Match report

Sholing 2 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 08/12/2012   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

A typical game of two halves. That was the synopsis suggested to me when discussing the game with the Sunday Independent at 5.30pm. Although the result given the half time score may have suggested as much it was actually far from the truth, and Sholing were only marginally better than Tiverton in three-quarters of an hours that saw them open up a two-goal lead. They went ahead after forty seconds, scored their second goal a minute before the break, and in between these strikes the game was of low quality as both sides toiled often haplessly. After the break the pair improved significantly and Tivvy came back with fine goals from Joe Bushin and Paul Kendall to take a point, a point that was very nearly three points but for a desperately defended scramble in added time.

Without the injured Michael Nardiello and Harry Nodwell Tiverton lined up more or less as expected with David Steele starting in midfield and Dave Pearse partnering Bushin up front and neither player had touched the ball by the time Sholing took the lead. The home side kicked off, moved the ball out to the left and then forward towards the edge of the area when Lewis Fennemore, tall and strong, held the ball up in wait for some support. He was too strong and forced Kevin Hill into a foul, and that allowed Boatmen captain Tyronne Bowers to deliver a free kick. Across from slightly on the right, over the Tiverton defence and to the far post Bowers floated the ball, and Fennemore had made his way forward to meet the set piece and volley past Chris Wright before the Yellows had even worked up a sweat.

It was said at the time that falling a goal behind in the first minute was preferable to falling a goal behind in the last minute, and those wise words were to eventually hold true, but there was little to get excited about as the game quickly settled down into a battle between two teams whose play was riddled with errors of misjudgement and bad decision-making. The goalkeepers made a save apiece inside five minutes, Wright from Bowers and Matt Brown from Kendall, and it was Sholing captain Bowers who was the first player to take any kind of hold on the game. He intercepted a sloppy cross-field pass from Josh Searle to release Lee Wort, and Searle would have been relieved when Wright came to the rescue by saving when Wort powered through the middle and beyond the Tivvy defence. Later Wort turned provider with a cheeky reverse pass only for Marvin McLean’s potentially dangerous cross to get diverted behind for a corner by Tom Gardner. And late in the first half a raking diagonal bal from Mike Carter again released Wort as Kendall failed to make a clearing header, with Wright again saving the day as he sprung from his line to star-jump in front of the Sholing striker and do just enough to block the first shot before falling on the ball just inside the area.

Tivvy had their occasional moments but seldom looked truly dangerous. Indeed, the final ball was often lacking and the Yellows’ best move of the half – Steele to Pearse to Josh Concanen – ended with the latter woefully over-hitting a cross from the right. It was encouraging that Concanen was able to get into such advanced positions, and that was something to take heart from, and although Lewis Tasker on the opposite side of the pitch didn’t get forward quite so often he was able to race in behind Carter thanks to a quick one-two combination with Hill, but again the cross was some way short of suitable, this time into the side netting.

Tasker and Pearse had shots blocked in quick succession, a poor corner from Andy Taylor almost led to a dangerous counter attack, and then Sholing dealt a big blow when they doubled the lead. Tasker, who had endured a woeful first half as he continually conceded possession, was robbed near the touchline and the ball was quickly crossed towards McLean at the near post. McLean should have scored only for Wright to yet again make a stop against the laws of probability, but this time Wright couldn’t hold on and Jamie Musselwhite was the first to react, six yards or less from goal, central, unmarked, easy.

I have no idea what Mark Saunders would have said at half time but his demeanour in the dugout had indicated a frustrated and forlorn figure. Maybe he put go-fast stripes in their cuppa, maybe pass-straight stripes. Or maybe he just told his charges to relax because Sholing weren’t all that, and with a bit of composure there was still something to take from the game. Whatever happened in the changing room in those fifteen minutes did the trick because Tiverton were different beasts from that point on; maybe they do their best work after the sun has set… Two minutes in and Concanen raced down the right and cut the ball back, Bushin held it up on the edge of the area and then teed up Hill, and Hill’s shot was deflected just wide for a corner. There was a new belief, as if Tivvy had indeed relaxed; there was nothing to lose now.

Sholing were forced into quick breaks from deep, and they did look dangerous but ultimately blunt in front of goal. Wort, returning from a lengthy suspension, got behind Tasker as Tivvy had committed men forward but then shot wide, almost got in again but was pulled up for offside (yet still put his shot in long after the whistle had blown, and earned a yellow card for his troubles), and eventually Pearse gave was for Owen Howe in the Tivvy attack, giving the Yellows a different dimension.

