Match report

Clevedon Town 0 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 03/03/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

It is hardly a situation inundated with trouble and strife but Tiverton’s goalless draw at Clevedon means the Yellows are now without a goal for over two-hundred minutes of football and aspirations of an extended season and a playoff berth have been put on hold. Both Mark Saunders and Hedley Steele were frank and honest in their assessments following the blanks drawn against Didcot on Tuesday and then in Somerset on Saturday, noting that Tivvy are missing a little extra in the final third of the pitch both in terms of creativity and ruthlessness, particularly against sides that will sit deep and get men behind the ball. At Clevedon it was more the latter rather than the former, but of even greater significance was the form of Seasiders’ goalkeeper Jason Mellor who delivered an fine display between the sticks as he pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep Tiverton at bay.

Saunders selected the same starting line-up that fell to defeat at Ladysmead against Didcot and like that loss Tivvy pressed early on with no reward. An early corner from Andy Taylor was deep but hooked back into the goal area by Paul Kendall only for Mellor to reach up to his right and claw away a looping header from Joe Bushin, the first of five excellent saves in an afternoon which could have so easily belonged convincingly to the visitors. Further similarities to Tiverton’s previous outing were clear as, after a bright and promising opening spell the game turned into a scrappy affair as Clevedon grew in confidence and Tivvy’s players appeared to grow frustrated. Joshes Searle and Concanen tried what they could down the right with little effect, Taylor on the left showed more tendency to cut inside but was no more successful, and on a couple of rare occasions Henry Muggeridge was allowed to press forward from his right-back position to add weight to an overly-deliberate and largely ineffective Clevedon attack, joining the less than lanky Leigh Edwards-Samuels further up the flank but seldom working an opportunity to sweep the ball into the box.

The home side did manage two half-chances in the opening period; an early cross from deep on the left of the pitch by Sam Teale – one of his rare forays forward from his defensive starting point – eventually ran through to Chris Wright as Edwards-Samuels paid the penalty for standing at 5-foot-six at a generous estimate and failed to get his head on the centre, and ten minutes before the break a simple set-piece routine saw Ashley Kington chip the ball in and Lloyd Mills nod a header lacking any belief or conviction straight into Wright’s arms. All the while Tiverton looked better and more likely to break the deadlock only for Mellor to have other ideas. The Clevedon custodian made a terrific double-save to deny Michael Nardiello following a strong run inside from wide and a well-timed pass from Concanen, and soon after it was the Tivvy full-back again the instigator as he whipped in an early cross which Bushin nodded despite suspicions of offside and Mellor reacted to with a save that stopped the ball as it was arrowing into the top corner.

Alex Faux was called up shortly before the interval and handed a yellow card on his twenty-second birthday as a punishment for a series of small fouls that had accumulated throughout the first half, Jordan Walker replaced Chas Hemmings up front for Clevedon, presumably due to injury although perhaps it was a tactical switch as Hemmings had barely seen any action as the game passed him by, and seconds before the break a slip by Rhymel Henderson-Hudson allowed Nardiello in and he shot early across the face of goal when perhaps the better option would have been to pick out Bushin who was in space and in a position beyond the goalkeeper so would have been left with a simple tap-in had a successful pass have been made. It wouldn’t have been an easy pass to execute but it was easier than taking on the shot, hindsight is of no real value anyway, and who the hell am I to criticise Nardiello?

And so the game staggered quietly into its second half, so quietly from a Clevedon perspective that one might have wondered if any home supporters had turned up for the match. Mellor parried a shot from Nardiello before the striker was withdrawn after, by the standards he would demand of himself, a poor day’s work, and Jules Emati-Emati was introduced to the fray to give the home defenders something completely different with which to concern themselves. Even in the early stages of the second half it was clear that the Yellows had been ordered to show more urgency and the tempo of the game increased but the chances continued to be spurned one way of the other. Tom Gardner met another Taylor corner and headed into the ground and through to Mellor, David Steele had a header of his own that flew just a couple of feet wide, and Clevedon almost grabbed the lead on the counter attack as Muggeridge broke away, set up Kington to cross and then finally Walker curled his teasing shot narrowly wide of Wright’s left post.

There was always the danger for Tiverton that as they pressed higher and higher up the pitch in an attempt to bully their opponents into submission Clevedon would be able to break and overload on a sparse Yellows defence but a strange reactionary substitution certainly played out in favour of the Devonians just after the midpoint of the second half. First up came Kevin Hill replacing Searle which saw Tivvy reshuffle with Hill slotting in at centre-back, Gardner moving to the left and Faux pressing higher up the pitch on the flank overlooked by the empty grandstand, and four minutes later Muggeridge, although a defender arguably Clevedon’s most lively and threatening outfield player was withdrawn. The Seasiders did muster one more break from deep, a rather pleasing brisk attack it must be said but it all ended on a muted note when substitute Jack McKenna scuffed his final shot and Wright dropped down to gather in the ball, maybe not as cleanly as he would have wished but comfortably nonetheless.

For the final fifteen minutes the tempo increased still further to the point where the game became frantic and difficult to enjoy, and Emati-Emati evaded the flailing legs to get away and lift in a precise cross to the far post which Bushin should have headed home but instead emulated Steele from earlier and placed across the goalkeeper and across the goal, the ball dropping wide of the opposite post. A final gamble for the Yellows saw Liam Ellis replace Taylor and Tivvy switch to a very attacking formation with Hill now in midfield and Concanen sweeping up between Kendall and Gardner, Ellis and Faux taking the wide positions in a five-man midfield. And Faux almost made the most of Tiverton’s numerical advantage in the middle of the pitch as he raced forward to fire in a snapshot only to find Mellor in the way yet again and in place to produce perhaps his best save of the day as he got down to his right instantly to put a strong hand on what was a powerful shot and help the ball behind for a corner. And that was the last good chance of a frustrating afternoon for Tiverton, with only a dipping and optimistic attempt from outside the area by Bushin that dipped not nearly enough and sailed behind worthy of note.

Clevedon Town: Jason Mellor, Henry Muggeridge (Cameron Brown 70), Rhymel Henderson-Hudson, Matt Thorne, Steve Kingdon, Sam Teale, Leigh Edwards-Samuels (Jack McKenna 61), Ashley Kington, Reeko Best, Chas Hemmings (Jordan Walker 40), Lloyd Mills
Booked: Teale 76
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, David Steele, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor (Liam Ellis 78), Danny Clay, Michael Nardiello (Jules Emati-Emati 52), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle (Kevin Hill 66)
Booked: Faux 43
Sent off: None

Attendance: 78

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy