Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 3 Hitchin Town

   Saturday 23/10/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Not everything that came out of Reichmarshal Herman Goering´s Lufftwafe Blitzkrieg of London was bad. Even as a born Eastender I sometimes feel that it was a pity the Meschersmits‚ Focke-Wulfs and Dorniers didn´t complete the job. But the damage they did wreak was enough to spur a redevelopment of large areas of the Capital once the conflict was over. While the planning‚ clearing up and rebuilding were taking place there were a lot of Londoners to be rehomed. Most of them where shunted north. Essex and Hertfordshire bore the brunt of the relocation. The Clutch of towns‚ once with separate identities´ that clustered north of the Metropolis suddenly grew to accommodate the influx of displaced cockneys. Those in Herts. had an added problem.....so many of them relied on the eighth letter of the alphabet to start their names that the street cleaners were overworked sweeping up all the H´s that the immigrant population had a tendency to drop. Emel Empstead‚ Atfield‚ Oddeston and of course the County Town itself‚ Ertford. Even Arlow across the border in (H)Essex shared the predicament. Then there was the home of Tiverton´s latest visitors‚ and butt of many a Music Hall joke (Itchin‚ Erts - Only if you scratch too much; boom‚ boom). Re-organisation will bring a host of new clubs to Ladysmead for league fixtures and Hitchin Town were the first of the former Isthmian League sides to venture beyond the confines of their normal Home Counties habitat in search of points. Little was known about the club or their current team. Even less about how they would travel - apart from probably by coach. It was a shame that the Devon weather was inclement enough to deter many from venturing out to witness what should have been a thoroughly intriguing encounter.

Those that stayed home missed another intriguing happening´. With the scheduled referee unable to take control of the match Dermot Gallager‚ more used to the big stage of Premiership football was drafted in as a late replacement. Late in more ways than one since he was held up in traffic and the game was delayed until he arrived. He might have been restarting the game after just about a minute since from the kick off Tiverton broke through Chris Vinnicombe on the left wing but his cross was missed by both Kezie Ibe and Mike Booth who had charged forward in support. Then Hitchin showed what they were capable of‚ and most impressive it was. Swift forward movement‚ good running off the ball into open spaces and most of all foot to foot first time passing. Tiverton were rocked back onto the defensive and that defence was soon further hampered when Steve Winter pulled up with a re-occurrence of an old hamstring problem which left him hobbling off the field to be replaced by Dave Hallett in the sixth minute. With David Steele dropping back Hallett slotted into midfield and was soon involved as he threaded a ball forward to send Jamie Mudge away down the right. Like Vinnicombe´s first minute effort‚ Mudge´s cross was missed by all and sundry and though Vinnicombe did retrieve the ball on the far side his second ball into the box saw Ibe being ruled offside. Hitchin continued to play remarkably good football on the sodden surface and had their hosts digging deep to show their best defensive work and limit the goalscoring opportunities. The best that the visitors did manage were from the few occasions when they lifted the ball. Mark Bridge headed High and wide when he connected with a powerfully driven cross the right by Aaran Cavill in the 11th minute and after Nathan Rudge had headed wide from Tivvy´s first corner in the 20th minute the Hitchin counter was only halted at the expense of a free kick from which Mark Ovendale did well to punch solidly away.
Tiverton were looking dangerous on the counter attack‚ mainly it has to be said‚ due to the running of Mudge. Wandering freely from wing to wing he was always likely to produce something even if it was only a corner as it was in the 24th minute when he made a burst for the right hand corner. The kick was taken short and there was subsequently a long and laborious build up looking for a way through the massed defence. Vinnicombe eventually thought he´d spotted the gap and drove a fierce low shot through it but the space led wide of the goal and that´s where the ball went.
The contest was beginning to open up as The Yellows began to deal more competently with the slick passing Hitchin play. More of it was being broken up early by destructive work by the Tiverton midfield and the home side were getting forward more frequently; even Booth got close enough to have a sight of goal bit mis- hit and misdirected his shot which went well wide. The game needed a goal and surprisingly it as the visitors that got it. Well‚ the manner in which it came was surprising. Despite their pretty football of the first half hour it took a long hoofed clearance but their keeper Richard Wilmot to beat the Tiverton back line. Firstly Tom Stocco completely misjudged the flight of the ball and it bounced through for Darren Hay to catch Nathan Rudge wrong footed. As he edged round the Tivvy skipper Hay brought the ball under control and took a couple of strides before blasting it past Ovendale for the opening goal. It spurred Tivvy on but Hitchin held them off and the game settled once more into an open free flowing affair‚ even stevens´ for most of the time. Then The Yellows hit back. Like the visitors goal it came from a long ball right down the middle. This time it was to Ibe ho brought it down and headed towards goal. Faced with a defender he slipped the ball to his right‚ into the path of Mudge who was running across behind him. With the ball went the defender and when Mudge returned the pass with a first time back heel‚ Ibe was in the clear to continue unchallenged to drill the ball past Wilmot for the equaliser on 34 minutes. One final chance was created before the break when Steele took an uncharacteristic short throw in on the right to Mudge who headed in field and across the face of the penalty area before hoisting his shot high over the crossbar.

Just as in the first half it was Tiverton that created the first scoring opportunity after the restart. Mudge made a run down the left and laid the ball back into the path of Harvey whose powerful drive at goal was deflected off a defender back to Mudge who curled a second shot round the defence and sadly for the home fans also round the angle of crossbar and upright on the far side of the goal. And also similar to the first period was Hitchin´s reply. They embarked on a sustained session of pressure on the Tiverton goal but were held at bay by the defenders until Cavill slipped the ball through Stocco´s legs‚ nipped round the befuddled defender and fired a shot wildly across the goal. Back came Tivvy with a Wills thirty yarder that flew high and wide. The sixty second minute brought an incident that was worthy of comment...and I hope you´ll forgive me a little characteristic opinionated ramble if not‚ don´t read the italic section.
Back in the Eighties at Brands Hatch I saw‚ as a practice day support race for the European Formula One Grand Prix a Mini race. All identical cars driven by a mixture of Rally drivers‚ TV celebrities and a couple of the contestants from the following day´s main event. It was a pretty unimportant contest for all but it was noticeable that the GP drivers were unable to adapt downwards to the lower class of competition. Dermott Gallager might well have suffered the same. He didn´t. Despite the fact that the match was at a level six or seven steps down the pyramid from what he was used to‚ he was still well up to pace. The game was allowed to flow; there were few errors of judgement; he allowed the players their head without coming the Don´t you know who I am attitude that could have lost him the respect of the players. All except one it would seem. Harvey questioned a decision. A passing word‚ particularly from an official such as Mr Gallager‚ should have been sufficient. No. A firm face to face was required thanks to Harvey´s continuing dissent. Enough? It seemed so as the Tiverton midfielder retreated. No‚ Harvey continued to complain as he moved away. The referee had heard enough and produced the Yellow card - and rightly so. The player had been given two chances to shut his mouth. He got what he begged for. Some kind of twisted ego trip......I was once booked by one of the country´s leading refs?
Back to the action‚ and it was goal action. Hitchin moved down their left. Gordon Barr was closed down but before he could be dispossessed he managed to lob in a high cross that Daarren Hay met with a header that looped over Ovendale and into the net to prove that he was as lethal a finisher with his hear as he was with his foot. The Yellows had to chase the game but the method was predictable. Long balls out from the back for Ibe and Mudge to pursue. True the back line and midfield were following upfield but there was little constructive build up in the attempt to get forward and‚ of course it made Tiverton vulnerable to the swift counter attack . That was just what happened in the 80th minute when a break on the left saw the cross overhit but a second one fired in from the right that was headed over the bar by Josh Sozzo. With time running out Hitchin made their sole substitution‚ taking off two goal Hay‚ form your own opinion. Before the minute was out Mudge sent a rocket of a shot wide but The Yellows continued to push. Mudge (again !) Made a right wing run and sent in a centre towards the crowd around the penalty spot. It never reached as Hitchin captain Paul Covington applied a reaction hand to the ball. A quick glance at the linesman and the penalty was given. Minimal protest despite the fact that it might cost them two points. It wasn´t to cost them a thing. Mudge hit the spot kick hard and low. Wilmot went the right way and saved. One final attempt‚ it seemed‚ from the home side saw Ibe send Mudge through the middle but there was no instant amends as Mudge shot wide as he was tackled. The final word went to the visitors. Sozzo and Covington combined to Leave Nathan Rudge battling to get a foot to the ball as he stumbled and then again as he lay on the turf‚ Covington broke clear of the tangle of legs touched it back to Sozzo who steadied himself before hitting a firm low shot past Ovendale. It was all over.

It is hard to accept that Tiverton should have put in one of their best home performances in a long time and yet should have been on the receiving end of what looks like a convincing beating. It wasn´t. There was little‚ if anything‚ to separate the two sides. What there was‚ was the ability to find the net when given the opportunity. That´s all.


Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale‚ Steve Winter (David Hallett‚ 6 (Kevin Wills‚ 46))‚ Chris Vinnicombe (Shaun Goff‚ 70), Tom Stocco, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, David Steele, Iain Harvey, Mike Booth, Kezie Ibe, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Jamie Densham, Ian Nott.

Yellow card: Harvey, Goff.


Hitchin Town: Richard Wilmot, Gordon Barr, Julian Old, Mark Smith, Aaran Cavill, Josh Sozzo, Paul Covington, Darren Hay (Bilal Hassan, 85), Gavin Jaggard, Mark Bridge.

Subs not used: Matt Baldry, Darren Gibb, Kames Potter Ian Scott.

Yellow Cards:


Referee: Dermott Gallager (Banbury).


Att: 394

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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