Howe proved to be a handful with his movement and pace and that helped Tiverton exert some authority on the game, and the first goal back came just four minutes after the change. Steele had two attempts to cross from the right, the second of which evaded Marc Diaper but still seemed rather inoffensive. However, there is little that Bushin is unable to do lately, so even though the ball was behind him and at waist height he still managed to stretch back and meet Steele’s cross with his heel, on the volley, over his own head, over Brown’s head and into the top corner. 1-2, and yes, a back-heel overhead volley that lobbed the goalkeeper from fifteen yards, quite remarkable!

That was Steele’s final contribution of the afternoon, and a very wise substitution saw Alex Faux enter the fray with Taylor moving into a central position. Sensible because Taylor tends to drift infield anyway, so his absence on the flank had opened up space for Sholing to try and get forward. That danger had now been largely averted, although Charlie Smeeton did get the chance to pelt away down the left on one occasion, and Concanen took one for the team with a timely yet cynical tug back on the Sholing winger that conceded a free kick and earned JC a yellow card. Smeeton might have been able to deliver a telling cross had it not been for that foul, and Bowers did cross from the free kick, onto the head of Lee Bright and then into the net, but Bright was penalised for climbing when meeting the cross, so the goal was ruled out and with eighteen minutes remaining it was as you were.

The closing stages belonged well and truly to Tiverton, with Sholing looking increasingly edgy. Bushin’s shot in the turn was held by Brown, Howe continued to cause problems, and twelve minutes from time the equaliser arrived. Without getting too wrapped up in adulation and blatant bias it was a truly tremendous goal too with a sequence of seven of eight first-time passes, all perfectly clinical, that saw the ball start deep in the Town half with Concanen, go via Searle, Taylor, Concanen again, Bushin, Taylor again and then Kendall before ending up in the back of the net. The key passes were from Concanen to Bushin from inside the Tivvy half to the edge of the area, and then a smart flick from Bushin that was perfectly in the path of Taylor who had sprinted forty yards to reclaim possession. By this stage the yellow shirts had cut through the red shirts, and poor Peter Castle was left with the choice of making a lunge on Taylor or standing off and hoping the Tivvy man would mess up. He did neither but was drawn towards the ball enough for Taylor to slide the ball on to Kendall who himself had raced up in support, and Kendall, in the area and with just the ’keeper to beat made no mistake. Remember that pass from Pélé to Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final: it was a bit like that, only with 56 people there to see it rather than 560 million watching via global television broadcasts.

Tiverton could have won the game although the only further chances came in added time. Typically for the way the second half panned out the danger came from the right and particularly from Concanen and Searle who had been increasingly influential as the game reached its climax. The former forced the ball into the box, Taylor’s shot was blocked, Hill’s shot was cleared off the line, Bushin’s follow-up was blocked, and finally Searle’s shot was tipped around the post by Brown. Sholing, having looked in such command half an hour earlier, were able to breathe a massive collective sigh of relief once they had cleared a final corner and the referee blew his whistle for the last time. Tiverton might have felt a little disappointed in the end to have not nicked the win, but considering how poor they had been in the first half a point was a solid return. Tempers boiled over after the last kick and Sholing’s Barry Mason was given an after-hours red card for lashing out at Alex Faux, and that event illustrated to a degree the frustration from both sides brought about by a number of strange decisions by the referee, who himself seemed to put in a performance contrasting between halves – first fine, second curious at best.

Sholing: Matt Brown, Mike Carter, Marc Diaper, Peter Castle, Lee Bright, Tyronne Bowers, Marvin McLean (Barry Mason 89), Jamie Musselwhite (Dan Mason 89), Lee Wort, Lewis Fennemore, Charlie Smeeton
Goals: Fennemore 1, Musselwhite 44
Booked: Wort 52, Bowers 80
Sent off: Barry Mason 90+3

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, David Steele (Alex Faux 62), Dave Pearse (Owen Howe 55), Joe Bushin, Josh Searle
Goals: Bushin 59, Kendall 78
Booked: Kendall 65, Searle 71, Concanen 72
Sent off: None

Attendance: 56

This report ©2012 Alan Reidy