Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 0 Winchester City

   Saturday 03/11/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

I tempted fate by at the top of my previous report by claiming Tiverton were genuine promotion candidates. The good news is that they clearly believe, and for the second time in a week the Yellows cruised to a comprehensive 3-0 victory, this time against a surprisingly limited Winchester City side who simply couldn’t cope with Tivvy’s ability to stretch play and pass with devastating accuracy. Town’s performance was better than the one they delivered at Merthyr and in truth 3-0 could have been 6-0 had Winchester goalkeeper Rory Anderson not stretched this way and that to keep the scores down, particularly in a goalless first half.

There were no changes to the team that started the game in Wales on Tuesday; there was no need as everyone was fit and raring to go and in good form. Michael Nardiello returned to the squad and took a place on the bench, and at times he might have wished, as might Mark Saunders, that he was on the pitch from the start as Tiverton saw attack after attack fall down at the final hurdle in the early stages of the game. There was just three minutes on the clock when the first opening came and went, a free kick from Russell Jee swung in towards the far post which narrowly evaded Dave Pearse and, fortunately for the visitors, narrowly evaded the goal too. And a minute later Alex Faux crossed perfectly only for David Steele to head over from six yards out.

Winchester were barely able to get into the game as the yellow wave kept coming; more fine work from Faux and this time Steele’s effort was blocked. But the danger wasn’t over as Josh Concanen quickly delivered the ball back into the area and Anderson had to throw himself down to his left to tip away a goalbound header from Joe Bushin. It was almost as one-sided as a game can get, but then City did spring forward twice and Chris Wright was called into action as he saved Adam Roberts’ low shot. Indeed, Winchester’s game-plan was very simple – get the ball to Roberts and let him try and make things happen. He did as much as one could realistically have asked but a single player does not a team make, and so the visitors were a bit stuck when their one real threat was stifled. Danny Cox fired a free kick in which deflected away off Jee for a corner, and they had a short period with a territorial advantage but never really looked like troubling the Tiverton goal.

In defence they were even less elegant and no player in red appeared at all comfortable in possession – aimless punted clearances and safe headers out of play were the order of the day, and it was only a matter of time until Tivvy finally broke through. Or was it? Maybe lady-luck was with City; it certainly was when Lewis Tasker’s free kick was headed desperately off the line by Conor McCarthy, and a crucial intervention by James Taylor denied Pearse a simple finish. Time ticked on and Winchester somehow maintained a clean sheet: Anderson palmed over a Tasker shot and then sprawled away to push a Steele drive around the post, and approaching the interval Steele sent another chance high over the crossbar, this one from a tight angle after Cox’s clearance had been blocked and McCarthy had done just enough to prod the ball away from Pearse.

It really was of curious wonderment that there was no score at the break, and for Tivvy this must have been frustrating. But they didn’t show any signs of panic and within three minutes of the restart finally grabbed the goal that their dominance merited. To pick any individual as the start performer would be a difficult task but the three main candidates combined as Jee moved the ball out wide to Faux on the left wing. It took Alex a couple of attempt but he was finally able to swerve past James McGowan, and his cross was again perfect for Steele, this time at the near post, and Steele this time made no mistake as he threw himself forward and glanced his header across Anderson and inside the far post.

There was tangible relief amongst the supporters at Ladysmead, and amongst the players it was visible that the burden on ‘only drawing’ had been lifted as Tivvy went about dissecting an ever-worsening Winchester team in what must go down as the best half of football the Yellows have played this season. To say it was remarkably easy would be an insult to the undoubted effort the players put in, but it is still a relevant assessment, and Winchester were far from the sternest of tests. They still did the same thing – hit Roberts and hope for the best; it is no wonder they have now gone three games without scoring.

Bushin headed over a Tasker corner, won when McCarthy epitomised the poor standard of the opposition by completely misplacing and overhitting a backpass, and on the hour mark a beautifully flowing move involving Pearse, Faux and Bushin was brought to a premature halt when the referee caught Pearse using his elbow to shrug away Ryan Woodford as he attempted to make ground into the area. At the other end – not a great deal with the exception of a few sliced shots from well outside the box. Winchester simply couldn’t get themselves into good positions, so while most of the praise has been rightly reserved for Tiverton’s attacking players, Messrs Kendall, Gardner and Hill are also worthy of mention for their effective performances.

The second goal and the goal which effectively secured the points was not exactly the prettiest in the build-up: Jee looped a ball forward and both Bushin and Nardiello, on the pitch in place of Pearse, were under it along with Taylor. Nobody won it cleanly but it broke forward and Bushin was the first to react as he sprinted on, into the box and then hammered a left-footer convincingly past Anderson. The rest of the Winchester defence were nowhere to be seen and clearly they were out of gas.

That was the story of the final twenty minutes as Tivvy were easily able to cut their way through a flat and heavy-legged backline; Josh Searle came off the bench and hit a shot which struck both posts before somehow being hack away with Faux desperately racing forward in an attempt to bundle the ball into the net, and when Taylor messed about on the edge of his area Faux robed him of the ball, fed Steele, and Steele curled a shot a fraction wide. It was ridiculously easy for the Yellows and their utter dominance was underlined with a third goal, a goal that went some way to giving the score a look which reflected the game as a whole. Searle was the provider, cut down late but still able to squeeze the ball forwards, and Nardiello, who had been unplayable since his introduction, raced away and top-poked a cheeky shot which again left Anderson turning to retrieve the ball from the net.

That was that, an almost faultless performance from Tiverton against what can only be described as a less-than-mediocre Winchester side. They were unable to hassle and harry Jee, Steele and Faux in midfield, unable to keep pace with Bushin, Pearse and Nardiello in their own third, and unable to do anything of note at the other end, bar a few mazy dribbles lacking end product. If only a few more people were there to see it…

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen (Adam Faux 79), Lewis Tasker, Kevin Hill (Josh Searle 56), Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, David Steele, Russell Jee, Dave Pearse (Michael Nardiello 64), Joe Bushin, Alex Faux
Goals: Steele 47, Bushin 67, Nardiello 87
Booked: Pearse 60
Sent off: None

Winchester City: Rory Anderson, James McGowan, Danny King, Jack Smith, James Taylor, Conor McCarthy, Danny Cox, Ryan Woodford, Andrew White, Michael Charles, Adam Roberts
Booked: Cox 47, Smith 67
Sent off: None

Attendance: 230

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy