Match report

Didcot Town 4 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 02/02/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

On the whole I didn’t enjoy Quentin Tarrantino’s ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’ The first third of the film was okay – quite good in fact – but thereafter it degenerated into what I can only describe as a chaotic mess with little form. From interesting and intriguing the movie slipped into an unnecessary horror show that verged ever so dangerously towards comedy. At the end I felt that all I could do was quickly forget I ever wasted my time watching, cast an inward wry smile of quiet disappointment, and get on with life. And that is just how I felt watching Tiverton Town return to action at Didcot – for thirty minutes decent enough and with plenty of potential, but then a dramatic slide into slapstick play. The closing credits were a relief; the sequel had to be better.

With four weeks of no action Tivvy should have had a full squad available. Paul Kendall and Adam Faux were able to return following suspension, and unless anybody else had caught their sock in an exercise bike there was no reason to believe injuries would be a factor. Four substitutes were named with Russell Jee, Dave Pearse and Michael Nardiello absent, but nevertheless the starting line-up was strong. And the opening exchanges saw Tiverton looking bright and positive, albeit rather susceptible to counter attacks down their left side. That was largely because that is where they were attacking themselves, and both Alex Faux and Lewis Tasker were required to cover a lot of ground down that wing. The battle was largely along Tivvy’s left touchline and the Yellows were getting the better of things but would pay for heir inability to turn possession and chances into goals.

Joe Bushin, no longer the Division’s top goalscorer after Scott Wilson scored five times for Yate against Winchester was the main culprit as five times in the first half he was set up in dangerous positions only to see his tally for the season refuse to move. The first of these chances came in the second minute when Tom Gardner clipped back a deep Andy Taylor free kick and Bushin shot without conviction allowing Marcos Belloli to save easily, and nine minutes later a better chance – the best of the lost – went begging as the Town striker failed to connect with Tasker’s drilled cross on the edge of the goal area. Twenty minutes in, Tivvy well in command and Alex Faux battled it out in the corner with Sam Elkins, lifted in an excellent centre, and this time Bushin headed a long way wide.

Another header wide and one straight at Belloli at the end of the half underlined Bushin’s person nightmare, while Tasker shot narrowly over the top (unknowing that the linesman had flagged for a very tight offside) and Jules Emati-Emati raced through the middle to pick up on Gardner’s pass, chipped wide of Belloli and wide of the post. Six very good chances and nothing to show for it, and in truth, although Tiverton were the better side in the first half they were still lacking fluidity. Taylor’s set piece delivery was as poor as it has ever been during his time at the club, and both Faux and Tasker had a number of other opportunities to cross into the danger area but failed to beat the first defender; it was as if the ball was made of lead at times. But that is being harsh on the two lefties – they were without a shadow of a doubt Tiverton’s most dangerous combination, and the second half would prove their importance to the shape and structure of the team as a whole.

Didcot were not without chances of their own with Elliot Osborne-Ricketts seeing an early shot deflected wide, then Morgan Williams firing on target from an angle, Chris Wright making a strong save to bail out Tasker who had been comprehensively turned by Pablo Haysham. The only goal of the first half went to the home side and came from a decisive counter attack after a Taylor free kick had failed to find anyone in a yellow shirt on the edge of the Didcot area. The ball was quickly moved forward over the halfway line when Haysham held it up and received support from Osborne-Ricketts. A quick exchange of passes, Tiverton still caught upfield, and Haysham crossed deep to the far post when the almost legendary Jamie Heapy had arrived with perfect timing to smash the ball past Wright and into the roof of the net.

Tivvy picked up a couple of yellow cards in the opening period. Faux for a needless and frustrated poke into Belloli’s back after the Didcot glovesman had smothered a loose ball. That led to one of those silly moments where every player on the pitch seemed to think they should take the law into their own hands, and perhaps Heapy might have also been cautioned for his over-enthusiastic protestations. Gardner was also booked for a trip on Osborne-Ricketts, fairly but needlessly from a Tiverton perspective as Josh Concanen has lamely conceded possession deep inside his own half as he tried to dribble his way out of danger, and Gardner was left rather exposed as a result.

So into the second half and Tiverton trailing by one goal. There had been good and there had been bad and there was still plenty of reason to believe. Despite one or two particularly poor moments and some pretty disastrous finishing Tivvy really were the better team. That changed with the switch of ends and the setting of the sun, and from being one of Town’s better performers Paul Kendall delved to previously unseen depths with arguably his poorest half of football ever. It started with a loose pass to Taylor which happily for the visitors Haysham was unable to fully capitalise on, and five minutes after the restart it continued when the Tivvy captain conceded a penalty. Kendall wasn’t entirely to blame, robbed of the ball by Mark Janes when Gardner tried to pretend he could pass it around at the back like Carles Puyol but only managed to loop the ball high and awkwardly. No complaints as the referee pointed to the spot as Janes went down, and Osborne-Ricketts proved unflappable with a penalty every bit as good as that one from Graeme Souness in the 1984 European Cup final – top corner, unstoppable.

Tiverton were back in with a shout just two minutes later when a promising attack, unusually down the right, saw Tasker smash a low shot against the post. Emati-Emati reacted quickly to regain possession and cut the ball back into the goalmouth where Luke Carnell was left helpless and embarrassed as he deflected the ball past Belloli and into his own net. Hope, but by now Didcot had grown in belief, and Williams should have done better than to flick a header straight at Wright. Meanwhile Tasker had another pop, this one from outside the area and the ball missed the target but only a couple of feet.

The final twenty minutes or so belonged to Didcot and particularly to Haysham, with Wright saving well from the Didcot forward after substitute Harry Nodwell had been left standing by Haysham’s impressive pace. Then another error was punished; Kendall’s clearance from the right side of the penalty area was poor, Haysham picked up the loose ball, strode forward a couple of yards and sent in a shot. It all looked rather innocuous and maybe it was the low sun just too slow to dip fully below the horizon, maybe there was an unexpected swerve or bobble, or maybe Wright simply got it all wrong. Whatever the reason the ball squirmed lamely past the Tiverton goalkeeper and into the net, and Didcot were just about home and dry.

The response was to withdraw Tasker and introduce Owen Howe, meaning both of Tiverton’s left-sided players were now out of the action, Faux having departed for Nodwell a little while earlier. And oh boy didn’t Janes and Haysham revel in the space that had been created. Didcot sat deep and looked to break with direct attacks, and so although Tivvy were able to get themselves up the pitch they always looked under threat when Carnell or Ricky Allaway quickly moved the ball upfield. Howe, meanwhile, offered the Yellows a more direct option and Tiverton could and should have reduced the arrears when he was upended by Belloli in the area as he chased onto a ball over the top of the defence. Bushin, though, kept up his daily standards and chipped the resultant penalty over the crossbar, and any hopes of a comeback ended right there.

It became too easy for Didcot and with the exception of a long-ranger from Nodwell and a late strike from Howe that Belloli pushed wide there was little danger to the home side. There was still danger at the other end of the pitch and twice the offside trap just about worked, but then it failed as another misunderstanding between Kendall and Gardner allowed Heapy to release Haysham, who once away would not be caught. His shot was taken surprisingly early but with hit with force and accuracy and beat Wright to the left. And that really was that. A second half horror show, one to quickly forget, and a four-week layoff and the subsequent rustiness can only go some way to justifying what was simply not a very good performance beyond the opening half and hour.


Didcot Town: Marcos Belloli, Sam Elkins, Alex Stanley, Elliot Osborne-Ricketts (Conor Harris 90+1), Luke Carnell, Ricky Allaway, Mark Janes, Jamie Heapy, Pablo Haysham, Joel Meade (Ryan Tappin 85), Morgan Williams
Goals: Heapy 23, Osborne-Ricketts 51p, Haysham 72, 83
Booked: Belloli 75
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Taker (Owen Howe 73), Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Alex Faux (Harry Nodwell 58), Josh Searle, Joe Bushin, Jules Emati-Emati
Goal: Carnell 53og
Booked: Faux 31, Gardner 43
Sent off: None

Attendance: 112


This report ©2013 Alan Reidy