became the first culprit after the change of ends, cautioned for a challenge from behind on Nodwell, and it wasn’t long until Danny Clay was amongst the collection of names in Mr. Roberts’ book for an infringement against Downing as the Bideford winger looked to wriggle free between Clay and Steele. The yellow cards kept coming with Tom Gardner, on in place of Kevin Hill, and Aaron Harper-Penman both called to the referee’s attention, and in a rare moment of football Fisher needed to scramble across his goal to push Nodwell’s teasing cross wide of the post as Jules Emati-Emati lurked.

With twenty minutes to play Bideford drew level, deservedly on balance as they had shown the greater forward momentum. Gardner’s foul on Matt Andrew gave the hosts a free kick just outside the area, Bye blasted in, the shot was blocked but the ball fell invitingly for substitute Jamie Mudge and he doesn’t mess up many chances from the sort of position he found himself in, unchallenged and twelve yards out. The goal inspired Biddy and forced Tiverton to play with extra caution and that meant play was consigned for lengthy periods in one half of the pitch. Paul Kendall almost put the ball into his own goal but his misjudged header looped onto the top of the crossbar and away from danger, and twice Mudge missed headers, one across the face of goal and the other straight into Chris Wright’s hands. Forward, more and more directly came Bideford, and when a high ball was sent towards the edge of the area with ten minutes remaining Hockley cleverly drew a foul from Searle and earned himself the chance to win the game from the spot. However, Wright, as he did two days earlier, read the run-up and body shape as Hockley advanced towards the penalty mark, threw himself away to his right and saved just inside the post. Cinderford’s Lewis Sommers may have struck a poor penalty, there was nothing wrong with Hockley’s attempt except Wright’s hand was on the end of it.

Oddly the missed opportunity seemed to dent Bideford’s composure, as much as anyone really had displayed any composure all afternoon, and the hosts’ play gradually tended towards the long-ball. On countless occasions Nick Barker swept the ball from the half way line across a diagonal path towards the back post, Wright flapped and punched and not once for all their territory did Bideford ever get a proper sight at goal again. Tivvy did twice but Steele chipped well over on the turn and Liam Ellis fired an optimistic effort into Fisher’s arms from the best part of thirty yards out. All the while the nibbling at ankles, the pushing and shoving and the distasteful tactics of leaving the boot in after tackles continued from both sets of players and the early comments that this was a game destined not to finish with a full quota of players were finally realised two minutes into added time. Andrew fouled Clay but the ball broke and the referee allowed Steele to play on (advantage given on the edge of his own penalty area!). Meanwhile Andrew and Clay were still jostling in the mud like a pair of hippos at a theme park, one thing led to a million others, Wright and Bye and then Kendall decided to see what was going on, arms flailed and teeth were shown through mud-splattered grimaces. And the end result was a yellow card each for Andrew and Clay, the Tivvy player’s second of the game, so he trudged off slowly, the game restarted with a free kick to the Yellows where it should have been given in the first place, and miraculously, for the remainder of what totalled a few seconds shy of ninety-four minutes, nothing else happened. The match ended level, a game entertaining for all the wrong reasons and one of the like I don’t wish to witness again for a long time. And more shame that the vitriol must continue across the fibre-optic telephone lines and onto internet messageboards amongst the supporters, a horrible public display of bad taste and bad sportsmanship and against everything that non-league football should stand for.

Bideford: Grant Fisher, James Richards (Jamie Mudge 62), Nick Barker, Sean Downing, Jack Furzer, Aaron Harper-Penman, Matt Hockley, Matty Bye, Kevin Squire, Ian Sampson, Matt Andrew
Goal: Mudge 69
Booked: Squire 13, Bye 24, Sampson 30, Furzer 55, Harper-Penman 73, Andrew 90+2
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Liam Ellis, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill (Tom Gardner 56), Paul Kendall, David Steele, Andy Taylor, Danny Clay, Harry Nodwell, Joe Bushin (Jules Emati-Emati 60), Josh Searle (Josh Concanen 83)
Goal: Bushin 43
Booked: Nodwell 26, Clay 59, 90+2, Gardner 68
Sent off: Clay 90+2

Attendance: 336

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy