Match report

Didcot Town 0 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 31/03/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tiverton had a curse to break, and break it they did with a confident first half performance which saw the Yellows finally inflict defeat upon Didcot Town, Tivvy’s first win against the Railwaymen at the sixth time of asking. Michael Nardiello and Jules Emati-Emati scored the goals, and only some ponderous forward-play in the second half ensured that the winning margin wasn’t as reflective as the comfort with which the victory was gained. Tivvy might have scored a few more, and while it is fair to say that Didcot had their chances they weren’t what one would describe as cutting-edge, and Chris Wright was only called into action to save on two notable occasions.

Tiverton started with what was almost their strongest line-up, Alex Faux the only absente, so Kevin Hill started on the left side of defence and Russell Jee kept his place in midfield alongside Danny Clay. The reinvigorated Emati-Emati has finally found the form and fitness to prove a handful for opposition defences from the kick-off rather than as an impact substitute and he had a fine game throughout, constantly asking questions of the Diddy defence and also affording Nardiello space in which to work so there was a nice balance to the Tiverton side with plenty of central bite ahead of a defensive line marshalled so well by Paul Kendall, perhaps Tivvy’s star performer and certainly a shining light when the home side began to play a more direct game, Kendall revelling in the aerial battle and winning just about everything above head height.

The first goal came from the first chance as Tiverton pressed down the right flank and won a free kick. Andy Taylor scuffed his first delivery but still managed to win a corner, and when this second opportunity was half-cleared Taylor was finally able to lift up a delivery and find the head above a yellow shirt. Kendall was the owner of that head and from the edge of the area simply helped the ball onwards; Nardiello out-leapt the almost comically rotund Didcot goalkeeper Jon Beames six yards from goal and guided the ball slowly but surely into the net. It was a perfect start to a perfect afternoon for Tiverton and with both teams offering plenty of graft and bite in midfield the game threatened to spark into life but never really reached the heights of the harboured promise, but it was still a very watchable encounter. Jeers from the stand from the home support were aimed at regular intervals at the referee as challenges flew in, at the Tivvy players as the Yellows collided with the Reds, and also at their own forward Danilson Vincente as he consistently wasted possession in the final third.

And so we progressed and Anaclet Odhiambo shot over from the edge of the area with only Wright to beat, a bad miss on the basis that he missed by some distance and potentially a critical error. Two minutes later Didcot were almost made to pay for their profligacy when Tiverton attacked sharply through the middle; Emati-Emati broke free and Beames was out to tap the ball from his feet, Josh Searle followed up with hunger and banged a shot on goal, Beames stranded but Sam Elkins by now fully retreated onto the goal-line to make the clearance. Like Didcot a moment earlier this was a missed opportunity but not one that should be held against Searle for too long – he did superbly in the first instant to make up the ground necessary to get his shot away, and secondly never really had time to pick his spot so for Josh it was unfortunate that Elkins was well placed; for Elkins it was a fine clearance and just reward for his efforts tracking back and covering his labouring goalkeeper.

Tiverton were seldom threatened thanks to some particularly cool defending by Hill but they did manage to accumulate three yellow cards in a lively spell of intensity in midfield. Searle was the first caution as he chopped down Lee Henderson, and as the Didcot defender was receiving unneeded treatment for a phantom injury words were exchanged amongst the two benches as the busy lineman listened in, words that led to Mark Saunders, a named substitute also receiving a booking. Didcot manager Dave Mudge was honest enough after the game to tell me that Saunders’ yellow card was a pathetic decision made by a clueless official, but Kendall’s reprimand a few minutes before the break was certainly more clear cut as he won the ball but only by lunging dangerously with Vincente on the receiving end. Thirty years ago they would applaud such a challenge – Kendall took all of the ball and regained his footing to then feed a pass into Clay, but such is the sanitised nature of the game these days that one must not throw oneself towards the ball in such a manner when an opponent is in such close attention.

It didn’t really matter one jot a couple of minutes later when Tiverton scored their second of the game, a simple goal made easier by simpleton defending. Hill threw the ball in from the left touchline, over the head of Harry Halls, and Jules simply allowed the ball to run past his body as he turned and Tom Mudge offered no challenge. Into the area and without even trying through on goal, Emati-Emati was as cool as you like and stroked the ball beneath Beames as the lackadaisical Mudge trailed hopelessly in his wake. His place in the team, it was suggested from the home support, purely down to the fact that he happened to be the manager’s son!

Didcot might have done well to have watched our game at Mangotsfield a few weeks ago and made a concerted effort in the second half. The Mangoes proved that a two-goal deficit doesn’t mean the game is over but Didcot never really looked like they believed they could salvage anything from the afternoon, although Odhiambo did fire in a shot from a tight angle that Wright parried and then gathered in at the second time of asking. There was more note-taking for the referee who was proving to be nobodies best friend – Hill for Tivvy following a late check on Halls, Steve Davis for the hosts when he stupidly stepped in the way as Clay looked to play a free kick upfield, David making a point of recovering from his wide berth to block the kick and paying the only penalty.

Emati-Emati came as close as anyone to troubling the scorers thereafter, a snapshot from distance that Beames did very well to save and then smother before Seale could race in and gobble up, and Tivvy’s lack of ruthlessness up front came to a head when Nardiello dallied and was eventually harried away from danger when pulling the trigger was all that was required, a sorry end to an exciting move down the right instigated by Clay and further added to by Searle. Late on Harry Nodwell, on for the hobbling Josh Concanen, conceded possession to Diddy sub Olly Thomas and Wright had to make another save. This time he wasn’t able to hold on but Mudge certainly didn’t have his shooting boots on and fired haplessly wide from a follow-up in the next phase. And there was still time for Kendall to clear off the line when Conor Harris hung up a teasing cross from the right by-line, still time for Henderson to work his way into the book for a late tackle on Taylor, and still time for Beames to almost deliver the perfect blunder when he spilled Joe Bushin’s cross onto his own crossbar. That was in the sixth minute of added time and by then Tiverton had done plenty to win the game and finally take all three points from a game against Didcot. Playoff chances are slim but while they still exist at all the boys in yellow will keep working hard. They did just that and got their reward at the Loop Meadow Stadium.

Didcot Town: Jon Beames, Sam Elkins, Chris Owens, Tom Mudge, Lee Henderson, Alex Stanley (Kevin Halliday 47), Harry Halls (Olly Thomas 68), Jamie Heapy, Danlison Vincente, Anaclet Odhiambo (Conor Harris 85), Steve Davis
Booked: Davis 52, Henderson 90+4
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen (Harry Nodwell 58), Russell Jee, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Danny Clay, Michael Nardiello (Joe Bushin 82), Jules Emati-Emati, Josh Searle
Goals: Nardiello 4, Emati-Emati 44
Booked: Searle 28, Mark Saunders 30, Kendall 42, Hill 51
Sent off: None

Attendance: 117

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy