Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 1 Gosport Borough

   Saturday 21/01/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton’s place exactly in the middle of the table entering the weekend was a perfectly fair reflection on the season so far. The Yellows had only managed to beat one side in the top ten places and likewise only lost to one side in the bottom ten, so there really was little argument that Tivvy were the Southern League’s Mr. Average. In order to extend an unbeaten run that went back eight games Town would have to overcome a very useful and in-form Gosport Borough side who had themselves lost just once in their past eighteen league outings and who, in Justin Bennett, boasted the Division’s top goalscorer.

No easy task then but one that Tivvy relished from the very first whistle as they attempted to kick off with the expected starting line-up, Alex Faux returning from suspension to replace Liam Ellis at left back the only change from the midweek draw at Thatcham. As it happened it was eventually Gosport that got the game underway and for five or six minutes they had the better of the game but only a wayward shot from Liam Sewell that flew across the face of goal and harmlessly behind to show for their efforts. Soon enough though Tiverton found their feet and began to take the game to their visitors, showing good control in midfield and doing an excellent job of exploiting the flanks with quick and incisive passing. The first real chance of the game came in the tenth minute from the right but having met Josh Concanen’s cross Joe Bushin saw his volley expertly saved by Nathan Ashmore and then hacked clear by Brett Poate.

The game was being played at an excellent tempo by both sides, helped by a fine refereeing performance by Mr. Penwell, and this allowed for a thoroughly entertaining match with not a bad tackle in sight. In fact, following a free kick awarded against Concanen inside the first ten seconds there was not a single foul committed until four minutes before the half-time whistle, the only stoppages being a couple of offside calls and medical timeout as Gavin Jones received treatment following an accidental clash with Faux. There was plenty of attacking intent, particularly towards the Devco End of the ground as Tiverton pressed forward only to find Ashmore in fine touch between the sticks. Bushin had two further chances, the first from a cross by Kevin Hill that bounced agonisingly wide of the target as Michael Nardiello struggled and only just failed to make up ground and poke the ball into the net; the second came at the end of a flowing attack instigated by Nardiello through the centre and then an inch-perfect cross from Andy Taylor but Bushin’s powerful header was too close to Ashmore and the goalkeeper managed to get his body in the way and deny what seemed like a beautifully crafted goal.

After half an hour Tivvy could have been three goals up but found themselves still on level terms, and Ashmore, by some distance the most influential player on the pudding of a pitch, continued his impressive one-man show by saving one-on-one from Nardiello as the striker latched onto a Hill through ball. David Steele was the next in line to have a pop, another liberal move with Taylor and Nardiello typically at the heart of it but eventually an effort from Steele that sailed a little too high and a little too wide as the midfielder slipped slightly whilst executing the shot. All the while Gosport weren’t exactly clinging on to parity – they were perfectly comfortable in possession although lacked the cutting edge necessary to break through, and although they were being over-run when Tiverton had the ball there were signs that they could be dangerous, particularly from Sewell who looked lively up top as he danced around in search for space. In the few minutes leading up to the break Gosport had a pair of chances and Chris Wright in the Tiverton goal finally had some action to contend with. The first effort came when Bennett made a direct run through the middle, his shot looping off the leg of Tom Gardner as the Tivvy player slid in to block, high into the air and Wright had to backpedal quickly to tip the ball onto and over the crossbar. But two minutes later Sewell made no mistake as Borough capitalised on an unusually sloppy pass from Hill, intercepted and delivered towards the far post by James Ford. Adam Wilde got his head to the ball, nodded onto the post and Sewell was on had to gobble up the rebound and give the visitors an unlikely half-time lead.

After the change of ends there was little change in the pattern of play but Gosport did look a little refreshed and Bennett headed past the post when Wright failed to claim a cross from Wilde. But Tivvy were soon back in the ascendancy and Steele again got it all wrong when he sliced wide following an excellent run from Josh Searle that left Ellis Martin with his legs tangled. Thereafter the game gradually slowed as the conditions became more difficult and Gosport used all three allowed substitutes as Tiverton also reshuffled in an attempt to get back on level terms, introducing Jules Emati-Emati for Taylor and switching to an attacking 3-4-3 system as they had at Thatcham when chasing the game late on. The visitors failed to adapt to the three-pronged attack from the Yellows and Emati-Emati scored a belter ten minutes after his introduction to tie the game when he raced onto a diagonal pass from Steele, comfortably beat the advancing Ashmore to the ball and rammed his shot into the top corner.

The equaliser was no more than Tivvy deserved but few could have predicted the potency of the Yellows’ attacking play over the next ten minutes. Forward they pushed down the right and Concanen, yet again impressing, particularly when driving on with the ball at his feet, crossed from the flank to the far post. Over and beyond Ashmore the ball sailed, in danger of dropping behind for a goal kick, but Nardiello sprinted in, stretched out his left leg and diverted the ball into the net to give Tiverton the lead. And three minutes later the points were wrapped up as Jules grabbed his second of the game with a big help from Bushin who robbed the ball in the corner from Martin and laid a square pass to the Tivvy substitute. Emati-Emati still had a lot of work to do and he did it perfectly as he cheekily lifted the ball over Ashmore before poking it into the net.

Nardiello left the game to a richly deserved ovation and in the final minute of regulation time Wright almost got his name on the scoresheet with a long punt upfield that Ashmore was forced to palm over his crossbar, an indication of the exuberance the Tiverton players had built up over the previous ten or fifteen minutes as they finally turned chances into goals. So the undefeated streak continues, nine matches and counting, and having comprehensively seen off the team sitting in third place in the table there is no reason for Tivvy to fear anyone.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor (Jules Emati-Emati 67), David Steele, Michael Nardiello (Russell Jee 88), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle
Goals: Emati-Emati 77, 87, Nardiello 84
Booked: Hill 81
Sent off: None

Gosport Borough: Nathan Ashmore, Gavin Jones, Brett Poate, Ellis Martin, Lee Molyneaux, James Ford, George Way (Daniel Woodward 67), Adam Wilde (Aiden Lewis 67), Liam Sewell (Ross Langworthy 76), Justin Bennett, Dan Wooden
Goal: Sewell 41
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 218

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy