Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Taunton Town

   Tuesday 25/09/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

There is always a certain air of trepidation ahead of matches between Tiverton and Taunton. It isn’t quite like it used to be when a couple of thousand fans would pack into Ladysmead or Wordsworth Drive to watch the two rivals go at each other with limitless enthusiasm but it is still the fixture both sets of supporters and both squads want to win more than any other. This time around just short of three-hundred people took time out from their evening and they were treated to a pulsating game that swung in balance dramatically and then reached a climax in the final couple of minutes as honours stayed in Devon.

It is a mark of how impressive the Tiverton team has played recently that there was again no place for Kevin Hill in the starting line-up as David Steele and Harry Nodwell retained their spots in the engine room, and both had very good games once again, with flankers Andy Taylor and Josh Searle arguably even more important in a first half which belonged well and truly to Tiverton. It still took six minutes before the first shot on goal came in though, a low drive from Searle which bobbled harmlessly wide of Connor Sidley-Adams’ goal, and a shot which would have needed to have been struck perfectly to beat the Taunton goalkeeper from pushing thirty yards out. Taylor then brought the first save of the game from the double-barrelled one when he stayed on his toes as others were busy deliberating how to attack or how to defend a free kick. Steele took the set piece quickly and Taylor nipped in to fire a shot straight into Sidley Adams’ gloves.

On the Yellows pushed, on top and at ease with the situation for the present. The first signs that Tivvy would spread the ball around quickly and purposefully soon followed as Steele linked up with Lewis Tasker on the left, an early pass affording the Town defender time and space. Tasker’s cross was only half dealt with and when Gary Saunders headed as much up as out Searle reacted to volley a spectacular shot in which was deflected behind, and James Blake then made a crucial clearing header in a packed goalmouth from the corner that followed.

By this stage it was difficult to see how Taunton would be able to get anything out of the game – their only shot of any deception a wasted free kick from wide on the left which might actually have been a wildly overhit cross, Craig Mawford the culprit, the corner flag more threatened than Chris Wright’s goal. And so it was back to business as usual with Paul Kendall heading over a Taylor free kick, Bushin forcing Sidely-Adams to save low down with the essential requirement that the ball was held as Nodwell lurked in wait for any scraps, and then another Bushin header, a nod across the face of goal following Josh Concanen’s fine diagonal ball, and this time it was Owen Howe waiting for the chance to smash the ball into the net only for Owen Irish to get back and hack the ball away at the last moment.

With all the defending they were having to do eventually the Taunton defence would be stretched to breaking point, and that moment came in the twenty-ninth minute when Tivvy forced a corner on the right. Sidley-Adams was verbose as he and his team set themselves up to defend, instructing his defenders to track the movement of the yellow-shirted attackers. Steele certainly was tracked as he darted from near to far post but his movement in turn created space for Joe Bushin to make the opposite movement, and Bushin was left unattended to power the ball in off his nut, a reward for such a positive opening to the game both individually and collectively, and the exact treatment Tasker’s inch-perfect corner deserved.

The Peacocks looked beaten at that point and would desperately have wished for the half-time whistle in order to allow themselves a quick recharge of the batteries and perhaps some new tactical instructions from their manager. Tivvy, on the other hand, went from strength to strength and began passing the ball around ever quicker. One and two-touch stuff, short passes into feet, clever movement, keep-ball, exhibition stuff. It was pretty to watch and the only criticism was that the Yellows didn’t actually get very far in terms of breaking through the Taunton defence. On the other hand they kept the ball and kept their opponents chasing haplessly, they showed both patience and inventiveness, and they frustrated Taunton massively in a remarkably one-sided ten-minute spell. Howe dragged a shot wide after he had taken the ball at the end of a penetrating Nodwell run, Tasker saw a shot blocked and a free kick which just cleared the crossbar, and in a very rare piece of action at the other end of the pitch, three minutes into seven which were added on in the first half for a series of injuries or heavy legs from the Taunton players Craig Herrod smashed the ball over the top from long range.

For ten or fifteen minutes after the restart the pattern remained largely unchanged with Tiverton in command and Taunton struggling to get any kind of stranglehold on the game. Another superb set-piece delivery from Tasker forced Irish into a defensive header which only marginally cleared his own bar, and from further neat build-up play Searle found Taylor and the Tivvy player seemed certain to belt the ball home only for a truly brilliant saving tackle by Tom Lang to force thwart the danger.

But that miss, or rather than excellent challenge reignited Taunton’s appetite and quickly the pattern of play swung in favour of the visitors. Joe Dakwa offered fresh legs in place of the wholly anonymous Blake, and the ball was in the Tivvy net just after the hour mark to no avail when Peek unfairly bundled into Wright as the Tiverton ’keeper cleanly plucked out a hanging Lang cross. Moments later the away side were back on the attack and the ball was moved from right to left across the penalty area only for Herrod to once again get under his shot and send it over the crossbar; closer but not yet close enough. Nevertheless it was now looking as if Tivvy might regret not scoring more when they were in control of the game and Marsh’s free kick served up another warning – it was fired straight into the wall but it was another chance from a decent position.

Tiverton tried to freshen things up as Michael Nardiello came on for Bushin and then Russell Jee replaced Steele, and Jee’s first touch of the evening was a pinpoint pass into the area which allowed Howe to tee up Taylor and allowed Taylor to get a powerful shot away which Sidley-Adams saved and held expertly. But that was an increasingly rare foray into enemy territory for the Yellows and three minutes further on Taunton were back up the other end and Marsh glided into the area only to be stopped in his tracks by Nardiello, illegally, a striker’s tackle. There was no argument by Nardiello or anyone else as the referee immediately pointed to the spot, Wright went early to his left and Marsh, back on his feet as cool as you like placed the ball straight down the middle. Taunton were level!

A chance each followed – Searle for Tivvy, a volley that went well over, and a free kick which was taken short and then powered in by Rob Norrish and saved by Wright. Picking a winner was now impossible where it had earlier been unquestionable, and it would take just one moment to decide the game. With four minutes of normal time remaining that moment came as the ball was played through the inside-left channel and Nardiello picked up possession. There were options in the middle but first Irish needed to be dealt with as he shadowed the Tivvy forward, so Nards made an attempt to get around the outside and was promptly sent crashing to the deck, with the referee evening up the penalty count by once again pointing to the spot. Irish was furious and booked as he protested his innocence, Sidley-Adams stalled the taking of the penalty by claiming the ball wasn’t placed correctly, and through it all Nardiello submerged any nerves he may have had, took a deep breath and hit the back of the net on one side as Sidley-Adams guessed and dived towards the other side.

Game over? Not quite! The Taunton goalkeeper was then booked for his part in a ruckus that followed, so was Herrod and later Howe for Tivvy, but Irish was shown a straight red card having taken the law into his own elbow and dealt a blow to the back of Nardiello’s head. Taunton’s implosion in those couple of minutes was as remarkable as the turnaround they had sportingly forged a little earlier, and with tensions high and only a couple of minutes to play there was one final chance which fell to Peek’s head and was glanced just wide of the target. And there the fun and games ended with the exception of Irish’s assault on the door of the visitor’s dressing room and the immature reaction of Sidley-Adams at the full-time whistle when he ridiculously decided to squirt the leftover contents of his water bottle at a Tiverton official before launching the empty bottle petulantly into the perimeter wall.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker, Harry Nodwell, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor (Kevin hill 90+3), David Steele (Russell Jee 71), Owen Howe, Joe Bushin (Michael Nardiello 66), Josh Searle
Goals: Bushin 29, Nardiello 87p
Booked: Kendall 84, Howe 90+1
Sent off: None

Taunton Town: Connor Sidley-Adams, Tom Lang, Lee Smyth, Gary Saunders, Owen Irish, Rob Norrish, James Blake (Joe Dakwa 52), Craig Mawford, Neil Peek, Rodney Marsh, Craig Herrod
Goal: Marsh 76p
Booked: Norrish 57, Peek 67, Irish 86, Sidley-Adams 88, Herrod 88
Sent off: Irish 88

Attendance: 295

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy