Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Paulton Rovers

   Saturday 07/01/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton made hard work of extending their unbeaten run to five matches as they laboured haplessly for much of the first half, and only after the change of ends finally found the confidence within themselves to rise above a visible insecurity regarding the conditions to take the game to a Paulton team that, depleted as it was, had looked well in control of the match. Joe Bushin’s penalty twenty minutes from time cancelled out James Billing’s early opener, and a contest which lacked flow ended even with both teams worthy of a point but no more.

Tiverton made three changes to the side that drew five days earlier at Bideford with Josh Concanen, Tom Gardner and Jules Emati-Emati returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Liam Ellis, Kevin Hill and Harry Nodwell, so the system remained much the same with the exception that Emati-Emati’s tendency to play higher up the pitch and act as a focal point in the attacking third theoretically gave the Yellows a better opportunity to avoid getting bogged down in their own half of the pitch. In practice, however, this wasn’t the case and Tivvy lacked any passing incision as they were pegged deep for extended periods and Danny Clay particularly struggled on a very testing pitch as he saw a number of wayward passes cut out before they reached the half-way line.

As poor as Tiverton were in the first half it must be noted that Paulton were only a fraction better – they showed more hunger and as a result picked up on loose balls more effectively, but the quality of play on the whole was low and it was mistakes rather than fluidity that was always going to prove the decisive factor. The first major mistake came in the fourth minute when Tom Gardner was undone by a curious bobble and lost out on the edge of the area to the dynamic Ben Lacey. The Paulton winger was able to get into a little space before getting his shot away and although the ball was quickly blocked Lacey was able to quickly work some space and tee up Billing to drive in a low shot that crashed past Chris Wright and into the bottom corner of the net, giving the visitors the lead.

Wright made a smart save to palm away Steve Bridges’ shot on the turn after quarter of an hour but that was the only other genuine opportunity of an uninspiring first half, and for all the possession Paulton were gifted the lack of ability to create was significant. Adam Mahdi’s set pieces may have been the most likely source of threat but only once did he manage to deliver the ball into a dangerous position and Concanen was on hand to head the ball away for a corner, perhaps a little too close to his own goal for complete comfort but far enough outside the post for Wright not to have to scramble to his left in panic.

Otherwise both sides had one long-range effort off target, Ben Osman for Rovers and Bushin for Tiverton, and a yellow card apiece in the space of sixty seconds to Craig Loxton for dissent and Josh Searle for a tackle from behind rounded out the opening forty-five minutes. Ollie Price was also cautioned in added time while the injured Mahdi was replaced by Raiff Gwinnett just before the interval, and as the half wore on gradually Tivvy had battled their way into contention, enough at least to offer some optimism that a second half comeback was a realistic goal.

Although the quality of the fare improved only marginally after the break there was a considerable shift in momentum, almost as if the pitch was significantly more playable at the end Paulton were now defending. Kyle Phillips was beaten all ends up when Andy Taylor curled in a free kick just a minute into the second half, and the visiting goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief as the ball struck squarely against the base of his right post, but this chance gave Tivvy encouragement as they sought an equaliser. At the other end Alex Faux ensured the one-goal difference was maintained when he bravely threw himself in the way to block Gwinnett’s shot following a counter attack down the left from Lacey that had left Paul Kendall chasing desperately in his wake, and that was just about the last of Paulton’s attacking play for the afternoon as they found themselves on the defensive for the a good deal of the closing thirty minutes.

Michael Nardiello replaced Emati-Emati and Nodwell came on for Searle as Town looked to freshen up the attacking options but it was Bushin that seemed to be the obvious threat and he might have done better than to toe-end a Clay pass straight to Phillips having split the central defenders. But Bushin got a better opportunity ten minutes later when Price hauled down David Steele in the area, maroon-sleeved arms wrapped around Steele’s shoulders. Once the inevitable protests had been waved away Bushin hit the bottom corner with just enough power and accuracy to squeeze the ball past Phillips, the Rovers ’keeper having guessed right and planted quite a strong hand on the shot.

Jack Allward made his way into the book as he continued to question the award of the penalty as the teams prepared to restart the game, joined in the closing stages by Kendall and then Paulton’s Stuart Tovey, and in a final surge towards the line Tiverton came within a whisker of nicking all three points as the game entered time added on but Phillips fingertipped Steele’s shot over the bar, unseen by the referee such was the slight deflection of the ball as it was already on its way beyond the crossbar. And that was that, a battle of attrition which saw Tiverton typically the stronger side the longer the game went on, but not strong enough to feel hard done by as the points were shared between the clubs and whoever looks after the third point.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, David Steele, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Danny Clay, Jules Emati-Emati (Michael Nardiello 60), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle (Harry Nodwell 66)
Goal: Bushin 74p
Booked: Searle 33, Kendall 83
Sent off: None

Paulton Rovers: Kyle Phillips, Stuart Tovey, Jack Allward, Ben Osman, Ollie Price, Steve Bridges, Adam Mahdi (Raiff Gwinnett 42), Craig Loxton, James Billing, Ben Cleverley, Ben Lacey
Goal: Billing 4
Booked: Loxton 32, Price 45+1, Allward 75, Tovey 85
Sent off: None

Attendance: 238

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy