Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 0 Wimborne Town

   Saturday 17/11/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Tivvy are top of the table for the first time since August 2006 and deservedly so. A gruelling schedule of road trips has been successfully negotiated with solid draws and impressive victories, and the Yellows have managed to leap in front of previous pace-setters Hungerford Town. The top two play each other next weekend and that game could allow the Yellows to consolidate their position, but there are three other teams with games in hand that could yet move above Town. There will be no counting of chickens – Mark Saunders won’t allow that – but in the present the players should be allowed to enjoy the plaudits received from their excellent recent form, and if success does indeed breed success then the club can look forward with optimism.

Wimborne Town were the latest opponents and they were very strong on the whole, only they were crucially unable to find a way past a Tiverton defence that was unmoveable. Like many before them who have tried and failed, Wimborne probed from deep but always came up short, and the only save of real note that Chris Wright had to make was from a header from his own teammate. That was a backwards header from Josh Concanen, who almost relived his blunder against Shortwood and had Wright to thank for quickly dropping away to his right to save, and otherwise all the Tivvy goalkeeper had to do was pluck or punch a number of high crosses and to retrieve the ball from behind his goal.

It is of credit to Paul Kendall and Tom Gardner, with Kevin Hill in front of them, that Wimborne were primarily reduced to shots from distance, and in the first half Hill was hugely influential both in his defensive duties and also in instigating forward momentum. His vision and calmness allowed Tiverton to play out of defence when they won the ball back from the Magpies and his out-ball was often one for Andy Taylor to make further advances. Taylor was a busy bee indeed, playing mainly on the left, a tactic no doubt employed due to the fact that the more mobile Josh Searle was better suited to trying to run at the sluggish Jordan Cole on the opposite wing. Little tactical decisions such as this were important as the Yellows stretched play when they were able to press forward.

By some distance Wimborne were the more progressive in the early stages and it took Tiverton a while to settle. The visitors were comfortable playing the ball out from the back and into midfield as Tivvy tended to stand off, but once into the middle third time and space was at a premium. A fourth minute clearance by Kendall was blocked and Tom Jeffes got a shot away, only to see his effort sail wide as he was quickly put under pressure. Another shot off target came in from Micky Hubbard on nineteen minutes, but by this stage the tide was beginning to turn in favour of the home side with Wimborne ’keeper Jason Harvell saving from Searle, watching a Harry Nodwell shot drift wide, and then a difficult Joe Bushin header drop over the top.

There wasn’t a great deal to choose between the sides – Tivvy were direct and looked to play at a high tempo while Wimborne were more deliberate and therefore saw more of the ball. However, there was a certainly clinical element about the passing between yellow shirts, and that swagger, if we can call it such, helped open up the Magpies defence and lead to the opening goal of the game. Hill was the creator as he received the ball in the centre of the pitch and fed it forward for Michael Nardiello. To the left Nards drifted and it seemed like there were too many bodies for this movement to be of value, but he got himself free with a burst of acceleration that left Shaun Brian trailing and then fired in a shot which Harvell wasn’t near. The ball almost found the back of the net – instead it found the inside angle of post and bar, rebounded across the face of goal and fell invitingly for Bushin to cruise in and clip into an unguarded target.

Both teams continued in much the same manner, determined to play the game properly, and both teams pretty much cancelled each other out for much of the remaining time in the first half. There was no doubt that the tide had now turned with Tiverton bossing the midfield, and Nardiello’s cutback was crucially intercepted by Brian after Alex Faux has done tremendously well to come out on top in a crunching 50/50 challenge with Scott Arnold. Brian’s interception led to a corner which Wimborne didn’t fully clear, and Hill looped the ball back into the danger area where Bushin headed on and Nardiello then dove to nod into the net, but the celebrations were quickly and correctly stifled by the signal of offside from the linesman, strangely on the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch. So that wasn’t two up and neither was it two up as the game entered added time and Nodwell slashed a shot wide following more fine work from Taylor and a cheeky back heel from Bushin. And fortunately for Tivvy it wasn’t one-all as the Magpies raced down the other end, won a corner and Kevin Gill glanced an unmarked header wide from Hubbard’s delivery.

And so the game resumed with Tiverton in the lead and marginally worth it, but against a Wimborne side that had no reason to fear the worst. They were still very much in the game and every bit as good as their hosts – in fact for the next fifteen minutes they were the better side. Yet again, all that possession and nothing to show for it. Gill on the right and George Webb on the left saw a lot of the ball, so did Jamie Davidson who began the game up front but then ended up playing from the left after a triple substitution. Territory was in their favour but that was about it; Aiden Sainsbury did manage to get a shot away and the result was much the same as those that came before: off target.

The game moved into its final third and Tiverton finally managed to get themselves into the final third of the pitch for the first time since the restart, bar a scrambling save from Harvell under pressure from Paul Kendall as Bushin headed on a cross from Taylor. Nardiello showed great perseverance to battle away with Arnold and earn the Yellows a corner, proving that he isn’t just an average ex-pro who is here for the money. Nards had run himself silly by this stage, made one goal, and this small battle on the left wing led to the second. Taylor took the corner as usual and his cross was flighted to that space just beyond the goal area, too far out for Harvell to scramble. Kendall was forward and won the aerial duel against Adam Costello to head the ball powerfully past Harvell and into the net. The celebrations indicated tangible relief as well as obvious delight – it was a goal that hadn’t been coming but a goal that Tivvy really did need.

Then came that triple substitution. It gave Wimborne fresh legs and a slightly different dimension to their attacking play, but the Tiverton defence remained unmoved apart from when they had to move to close, block, tackle and so forth. Steve Smith played on the right side of the attack, Davidson on the left and Jeffes through the middle. Matt Kemble was just in behind these three and Jon Blake acted as half of a double-pivot midfield, but the change in personnel, the change in system, and the change in energy levels ultimately made little difference. Wimborne might have felt they deserved a penalty as Concanen clattered Davidson – the referee wasn’t going to give anything but the linesman flagged and eventually a free kick was awarded on the edge of the box. The chance went.

With more space to play in and less defensive focus on the flanks from the visitors Tiverton actually looked as if they might have been able to add to their tally late on. It was mainly counter attacking such was the nature of the game, but not kick-and-rush stuff. Searle found increasing time and space o the right, Taylor was not only on the left but breaking things up deep in midfield and getting forward with boundless energy at every opportunity. Owen Howe returned to the side in place of Nardiello and his pace was always going to be a bonus considering the pattern of the game. Howe never really got up to full speed, and neither did Dave Pearse, although the latter almost opened his Tivvy account only for Arnold to cut out his goalbound shot when Harvell was beaten. Two minutes into time added on Taylor should have hit the target but bobbled a shot wide after Searle had once again won a duel on the flank, and four minutes later the referee blew for the last time.

Tiverton had hit the summit. Granted, other teams can move ahead, but nonetheless winning is a nice habit to get into. The Yellows have not only been winning but they have been doing it by playing some excellent football. This performance wasn’t even close to that from Tuesday night at North Leigh but it was still very strong and effective, and Tivvy are now there to be shot at. They will relish dodging the bullets.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Harry Nodwell (David Steele 77), Michael Nardiello (Owen Howe 77), Joe Bushin (Dave Pearse 71), Josh Searle
Goals: Bushin 20, Kendall 63
Booked: Bushin 57
Sent off: None

Wimborne Town: Jason Harvell, Scott Arnold, Jordan Cole, Adam Costello, Shaun Brian, Aiden Sainsbury (Jon Blake 67), Kevin Gill (Steve Smith 67), Micky Hubbard, Tom Jeffes, Jamie Davidson, George Webb (Matt Kemble 67)
Booked: Hubbard 52, Kemble 79
Sent off: None

Attendance: 257

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy