Match report

Tiverton Town 4 - 2 Halesowen Town

   Saturday 10/03/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton’s return to winning ways was by no means as convincing as the score-line against Halesowen suggests, long spells struggling to control possession interspersed with a few quick and devastating counter attacks, and even with a three-goal interval lead the Yellows had barely broken into second gear. It was fortunate for Tivvy that Halesowen were equally as ineffective, even more so in the attacking third, because it was the visitors that saw much more of the ball only to suffer by not knowing exactly what to do with it, and their second-half revival was impressive yet ultimately too steep a hill to climb.

Josh Searle was the only absentee from a starting line-up that almost picks itself so Liam Ellis wore the number eleven shirt and took up position on the right wing, and Jules Emati-Emati came back into the side having been relegated to the bench at Clevedon as Joe Bushin made way. But neither Liam nor Jules had much of am impact in the opening explorations as the game was firmly locked into the middle third of the pitch with a slight imbalance towards the Swimming Pool end of the ground which Tivvy were defending. There was never much danger of Halesowen scoring the opening goal for all the theoretical dominance then had with Paul Kendall imperious at the heart of the Yellows defence, and as it happened it took until added time in the first half for the visitors to even muster a shot of any kind, a volley from Naveed Arshad that sailed hopelessly over the crossbar, over the stand, and almost over the hill and far away.

By the time ten minutes had elapsed it was difficult to remember any sequence of more than three passes that Tiverton had completed, and with the ball at the feet of Chris Wright after an overhit through ball from the Yeltz midfield there was an opportunity to pass the ball around and start developing an affinity between it and the boot. Wright had other ideas though and chose to launch the ball downfield where Michael Nardiello was stationed to out-jump his marker and flick the ball further forward. Emati-Emati read his strike-partner’s intentions and zipped through to collect, a convenient bobble off the knee taking the ball into space and leaving the green shirted defence behind. Poor Paul Evans had been exposed as his centre-halves laboured to turn and chase, stepped from his line to narrow the angle only for Emati-Emati to take the ball wide and clip it back into the net from an angle narrower than he probably would have liked.

Tiverton had shown that it only takes a few seconds to score a goal, especially if the opposition defenders are willing to help out, and four minutes later another blunder of sorts gifted Nardiello his first of the afternoon. Josh Concanen played the ball through the inside right channel (my notes claim it was Searle’s pass which suggests too much pre-match looney juice!), Richard Huckfield should have cleared but reacted as if some joker had tied his laces together, and one slip and slice later Nardiello was in on goal, faced with just the luckless Evans, and choose to place a shot beyond the Halesowen ’keeper rather than round him, the outcome the same and Tivvy’s lead doubled. And importantly Tivvy’s belief regained as the Yellows played for the next ten minutes at a higher level in terms of skill and intensity than they had managed for several weeks. The confidence of the second goal and a cushioned lead had given the team the belief that they were in fact capable of spreading the ball around, passing to feet, stretching the opponent, and scoring more. Nardiello charged down Evans and half-blocked a clearance but Danny Clay was unable to take full advantage when David Steele had gobbled up possession and sent an early cross to the edge of the D, and just fourteen minutes after the opening goal Tivvy struck yet again. Kevin Hill was unlucky to see his well-struck shot blocked, Nardiello quickly continued the momentum but as he was heading towards the by-line and preparing for an attempted cross our friend Huckfield clumsily extended a leg and brought the Tivvy striker down, as obvious a penalty as Referee Bennett will have to award all season. Nardiello took the responsibility from twelve yards and rolled the ball nonchalantly into the bottom corner as Evans, who had done nothing wrong all day was left standing bemused on his line.

The game out of reach and with neither team actually playing particularly well things stagnated and the enthusiasm for entertainment from the terraces dwindled. There was a particularly curious feel about Ladysmead, an ennui replicated on the pitch with little more than nothing to get excited about for the remainder of the first half. Emati-Emati sliced a shot miles over the top, Mark Smith was booked for a foul on Nardiello, Hill curled in a free kick which Evans saved and held with less comfort than it appeared, and finally Arshad’s volley that was hit with lots of hope and very little control.

There were no early second-half indications that Halesowen would be able to make a match of their afternoon in Devon although Ben Haseley did finally force Wright into a save when he side-footed Marcus Jackson’s cross straight at the Tivvy goalkeeper. At the other end Hill did much the same when Smith failed to get any purchase on an Andy Taylor corner and managed to clear not even beyond his own penalty area, but the game sprung to life just before the hour mark when Wright went inexplicably on a trot towards the clubhouse and lost out to Arshad, his delivery perfect for Jacksom to ram into the net despite the best efforts of Tom Gardner who had retreated onto the line in a desperate effort to bail his goalkeeper out. And suddenly it was all Halesowen with Smith nodding over from Michael McGrath’s corner and then Arshad and Halesley combining only for the latter to also miss the target as he got beneath his shot.

With seventeen minutes left the Yeltz pulled another one back and set up a tense finale in a game that was long-since won and lost, Haseley the man of the moment when he was the final piece in a swift move from centre to left and then back inside, the striker skipping beyond a couple of challenges before firing home. The goal had arrived just a minute after Arshad had been replaced by Reece Cotterill while Tivvy had brought on Searle in place of Taylor, an obvious tactical move as the clearly limited Smith had switched sides in Halesowen’s defensive line and should be easy pickings. Ellis moved to the left for a few minutes but was then replaced at the expense of David Steele and Tivvy tried to congest and narrow the midfield.

Although within striking distance Halesowen failed to truly threaten again aside from a teasing cross from the left that Hill had to hack clear at the far post. Although not really a reportable moment, what happened next was as Hill threw a full dictionary of verbals at Kendall, the Tivvy captain showed his appreciation by squaring up to the Hill, and inter-team fisticuffs were only avoided when the ever-sensible Gardner arrived to save the day and forced Kendall onto the back foot and away from the centre of the tension. The pair kissed and made up and were seen playing skipping and clapping games in the clubhouse after the game, but before then there was the small matter of Nardiello scoring his third goal of the afternoon a couple of minutes into added time, a deftly executed finish after superb work by Searle as the winger did exactly what everybody expected of him and left the clumsy Smith tackling thin air. McGrath had been shown a straight red card a minute or two earlier for violent conduct as he rammed a knee into Searle’s back as the Tivvy player was trying to regain his feet after a foul had left him floored, and the day belonged to Tiverton and particularly to Nardiello, a hat-trick against his former club and the first person to score three in a league game at Ladysmead for over six years.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor (Josh Searle 68), Danny Clay, Michael Nardiello, Jules Emati-Emati (Joe Bushin 88), Liam Ellis (David Steele 79)
Goals: Emati-Emati 11, Nardiello 15, 25p, 90+2
Booked: Hill 85, Kendall 85
Sent off: None

Halesowen Town: Paul Evans, Mark Smith, Nathaniel Caines (Andrew Westwood 46), Peter Folkes, Richard Huckfield, Neil Barnfield, Marcus Jackson, Gavin Saunders, Naveed Arshad (Reece Cotterill 72), Ben Haseley, Michael McGrath
Goals: Jackson 58, Haseley 73
Booked: Smith 36
Sent off: McGrath 90

Attendance: 220

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy