Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Thatcham Town

   Saturday 24/03/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Most of the 200 fans that were at Ladysmead on Saturday would have left rather disappointed after Tiverton took an early command against Thatcham only to let a lead slip deep into the second half. And worse still was that Thatcham came back to steal a point despite playing the whole of the second half with just ten players on the pitch, perhaps a further indication that Tiverton lack some ruthlessness. But it is so often the case that when a team has a player sent off they are galvanised – they must stay more focussed and more organised, rigid, direct and difficult to break down. Thatcham are no strangers to this situation and Gareth Thomas became the thirteenth player the Kingfishers have seen dismissed this season, an unenviable record but one that hasn’t appeared to cause them all that much trouble.

Such is the awful disciplinary record that Thatcham boast they arrived in Devon with three players suspended, one for a wholesome five matches, and early on they looked like strangers to each other as Tiverton took control. Jules Emati-Emati sent a volley across the face of goal and just a foot away from the intersection between post and bar after five minutes as Tivvy began the game on the front foot, and Paul Strudley, who wouldn’t have had a chance had that early attempt found the target, restarted the game with a goal kick, not expecting that his next touch would be to retrieve the ball from the net. Upfield he launched his punt and calmly jogged out towards the edge of his area. Tom Gardner won an aerial duel midway inside the Tiverton half of the pitch, nodded the ball back over the halfway line, and Emati-Emati took a quick glance, swivelled and swept away an early volley that sailed over Strudley’s head, bounced once and then bobbled into the back of the net. The pitch at Tivvy is 110 yards long, Jules was closer to the half way line that he was to the edge of the penalty area, so that would mean his goal was scored from at least 36 yards out, but given the slight angle 40 yards is a decent estimate. Not bad for an impact substitute!

Michael Nardiello had Tivvy’s best chance of the first half (a better chance than the goal), but headed Russell Jee’s cross from the left wide from ten yards or so when three yellow shirts were all lining up for an attempt, and otherwise it was Chris Wright who was the busier goalkeeper as Thatcham began to get a grip on the game without ever really playing well. The Tiverton number one saved from Simon Flegg as the Thatcham midfielder bustled his way through, and then from Bradley Pegg following a corner routine that didn’t really work but still culminated in a moderately decent attempt on goal. Tom Etheridge was also denied by Wright having raced onto a long hoof by Tom Melledew, and Thomas, five minutes before his red card for violent conduct headed straight at Wright despite being left unmarked when Etheridge launched in one of several long throws.

Thatcham seemed frustrated that they had been able to force Wright into action so often despite a lacklustre performance, and, their task made harder by Thomas’s dismissal at the end of the first half, they looked on the verge of losing control completely. Paul Taplin was yellow carded for some aggressive afterthoughts directed towards Jee, Etheridge joined him when Jee was fouled again, and Melledew also earned himself a caution late in the game for a crude hack on Andy Taylor. It was a wonder they saw out the game with ten players still standing, they were ugly (“animals!?, Sir Alf Ramsay would have called them) yet effective, and they equalised with thirteen minutes of regulation time left to play when Etheridge hurled over yet another long throw-in and the ball was allowed to roll across the goal area where substitute Tom Brown was on hand to ram in into the net. That goal came just a minute after Strudley had made a decent save to foil Josh Searle, and two minutes from the end the same combination came up with the same results, Searle’s shot and Strudley’s save, this time the best save of the match, and one which ensured the spoils and the points were shared.

Neither team will be too happy with a draw and both Tivvy and Thatcham see their playoff hopes dangling by the thinnest of threads. Considering the importance of the game, and despite the visitors playing a man in arrears, it was perhaps curious that they seemed content towards the end of the game to see out time, their playacting and time-wasting very much in evidence even though a late winner would have drawn them to within ten points of fifth-placed Gosport Borough. On the other hand they didn’t play particularly well, and neither did Tiverton, so a draw was a fair reflection on the game as a whole even if it is ultimately of little use to anybody other than the remaining playoff contenders, four of whom also failed to secure a weekend victory.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Russell Jee (Josh Searle 72), Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, David Steele, Danny Clay, Michael Nardiello, Joe Bushin (Andy Taylor 79), Jules Emati-Emati
Goal: Emati-Emati 6
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Thatcham Town: Paul Strudley, Bradley Pegg, Paul Taplin, Sam Flegg, Gareth Thomas, Tom Melledew, Will Bratt (Tom Brown 70), Gianluca Riccio (Andrew Jenkinson 65), Shane Kingston, James Clark, Tom Etheridge
Goal: Brown 77
Booked: Taplin 45, Etheridge 64, Melledew 85
Sent off: Thomas 45+2

Attendance: 200

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy