Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 0 Bishop's Cleeve

   Tuesday 21/02/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

After a month of frustration Tiverton finally returned to league action as their push for the playoffs resumed with a home tie against Bishop's Cleeve. For Mr. Curtis and his groundstaff team the enforced break had been a blessing and the Ladysmead pitch, although still showing a few bobbles in places, was in as good a condition as it had been for some time, meaning that two of the Division's in-form sides would be allowed to play football of an aesthetically positive style. Unfortunately for the punters a bit of ring rust means that the game wasn't as open and flowing as it might have been, as well as the fact that, with just one defeat in eighteen games between the two sides, there really wasn't much between Tivvy and the Bishops.

That much was true tactically also; the teams lined up man-for-man in rigid 4-4-2 formations, both with full-backs pressing on and both with wingers who tended to cut inside and congest the final third of the pitch. It was therefore no surprise that many of the chances created were born from quick counter-attacks rather than intricacy in and around the penalty area, and although the Yellows worked more openings there was always a threat from the visitors, particularly down their right at the feet of Michael Tambling. Indeed the Bishop's Cleeve winger might have done better after ten minutes when he raced onto a long ball and beat the advancing Chris Wright to the chase but found himself forced wide, Tom Gardner eventually sweeping up the danger. But by that stage Tivvy could and perhaps should have already been ahead when Michael Nardiello broke the offside trap only to let himself down with a heavy touch which allowed Cleeve goalkeeper James Nortei to rush out and punt the ball clear.

Lee Smith was forced out of the game early on following a late challenge by Jules Emati-Emati, a challenge that saw the Tiverton striker become the first name in the referee's book, and soon afterwards Andy Taylor won a corner for Tivvy which Tom Gardner met only for Sam Avery to hack behind as Nardiello lurked at the far post. Taylor whipped in another corner and this time Emati-Emati was on the end of it but was only able to glance the ball across the face of goal and a foot wide of the upright. Tiverton were on top by this stage and a cheeky flick from Alex Faux released Nardiello again; this time he managed to get his shot away but it was weak and easy for Nortei to gather, and Emati-Emati was left frustrated in space as he waited for a pass that never arrived. The first half ended goalless as Nortei made a smart save to once again deny Nardiello, this chance coming from a move down the right, a cross from Josh Concanen and finally a diving header from the Town forward, and three wayward efforts from the visitors, via the inaccurate boots of Tambling, Carl Brown and Michael Jackson.

For fifteen minutes after the restart Bishop's Cleeve seemingly forgot how to play and the direction of the game was one way towards the Swimming Pool end of Ladysmead. Nardiello slapped a shot well wide across goal in his search for a breakthrough, but he didn't have to wait much longer to finally register. Once Nortei had put the ball back in play the Yellows quickly regained possession and David Steele (I think!) quickly moved the ball forward again, releasing both Nardiello and Emati-Emati behind the blue defence. Nardiello took control, advanced into the penalty area and gave Nortei the eyes to send him one way as he coolly placed his shot the other to put Tiverton into a deserved lead.

By far the busier of the goalkeepers, Nortei wasn't enjoying his most successful day at the office and his distribution was poor throughout. His first goal kick of the game failed to get above head height and only a queer bounce denied Steele the chance to capitalise, while time and again he failed to find a teammate due to his woeful kicking both out of his hands and off the deck. Three minutes after the opening goal another disastrous clearance from the Cleeve 'keeper was sent back immediately by Faux and Nortei was forced to scramble away to his left in order to push the ball around the post and save his blushes. That led to a corner which the visitors laboured in their attempts to clear, giving Steele a half-chance which he volleyed wide, and soon afterwards Faux again had a sight of goal but shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Finally Bishop's Cleeve woke up and pressed forward, the focus very much on their right side of the pitch, but they found the Tivvy defence ruthless in their efficiency and only managed to muster one attempt on goal during their period in the ascendancy. That came from a set piece routine which was eventually fired in by player/manager Alex Sykes. The initial shot was arrowing wide, Jake Lee deflected the ball towards goal and Wright was perfectly placed to make a sharp save as he patted the ball up in the air and then held on at the second attempt. But it was soon business as usual with Josh Searle starting but not finishing a solo effort, and the away side dug themselves into a deeper hole when Jon Crowford was dismissed for kicking out at Tivvy substitute Danny Clay after Tambling had been penalised for a foul on Faux.

Nardiello, not for the first time in the evening, missed the target when Paul Kendall nodded down a long free kick into his path but the miss would prove not to be costly when Tiverton doubled their lead with the best move of the match five minutes later. Kevin Hill, who had been enjoying an unfussy and reliable game as the midfield pivot opened up the pitch by switching the ball intelligently out to Concanen on the right wing, Concanen exchanged passes with Taylor which created space to cross, and by the time the ball arrived on the edge of the six-yard box Hill had raced forward instinctively to meet the delivery and neatly flick the ball over the clumsily covering Mark Pritchett. Nortei found himself exposed by the briskness of the move, stepped from his line in an untimely manner and was comprehensively beaten to the ball by the brave Emati-Emati who stuck his head in and nodded the ball into the net.

That was the points in the bag with fifteen minutes to spare and Bishop's Cleeve lost their cool in the face of adversity, underlined when Ashley Caldwell was cautioned for incessant dissent and then Avery, who had spent much of the second half exercising his tongue more than his legs, also saw yellow for a tackle from behind on Joe Bushin on the edge of the area in the fifth and final minute of added time. That foul gave Town one last chance to finish the game in style and Taylor came within a whisker of grabbing a late goal only for Nortei to leap away to his right to claw the ball over his crossbar. But it mattered little and Tiverton ran out comfortable victors in the end, with the playoff dream still very much alive.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, David Steele (Danny Clay 68), Michael Nardiello (Joe Bushin 79), Jules Emati-Emati, Josh Searle (Liam Ellis 90)
Goals: Nardiello 47, Emati-Emati 76
Booked: Emati-Emati 11, Searle 72
Sent off: None

Bishop's Cleeve: James Nortei, Jon Crowford, Alshley Caldwell, Lee Smith (Lee Davis 14), Sam Avery, Mark Pritchett, Michael Tambling, Michael Jackson, Jake Lee, Carl Brown, Alex Sykes (Adam Mayo 64)
Booked: Davis 21, Caldwell 83, Avery 90+5
Sent off: Crowford 70

Attendance: 179

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy