Match report

Tiverton Town 3 - 3 Eastleigh

   Saturday 16/10/2004   FA Cup
John Reidy

Kenya‚ deep in the heart of the dark continent‚ is hardly renowned among aficionado´s of fine music as a hotbed of quality performers. The best they have managed to produce in the last half century is one Roger Whittaker‚ a pleasant enough man but‚ and I crave the forgiveness of any of his fans that may read this‚ of debatable musical talent. A sort of African version of Ireland´s Val Doonican‚ he had the added advantage of a talent (perhaps) for whistling. Not my taste in entertainment‚ you will gather. However‚ I admit that one of his bland but melodic tunes did strike a chord with me. There among his repertoire of tritely lyriced songs nestles a ditty delighting in the philosophical title I Don´t Believe In If Anymore´. Oh‚ how that rings true for me! If´ is a massive word.....goodness‚ Rudyard Kipling managed to write an entire book full of stories based round the possibilities the word opened up. But life‚ let alone football‚ has taught me not to dwell too long on the ifs´ of my existence. If Tivvy could play for 90 minutes as they had in the second half at Bideford..... If Eastleigh had an off´ day..... If Tivvy won through and were drawn against...whoever? If‚ if‚ and if again. All anybody could really do was wait and see; and hope........even pray.

One prayer seemed to have been answered. Jamie Mudge had a new partner. Not the expected big‚ bustling target man´ but another quick and nippy forward who might take some of the pressure off Tiverton´s only goal-scoring asset. Kezie Ibe had arrived from Yeovil. For the visitors the team changes were less happy‚ injury ruling out several of their stars´‚ and also being the away team they were thus tagged as underdogs. Having been given the first touch of the ball Eastleigh looked just that. Tiverton were quickly into gear and in the second minute created the first scoring opportunity of the contest when David Steele´s header from a free kick on the left was headed clear. Ibe made an instant impression with his ability to hold the ball by shielding it from two defenders and firing in a cross from the right that caused enough consternation in the Eastleigh penalty area to cause a sliced attempt at a clearance (Lee Bright?) that brought the first of a series of sound saves from the Hampshire side´s keeper - the enormous Colin Matthews. Inevitably there was the degree of competitiveness that tends to magnify in FA Cup ties and just six minutes into the game it strayed beyond rivalry and into the realms of aggression as former Oxford United man Nicky Banger slid his studs down Paul Milsom´s (another ex-Ox) shin as he stamped down on is foot following a tackle. The man in black - no not Johnny Cash - had already awarded The Yellows a free kick and had turned away‚ so failing to see the aftermath....fortune favoured Banger. The flow of the game was belied in the eighth minute when Eastleigh took an unexpected lead from their first attack. It was a well taken goal‚ even if Tiverton´s defensive work left something to be desired. A run down the left was terminated by a foul. The free kick was taken with a high looping cross to the back of the six yard box. Headed back across goal the home defenders should have dealt with the threat but it was tall central defender Lee Bright who had charged forward to challenge for the original free kick and was still well forward that got to the ball first to thump it into the net. Tivvy could not be faulted for effort as they tried to fight back. A corner on the left was won when Dave Hallett burst out of midfield but found there was little support as he twisted and turned his way forward. Ibe was looking lively and causing problems‚ so much so that when he was fouled 25 yards out Matthews was again in spectacular form as he dived low to his right to hold Jamie Mudge´s fierce free kick. The earlier incident between Banger and Milsom finally showed consequences as Milsom retired from the contest to be replaced by Rob Cousins in the 17th minute and Tiverton continued to push for the equaliser. The Eastleigh defence seemed prepared to aid them with the final touch as again Matthews was tested by a glancing header from Bright as the defender failed to connect cleanly with a swinging 20th minute free kick from Vinnicombe wide on the Tivvy right.
Throughout that opening 30 minutes Eastleigh had hardly mounted a threatening attack. When they did it was broken up - foully - by Rob Cousins and had Chris Collin´s header from the subsequent free kick been better they could have doubled their lead. Then down came the rain! Stair-rods‚ cats and dogs‚ call it what you will! It lashed down for a couple of minutes and as it eased and the sun emerged once more there was no doubt a rainbow to be seen somewhere. The prismatic effect must have ended right there at Ladysmead for within minutes the home side found the pot of gold´. Firstly Mudge thumped another shot wide. Then Tivvy escaped another scare when James Stokoe sliced the ball high from 5 yards out when the net looked if it were a far easier option. Then came a Tiverton corner on the right in the 35th minute. Curled in low to the near post it was worked back out to Vinnicombe. The Tivvy wing back curled the ball powerfully in again and Bright succeeded at the third attempt to beat his own keeper‚ deflecting the ball just inside the far post inches wide of Matthews desperately outstretched hand. Vinnicombe claimed the goal...well‚ Bright was hardly going to celebrate it as his second of the game was he? Tiverton had lifted themselves back onto level terms but it was not a situation that was to last long. Five minutes passed in open play. Eastleigh had no lead to sit on so moved forward. The attack was broken up and the ball was fed out of defence to Hallett in midfield. Hallett had been enjoying an excellent opening half‚ sound in defence and looking to create forward moves when in space and possession. His through ball to Ibe was inch perfect and sent the latest addition to the Tiverton squad bursting through the Eastleigh back line as they unsuccessfully attempted to move forward to catch him offside. The flag remained at the linesman´s side and Ibe closed on Matthews. The keeper was out to spread his ample bulk across Ibe´s path‚ and he got a touch. Just enough to send the ball looping towards his left hand post where it may or may not have passed either side were it not for the boot of Mudge who had covered the ground and delighted in lashing it into the net for the lead goal. Had things remained that way then there would have been quiet satisfied smiles on the faces of the home supporters at the interval. As it was Tivvy kept up the pressure and none more so than new boy on the block´‚ Ibe. Upended again Vinnicombe once more trekked from left to right to curl in the kick. Bright was saved the risk of further embarrassment by Steele who dipped in front of him to send a glancing header past Matthews and turn the satisfied smiles into broad grins as the queue began to form for half time refreshments.

Two changes were made by the visitors as the second half got underway. Eastleigh had to chase the game and the substitutions showed that they intended to do just that. They pressed forward with determination and in numbers but Tivvy looked to be comfortable and were certainly dangerous on the break. For ten minutes the home side absorbed everything the visitors threw at them and it was Town that came closest to opening the second half scoring when in the 55th minute Mike Booth sent Mudge on a break down the right flank but the Tivvy hitman´s cross was poked off the foot of Ibe just as he looked as if he might extend the lead. The first sign of a crack in the Tiverton defence came a minute later as Booth collected a yellow card for a desperate two footed tackle on Eastleigh´s David Hughes. As the hour mark ticked over Eastleigh were clearly on top. A series of corners made the Tiverton defence look decidedly shaky until Mark Ovendale finally gathered the ball and calmed things down before releasing it. Maintaining their momentum the visitors made their final turn of the cards.....Tyronne Bowers replacing the tiring Banger (I know a lot about tired old bangers - that´s all I can aford to run!!!) in the 63rd minute. It was to turn out to be an inspired move. Two minutes later a free kick far out on the right took a deflection on its way to the far post where it was headed back to the edge of the penalty area. Though the deflection might have changed the flight of the ball there was still no excuse for the amount of space Bowers was allowed as he took the ball to power it via another deflection into the Tiverton net. That was just what Eastleigh wanted and needed. They were a goal down and on top with 25 minutes to go. They went for it and forced The Yellows even further onto the back foot. Mudge was dropping back into midfield to help‚ trying to collect the ball if and when it came away from the sometimes desperate rearguard action. That left Ibe as a lone ranger at the front to chase any longer balls that were hoofed forward‚ and no Tonto to help. Such balls were few and far between but one from Tom Stocco did reach him in the 73rd minute and the lively (though not so much as in the first half) newcomer did manage to chase it down‚ cut in from the right and get in a shot that trickled a foot or so wide of Matthews right post.
David Steele‚ after a decent first half‚ had faded and when he was involved‚ had begun to look jaded. The 73rd minute saw him replaced by Steve Winter. Once again a substitution brought a goal two minutes later. This time though it was a Tiverton player swap - but the goal still went to Eastleigh. More panic and failure to clear their lines by the Tivvy defence saw Winter upend half time substitute Martin Beck. As clear a penalty as the visitors could claim and in fairness to the referee he didn´t wait for the shout to go up. Skipper Martin Thomas kept cool to send Ovendale the wrong way from the spot and with quarter of an hour to go it was all square at three goals apiece. Frankly‚ things were not looking good for the home side. Eastleigh had their tails between their teeth and the bit firmly up....or something like that. They were rampant. Tivvy had Ovendale to thank for stopping them from sinking out of sight just two minutes after the equaliser‚ when he brought off a magnificent save to palm a Stokoe header up off the goal-line and over the crossbar when the Eastleigh No.9 met a right wing cross perfectly. It was enough to make Tiverton bring fresh legs into their defence and Shaun Goff replaced Vinnicombe to bolster the resistance. The visitors began to show some reaction to the effort they had made to haul themselves back into the contest and The Yellows managed to win more of the ball. Winter tried to make amends for his earlier penalty conceding gaff´ with an effort that brought the first sight of a mis-handle by Matthews‚ but the keeper recovered to grab the ball at the second attempt. A fair proportion of the home fans could not bear to watch as the visitors gained a last minute corner. Surely it couldn´t happen again. No‚ it could...but it didn´t and it was Town that had the final chance to forestall the necessity for a replay. A Winter cross into the Eastleigh box sparked a bout of head tennis. The ball eventually fell to ground and the boot of Mike Booth who missed his chance to become the afternoon´s hero when he skied his shot from close range.

There was both disappointment and relief from each set of fans as the final whistle sounded. Either side could have won the game‚ both were probably prepared to settle for not having lost. Partisan emotions aside‚ both would admit‚ if honest‚ that it was as close‚ as exciting, and as entertaining as a FA Cup tie should be. All that remains to be seen is which team are going to be recipients of that more than candy cheque after Wednesdays replay.´ll not go down that speculative road!

Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, David Steele (Steve Winter, 73), Chris Vinnicombe (Shaun Goff, 76), Paul Milsom (Rob Cousins, 17), Nathan Rudge, Mike Booth, David Hallett, Iain Harvey, Tom Stocco, Kezie Ibe, James Mudge.

Subs not used:, Jamie Densham, Kevin Wills.

Yellow cards: Booth, Winter.

Eastleigh: Colin Matthews, John Mulhern, Chris Collins, Martin Thomas, Lee Bright, Rob Marshall, Danny Smith, David Hughes, James Stokoe, Nicky Banger, Christer Warren.

Subs not used: Martin Beck, Tyronne Bowers, Ryan Ashford, Sam Wyeth, Wayne Shaw.

Yellow Cards:.

Referee: P Grenfell (Penzance)

Att: 673

This report ©2004 John Reidy

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