Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 0 Hinckley United

   Saturday 20/12/2003   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

I slipped into this world a decade too late. More than that if one takes into consideration that I would have needed to have had attained the age of reason (have I yet?) to have truly appreciated through experiencing it‚ the spirit of the opening years of the 1940´s. The resolution in the face of adversity. The preparedness to stand alone. The stiff upper lip when everything around you was going belly up´ - though I suspect that particular term is a more modern piece of phraseology - and the bulldog breed. All these traits‚ I´m told by the historians and my own senior relatives‚ were displayed in abundance by the natives of these shores‚ and I have no cause to doubt that it was so. But I also accept that among the determined optimists there must have been at least a splattering of equally despondent pessimists. The believers in Murphy´s Law that were convinced that things could only get worse. I´m not sure how‚ had I been around in those days‚ I would have reacted. Somewhere between the two‚ I suspect. Neither throwing in the towel or being convinced by the Churchillian oratory that is widely held responsible for maintaining the country´s‚ and perhaps more importantly‚ its fighting forces´‚ morale. But‚ cursing Mr Murphy and his band of gremlins that our neighbours from across the sea to the east call leprechauns‚ I would have soldiered on regardless with the Monty Python tune that was once a favourite at Ladysmead‚ in my head. OK so Always Look On The Bright Side´ wasn´t to turn up for another forty years or so - but you get my drift. No matter how bad things were‚ I´d hang on in there and hope‚ and keep smiling. Hmm...Saturday afternoon? Yes I´d be there‚ despite the pre-match fears. Who was going to do the fighting on the beaches? And then to arrive at the ground and hear another two of the depleted force were sidelined. Shades of a Brian Rix Whitehall farce! You had to laugh.....or you´d end up reaching for the shotgun.

Apart from one or two minor cup games it was the most higgledy-piggledy Tiverton side I can recall taking the field. The surviving ten from the regular squad‚ plus an almost complete stranger‚ made up the starting line up. The bench was made up of one walking wounded‚ Steve Peters‚ one man who will have to remain nameless who didn´t show up‚ and the Dad´s Army of former stars of Tivvy‚ Ian Nott and Kevin Smith. At least the numbers correct - even if some of the ones on the players shirts looked to have been jumbled up somewhat. Hardly surprising then‚ that the visitors looked likely to have an easy ride for the afternoon‚ even though they too were weakened by the absence of their two top goalscorers‚ David Sadler and Justin Jenkins. They knew that The Yellows problems were not just Hype´ and set out to take full advantage - in the knowledge that it was a golden opportunity for them to close the gap on leaders Weymouth whose game at Nuneaton had fallen victim to what promised to be Noah´s return in the Midlands. Tivvy were forced onto the back foot from the outset and there they were to remain . There was some strength to be gained for the home supporters in the way that Steve Winter adapted to the role normally filled by Jason Rees. Strong and decisive at the heart of the defence alongside Rob Cousins. There were many in the crowd who were delighted to see Town´s quite man at the back leading out the side adorned with the captain´s arm band. No better man for the job! Shaun Goff and Steve Ovens were less convincing out wide but they were soon to settle and along with the bulk and strength of Paul Milsom the line looked quite sound. Sound enough to weather the initial onslaught from the Knitters‚ anyway. So much so that it was not until the 12th minute that there was the first need to trust in Stuart Fraser.‚ and then it came from a free kick by defender Neil Cartwright whose low drive was well smothered by the Tiverton keeper. Two minutes later Town mounted their own first significant attack prompted by a David Steele long throw that when cleared as far as Winter was swung in dangerously. There were signs that Town had settled and though having to concentrate primarily on defence were becoming confident enough to mount their own forward raids. In the 20th minute‚ United keeper Tommy Whittle was again under pressure‚ being forced to punch clear from a swinging cross by Goff. Steele and Simon Bryant were starting to get the best of midfield‚ defending superbly and prompting Kevin Nancekivell and the two front men when the opportunity arose.
And it was those two front men that came more and more into the action as the clock ticker on. The Ladysmead faithful are used to the non stop endeavours of Jamie Mudge but his partner was a mystery. Carl Cliff-Brown was magician Martyn´s bunny from the hat. Plucked from Clyst Rovers to plug one of the gaps caused by....well we all know what caused them‚ if you didn´t have the team sheet and couldn´t hear the PA then it could have been Adam‚ Cain or Able wearing the No.9 yellow shirt. The last would be more appropriate as the man could certainly claim to live up to his name. It took a while for the adjustment between Screwfix First Division and Dr Martens Premier to take place but once the three tier chasm had been bridged and a degree of understanding with Mudge had been established‚ able´ was an understatement. Carl showed an ability to hold and shield the ball. the skill to control and distribute it accurately and the physical strength and agility necessary to evade the attention of finesse free´ defenders. The way he slid the ball wide to Nancekivell in the 23rd minute was in indication that he was aware of what was going on around him. That Nance sliced wide was unfortunate. Four minutes later‚ With United still having the better of things territorially‚ Fraser was again the hero as he sprinted out to deny Matt Lewis with his legs. Bt then came the goal that made all the difference to the game. A run on the left by Mudge touching the ball to Cliff-Brown‚ touched on again to Jamie as he sprinted past CC-B (forgive me‚ it´s just too many keystrokes) and seeing a gap as he cut across the face of the area‚ hit an opportunist shot that looped past Whittle to curl just under the bar. The fans were stunned‚ the celebrations on the pitch and terraces wild. Apart obviously from the Leicestershire contingent who were merely stunned. Three minutes later they were almost gobsmacked as the ball was in the same net for a second time‚ but were able to sigh in relief as Nancekivell was judged to be (and was) offside. The game levelled out as the goal brought confidence to the Yellows. There was to be one serious chance at each end before the break. Chris Smith fired a long range (such was the effectiveness of the Tiverton rearguard) shot over Fraser and the crossbar‚ whilst a 38th minute free kick by Simon Bryant found it´s way to CC-B who was rudely shoved in the back after he had got behind his defender in the pre kick jostling. There was no whistle and no prolonged appeal for a penalty‚ or haranguing of the officials - nice - even if some might have been warranted. Half time.

The much vaunted Hinckley record transfer fee costing Lewis was replaced at the break by Brad Piercewright, a player that was to have a far greater impact on the game (and Rob Cousins) than the hit man (?) he replaced. But the initial impact of the second period was to come from the home camp, Less than two minutes had passed and Nancekivell was tumbled over midway into the Hinckley half. The offender Leon Jackson was shown yellow. Bryant took the kick hoofing it forward high into the six yard box. Up went a clutch of bodies, whittle and CC-B included. Carl got the touch with his head directing the ball downwards but not goalwards. Steele, though was forward to add height for the kick and pounced to ad his forehead´s worth and direct the ball over the line. 2-0, and it wasn´t only David Steele´s head that was heading in a downward direction. The clicking of needles behind the goal was curtailed, it was no day for the Knitters and they knew it. There was a brief moment of resistance from the visitors when Cartwright took another long range poke that beat Fraser but flew to safety off the top of the crossbar. In the 57th minute all resistance crumbled. Having broken up a forward move the Hinckley back line made a festive season charitable donation, giving the ball back to CC-B. By now the stop-gap striker was oozing confidence and reacted quickly to poke the ball forward into the path of his partner. Jamie took the ball in his stride , carried it forward fifteen yards or so, shrugging of two challenges and leaving their perpetrators in his wake. Whittle came, the ball went. Past the keeper and into the net. 3-0! What was it Phil Collins sang? Against All Odds.
It would have taken a miracle to have changed the outcome of the game in the remaining half hour or so. Yes, I know...such things do happen as we are always reminded of at this time of year. Divine intervention apart, there was little that Hinckley could do to reverse their situation. Jackson tried from long range but when a looping cross from their left found Wayne Dyers head he could only manage to execute the perfect defensive header and clear the ball away rather than strike on goal. It was a rare sight of goal for the Knitters were too plain in their pattern to find a way through the solid wall of defence. They tried on the wings with some success but the crosses that were forced in were easily dealt with. The central approach was a non starter as Winter and Cousins dominated with Milsom picking up the loose balls to prompt Tiverton Forward via Steele and Bryant. In the thick of it at the front Nance was linking up well and Cliff-Brown (I´ve relented) and Mudge were running riot. One can only assume that this was not a typical Hinckley performance. No team can reach the dizzy heights they have, and maintain that position as they have, with such lacklustre play. On 75 minutes they found the way through the Tiverton back line. A move on the right saw a string of passes across field at ground level reach Shaun Murray towards the left of the edge of the penalty area. Cousins lunged at the ball and missed leaving the Hinckley man clear. He fired in his shot but his angles were as bad as mine on a snooker table and the ball threatened the corner post on the right more than the goal. Jamie missed an 83rd minute to complete his hat-trick when put through again by Cliff-Brown. Not two minutes later that was all forgiven following the impression made by Piercewright that I mentioned previously. A reckless, uncontrolled, unnecessary, over the top of the ball tackle on Rob Cousins. It was accompanied by a horrific crack, which fortunately turned out to be studs on shin-pad not as everybody feared, bone. Cousins was carried from the field and will be out even with the bruising for several games, such was the force of the impact. Piercewright will also be sidelined and deservedly so, for the red card (straight) that he was shown for his contribution to the game. Jamie had another chance to make his tally a trio, this time provided by Bryant not CC-B, but the last five minutes were played out in front of a crowd more concerned with the condition of Tivvy skipper for the day Cousins.

Yes, watching this performance from Tiverton brought all that second hand history to mind. The spirit, the resolve, the oratory. Fighting on the beaches....Never in the field.....Their finest hour. A bit over the top perhaps, but the mood was much the same. And no report from me on a match against Hinckley, and this could well be the last for a long time, would be complete without a Napoleonic reference for the benefit of DJ, webmaster of their Independent site. Tenuous link but it was in the Napoleonic Wars that Lord Horatio Nelson commanding the British fleet as it prepared to engage their French counterparts at Trafalgar made the famous signal......England expects ....etc. Nelson´s sailors responded admirably/ Tiverton Town´s patched up side did better. they exceeded all expectations!


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter, Shaun Goff (Kevin Smith, 82), David Steele, Steve Ovens, Rob Cousins (Steve Peters, 85), Kevin Nancekivell, Simon Bryant, Carl Cliff - Brown, Paul Milsom, James Mudge.
Subs not used: Ian Nott.
Bookings: None

Hinckley United: Tommy Whittle, Neil Cartwright, Jamie Lenton, Leon Jackson, Andy Penny, Gavin Stone, Stuart Storer (Tommy Goodwin, 89), Wayne Dyer (Dave Crowley, 67), Matt Lewis (Brad Piercewright, 46), Chris Smith, Shaun Murray.
Bookings:Cartwright, Jackson.
Sent Off: Piercewright.

Referee: Martin Bryant (Bristol)

This report ©2003 John Reidy






Please note: The � or ? character in some older reports denotes where an error has occured in translation when the reports were transfered between databases