Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Plymouth Argyle

   Tuesday 27/03/2012   Devon St Luke's Cup
Alan Reidy

Tiverton will contest the Devon Cup final for a second successive season after a gutsy performance against a young Plymouth team, the only goal of the game coming from the penalty spot midway through the second half. Michael Nardiello was fouled and converted from twelve yards in what had been and remained a tight encounter, and there was plenty of encouragement for Mark Saunders and Hedley Steele as they saw a youthful Yellows side go toe-to-toe with Argyle and come out of the game with a great deal of credit.

As has been the custom in this seasons County competition Tivvy utilised the depths of the Reserves side and selected James Skinner and Liam Pike in defence, Tom Tricker in midfield and both Jesse and Owen Howe made appearances from the substitute’s bench. Ryan Draper returned in goal and there was also a welcome return to Ladysmead for Harry Nodwell who made his first Tiverton start since picking up an injury eleven weeks earlier at Barnstaple. And even if there was a lack of familiarity about the Town team they certainly didn’t play as if it was a hindrance, pushing onto the front foot early, and Josh Serale forced Argyle goalkeeper Christian Walton into a sixth minute save when he whipped in a low free kick from just outside the area.

Plymouth gradually eased their way into the game and found they had plenty of time on the ball in deep positions although as soon as they ventured forward into enemy territory they were hassled and closed down, meaning the only efforts on goal they were able to muster came from low-percentage chances fired in from distance. Dan Hart had the first of these but his shot was comfortably gathered by Draper who didn’t need to extend himself unduly, and a couple of minutes before half time a more threatening shot from Colin Watson clipped the top of the crossbar and bounced behind onto the terrace.

All the while Tivvy were playing with encouraging verve when they were on the attack and four times might have taken the lead but for a combination of last-gasp defending and fine goalkeeping. Searle was particularly impressive throughout and his quick feet opened up space on the right for a cross, and David Steele eventually shot just wide of the mark. A corner, won by Searle, almost fell at the feet of Paul Kendall when Walton flapped, only for the Tiverton captain to be robbed at the last minute by a crucial Jordan Pearce clearance, and more silky running from Searle released Nardiello, this time Walton making a fine save with his feet when his defence was left flat-footed and behind play. In adde time at the end of the first half it was another fine run and cross from Searle that caused danger as Nardiello rushed in at the far post but the ball was carrying just a fraction too much pace and evaded everyone as it rolled away and clear of danger.

The game was quiet in terms of openings in the early stages of the second half although Tiverton’s movement down the right was often the main source of forward motion, and just beyond the hour mark it was this area which was exploited as the game took a decisive turn in favour of the hosts. Searle (who else, for he really was having a ball) found space and time near the corner flag to feed the ball low into the area, Nardiello quickly jinked as he tried to open up and get a shot away, but as he looked to move that one or two more necessary steps centrally Curtis Nelson poked out a leg and sent the Tiverton striker crashing to the turf. There was obvious frustration from the visitors but no real protests and Nardiello wasn’t bothered anyway; he remained calm and rammed the ball high into the net as Walton guessed and dived in the opposite direction.

Plymouth had plenty of time to respond and they were able to increase the tempo as Tivvy understandably played with more caution, but still the visitors were unable to break through and create anything meaningful. Draper held everything that came his way – which was very little thanks to well-times interceptions from Pike and then Josh Concanen – and Jared Sims wasted the best chance Argyle could fashion when he shot across the face of goal and a few feet wide after a clever penetrating header from Jordan Berry had sent him on his way, perhaps an uncomfortable first touch raising a little doubt in the mind of the Pilgrims striker as he initially struggled to gain full control of the ball twenty yards from goal.

There was no frantic and desperate finale as the Howes offered fresh legs in the Tiverton attack and a useful ‘out ball’, and it was Jesse’s perseverance that brought about a final opening which he blazed just a foot wide of the post, almost removing my head from its perch in the process as the ball fizzed a matter of inches above my cranium, onto the back of the stand and then conveniently back onto the pitch and almost perfectly in position for Walton to resume with a goal kick! And poor Walton, for he had enjoyed a decent enough game, was by now at the end of his tether as his defenders ahead of him continually insisted on rolling the ball back in the most awkward of positions. They had to do this because at key times Tiverton pressed high and refused to allow the Plymouth back-line to settle, quite a contrast to the first half, and more than once Walton had to scramble across to clear, the result typically being a sliced kick into touch or way up into the air.

Such youthful exuberance and the willingness to chase and harry is essentially what won the game for Tiverton, plus plenty of Josh Searle magic, and the Yellows now await the winners of the second semi-final between Cullompton Rangers and Buckland Athletic with a repeat of last year’s final very much on the cards.

Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, James Skinner, Liam Ellis (Josh Concanen 46), Liam Pike, Paul Kendall, Russell Jee (Jesse Howe 77), Tom Tricker, David Steele, Michael Nardiello (Owen Howe 84), Harry Nodwell, Josh Searle
Goals: Nardiello 62p
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Plymouth Argyle: Christian Walton, James Bradley (Jordan Berry 46), Jordan Pearce, Dan Hart, Curtis Nelson, Jamie Richards, Jed Harper-Penman, Colin Watson (Tyler Harvey 76), Matt Lecointe, Jared Sims, Jordan Copp
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 205

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy