Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 2 Poole Town

   Saturday 01/12/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Even when Tiverton were at the top of the table there was always plenty of time spent looking down and calculating who could pass by with games in hand. Two weeks have passed and so have three teams as the Yellows lost at Hungerford and then at home to Poole Town. There is no disgrace in losing these two matches, not least because both clubs are now heading Tivvy, and the defeat against Poole was certainly warranted as Town never managed to get into their stride. Former Tivvy player Michael Walker headed the first and Marvin Brooks doubled the Dolphins’ advantage before Dave Pearse pulled a goal back and set up a finale that was ultimately anti-climactic. Tiverton never really threatened to get anything out of the game, Poole were much better.

Just how much the imbalance of the game was down to Tiverton playing poorly and Poole playing well is anybody’s guess. Naturally enough Tivvy were stifled to a degree, equally as natural Poole were able to attack in a game where they didn’t have much defending to do. It takes two to tango but as Tiverton Assistant Manager Hedley Steele said after the game: "Credit to Poole, but I'm not sure how good they really are because we failed to turn up." Indeed, credit to Poole. But were they good because we didn’t turn up, or did we not turn up because they were good? It’s a mystery!

There was little need for anyone to turn up until about quarter past three as the game until that point was a complete non-event. Nick Hutchings had nothing at all do get flustered about as he took on spectator duties from his area while the ball was pinging around in midfield, and his opposite number Chris Wright was only called into action once when he was forced to punch clear a hanging cross, and even that was unnecessary as it turned out as Wright was adjudged to have been fouled in the process. And so it was with sixteen insignificant minutes on the clock that the ink finally flowed from my pen to record an early substitution as Michael Nardiello pulled up with a hamstring injury that is likely to sideline him for up to four weeks; he was replaced by Pearse. A minute later Andy Taylor was booked for a foul on Warren Byerley and the game then returned to a state of ennui for a while. Poole were in control, offering not a sniff to the Yellows, and increasingly Keith Emmerson and Simon Baines were able to advance higher up the pitch from the defensive berths safe in the knowledge that Walker and Will Spetch had things well under control. Baines was the more progressive of the Poole fullbacks and that meant the right wing was where most of the attacking play developed, with Luke Burbidge able to pin back Lewis Tasker, and Baines drawing Alex Faux deep. In the twenty-fifth minute Poole won a corner on this side of the pitch which was curled in by Steve Devlin and headed back out to the same player. Devlin’s second cross was deeper and Walker won the header, beat Wright, and just about beat clamouring and clambering defenders on the line. At last something interesting had happened!

The goal didn’t exactly spring the match into life but the fare improved significantly and both teams could and maybe should have scored before the interval. For Tiverton a solitary opening in a poor first half fell to Joe Bushin as Paul Kendall nodded down Taylor’s corner, but even the Division’s top goalscorer is allowed an off-day occasionally, and Bushin was only able to poke the ball straight at Hutchings from eight yards out. Poole’s best move of the half came in added time, a counter through the lively and constantly threatening Burbidge, and ended up with Byerley one-on-one with Wright, the Tivvy ’keeper winning the duel and keeping the game alive. Burbidge also had a shot which he put wide after a poor clearance from Wright, while, as if to underline the frustration that was clear from the terraces, Tasker drove a shot that was still rising when it hit the netting above the stand behind the goal. It was desperate stuff by Tasker, sure, but with the Yellows unable to break down Poole’s defence maybe it was actually worth having a crack from thirty-five yards…

The change of ends didn’t see a change in the balance of the game but the second half was significantly more watchable than the first, and Poole could have been wondering how it all went wrong had they not managed to finally grab a second goal with twenty-five minutes remaining. Devlin had a chance to deliver from the corner of the area after a timely yet clumsy flailing-arms foul by Kendall on Byerley which earned the Tivvy skipper his ninth booking of the season, and the defence did its job. Then, a minute later, Taylor was robbed and Devlin lobbed Wright and only just cleared the crossbar. The visitors were rampant as they sought the goal that would surely seal victory and twice in quick succession Brooks went close, firstly with a shot which Wright saved with his legs, and then another – although maybe it was a cross – that struck the inside of the post. Another Devlin corner, another Walker header, and this time Wright got down to make the save on the line, but the goal was coming and duly arrived when Carl Preston broke down the left and crossed low for Brooks to sweep across Wright and into the bottom corner of the net.

One could forgive Poole for thinking the job was done. They had a two-goal advantage and in over an hour of action Tivvy had barely even come close to scoring. Certainly through the closing stages the visitors seemed to play within themselves, and although they did win a number of corners there was less focus on committing men forward. What they did do and do very well was refuse Tiverton any time on the ball even in deep positions so the Yellows were forced against their wishes into a more direct style of play. If you were to stand Taylor, Josh Searle and Harry Nodwell one on top of the other then they would probably still only reach up to Walker’s chest, so punting the ball long from defence was never going to be the most effective game-plan, and the Dolphins really had things sussed. Such is his way Taylor desperately wanted to play and tended to drop deep to try and pick up possession in his own half. Nodwell did much the same but not only drifted deep but also drifted into anonymity bar one shot that was fizzing wide, ended up a little less wide when Bushin redirected it, but was altogether pointless as the linesman flagged for offside anyway.

Tiverton did strike lucky fifteen minutes from the end with a very direct goal. Poole had been caught offside on their right wing, somewhere between the penalty area and the centre circle, and Wright’s clearing punt sailed over everyone bar Kevin Hill who nodded the ball forward with Pearse the first to react to blast the ball past Hutchings and into the net via a slight deflection of the desperately retreating Emmerson. And that was one tardy goal conceded apiece, meaning the difference between the two side (on the scoreboard) was Brooks’s fine strike. There was a lot more between the two teams in terms of performance levels, and a late shout for a penalty when Searle went down in the area under pressure from Walker fell on deaf ears, which, had it been given, and had the penalty been scored, would have been a gross injustice. Should it have been given? Searle was adamant, and sat on the floor, arms aloft in disbelief as Poole cleared the ball upfield for the final time. The truth is it was one of those cases where there was contact, a bit of leaning, but contact doesn’t necessarily mean a foul. It would have taken an extremely decisive referee to give it, and the referee for this game was not extremely decisive by any stretch of the imagination!

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker (David Steele 55), Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Alex Faux (Harry Nodwell 71), Michael Nardiello (Dave Pearse 17), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle
Goal: Pearse 76
Booked: Taylor 18, Kendall 51, Concanen 72
Sent off: None

Poole Town: Nick Hutchings, Simon Baines, Will Spetch, Keith Emmerson, Michael Walker, Glenn Howes, Luke Burbidge, Steve Devlin, Warren Byerley (Steve Brown 89), Carl Preston, Marvin Brooks
Goals: Walker 25, Brooks 66
Booked: Howes 29
Sent off: None

Attendance: 286

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy