Match report

Stourport Swifts 1 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 25/02/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Stepping into the unknown is always a thankless task, as Tiverton found out earlier in the season when they made their virgin visit to North Leigh, but thankfully for the Yellows, in white for the day, Stourport’s facilities, particularly the pitch, were more in keeping with football at Southern League level. Not that there was anything wrong with North Leigh, and the locals, as all locals in Oxfordshire are, were welcoming enough, but their pitch sloped almost to Chard proportions whereas Stourport offered up a playing surface in splendid condition and flat as a young Keira Knightley on school sports day.

They also offered up something quite different in our little world, something that is seldom seen yet was frustratingly omnipresent at Tiverton when the Yellows were under the tutelage of Martyn Rogers – a back-three with wingbacks. Tactically it was a curveball that nobody really expected and Tivvy’s response was not to adjust but to persevere. It meant that Town were two against three in the crucial attacking area and that mismatch was reflected for much of the match as neither Joe Bushin nor Jules Emati-Emati found a great deal of time on the ball, and from a negative Tiverton perspective Stourport’s right sided wingback Julian Triana was able to press forward and was often the first port of call when the home team looked to move forward.

Triana saw a lot of the ball and did very little with it, all told, so essentially Stourport’s game plan fell down there and then. But it was on the other side of the pitch that Tivvy were able to penetrate with most effect, an early move seeing Andy Taylor play a one-two combination with Jules Emati-Emati before sending a shot well wide of Haydn Whitcombe’s left post. Soon afterwards Tiverton came within inches of forging ahead as the Swifts failed to deal with a long punt from Chris Wright and Bushin smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar, Whitcombe beaten all ends up, and Emati-Emati looped the headed rebound over the top. And then it was Bushin’s time to miss with a header, over also at the far post from a delicious deep cross from the left by Alex Faux.

All that excitement came in a spell of five minutes early in the game and thereafter things settled to a point of mediocrity from both teams. Poor Stourport, on a run of a zillion consecutive league defeats, showed why they were in such poor form by constantly either giving the ball away needlessly or trying but failing to be somewhere near competent; Wright must have become fed up with having to jog towards the corner flag to retrieve overhit through balls. Tiverton were no better, and that is a doff of the cap to Stourport’s defensive solidity, for not even Danny Clay nor the hugely experienced Andy Taylor was afforded enough time on the ball to make something happen, and the busy bees like Joshes Searle and Concanen ran relentlessly but with little effect.

And so things stayed even, many of the 102 spectators dozed off, and finally, just a couple of minutes before the break the game sprang into life again, the Stourport defenders all raising a hand in appeal to the linesman as Searle’s sliced shot eluded Bushin at the far post. The man in black with the flag was unmoved and such was the spin that Searle put on his miscued shot that the ball stayed in play and trickled towards the corner flag on the Tiverton right. Taylor was alert, regained possession and cut back before lifting in a cross with his left peg, and Tom Gardner was on hand to carefully place a header beyond Whitcombe and into the net. Ryan Mahon could have but didn’t equalise immediately as he poked Tim Jacuson’s free kick wide and Tivvy led at half time.

The Stourport PA didn’t play D-Ream at half time and that was a well thought out decision as things didn’t get a great deal better, not for fans supporting the home side, the away side, or even those impartial. The second half was not torrid but certainly not open and expansive, and seldom were the excitement levels raised to the point of intrepid reporters needing to put pen to paper. Graham Ashton, visibly a no-nonsense centre half, was booked for a late a rather crude challenge on Emati-Emati, a foul that forced the Tivvy striker out of the game, Michael Nardiello came into the fray, and Bushin scuffed a shot wide after Paul Kendall had nodded down a long free kick from Wright, the move a microcosm of the game as a whole.

Barely a minute later Tivvy grabbed their second, a decisive goal scored due to extremely indecisive defending from the hosts. Jamie Willets should have had an easy header back to his goalkeeper but lifted his pass high into the air, Faux chased in like a man possessed and Whitcombe could do nothing other than flap around and pat the ball back into the air. Bushin was therefore left on the front foot inside the penalty area and reacted while all around were deliberating, stepped up and lifted a clever header over the advanced Stourport ’keeper and into the unguarded goal.

With half an hour to go the job was done surely? You simply don’t surrender a two-goal advantage against a team that hasn’t scored from open play for almost a thousand minutes (and that isn’t an exaggeration). And indeed Tiverton controlled the game to a large extent and three times failed in an attempt to consolidate their lead. Kendall spurned twice, from a Taylor corner and a delightful Concanen cross, while another corner from Taylor curled in towards goal and was desperately hacked from beneath the bar by substitute Nathan Hands. At the other end Lewis Pountney nodded a teasing Kyonn Evans cross into the side netting, and that seemed to be the final chance of the game until Stourport won a corner in added time which, after a bit of a scramble Pountney forced over the line from close range.

There was no time afforded to Stourport to complete an unlikely comeback and Tiverton extended their unbeaten run to twelve games thanks to a performance that certainly won’t be amongst their best of the season. Stourport offered defensive resistance and Tivvy struggled to penetrate, but they got their in the end, by hook or crook, and brought the three points back home to Devon.

Stourport Swifts: Haydn Whitcombe, Julian Trianna (Kyonn Evans 69), Graham Ashton (Nathan Hands 68), Jamie Willets, Mark Benbow, Gary Walker. Ryan Mahon, Calvin Dinsley, Lewis Pountney, Louis Bridges (Dan Taylot 69), Tim Jacuson
Goal: Pountney 90+5
Booked: Ashton 54
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill (David Steele 64), Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Danny Clay, Josh Searle (Russell Jee 86), Joe Bushin, Jules Emati-Emati (Michael Nardiello 56)
Goals: Gardner 44, Bushin 62
Booked: Gardner 90+4
Sent off: None

Attendance: 102

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy