Match report

Abingdon United 2 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Tuesday 12/02/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

We may yet look back at the first couple of months of 2013 and wonder how we managed to reach the playoffs. It is true that form is currently poor, and nine league matches without a victory is damning proof. It is also true that we are not playing very well – you simply can’t be unlucky all the time across that many games. But the Division is still finely balanced amongst the midfield runners and a strong run of results can elevate any team into contention, as the likes of Yate and Didcot have proven. While there is life there is hope.

For about sixty seconds as Tiverton kicked off at Abingdon there was plenty of life and zest; an appetite for attacking that saw the Yellows race forward with meaningful intent, but an early cross was cleared by Gareth Thomas, the ball went dead, and then it went flat. And so did Tiverton. For the next hour Tivvy were terribly incompetent and Abingdon not much better, so what ensued was a game of extremely low quality that was effectively won with one counter attack from the home side seven minutes in. Tom Melledew spread the ball wide to the right, Toby Nowell crossed deep and Matthew Biddle headed home unmarked at the far post.

The goal helped Abingdon in their match tactics and they happily sat deep, packed the defence and looked to hit Tiverton on the break. Meanwhile Tivvy tried to work the ball down the flanks but as soon as they got to the final third there was no space and nothing they tried worked. It was a combination of being hassled, of United’s defenders tackling and intercepting with good timing and purpose, and the Town players not having it in them to pick and execute the right pass at the right time. It was difficult to find reasons or excuses for such a disjointed performance: the pitch was as good as anyone could have hoped for, and for the overused cliché that Tiverton like to get the ball down and play, the conditions were perfect. Frustration was apparent early on and quickly balls were being clipped into areas in the hope that somebody would chase and maybe make something from nothing. Nobody did. There was no pace to the game, no imagination, no shape and no entertainment value.

Abingdon were no better but like Didcot a week or so earlier they did look dangerous when they pumped the ball upfield. Poor Aaron Woodley could have had a hatful but ended the night by being substituted. His first opening came as he raced beyond Paul Kendall, lobbed the ball over Chris Wright, and Tom Gardner retreated to clear the ball from the line just inside the post. Woodley’s lob was unnecessarily high and that gave Gardner the time to cover – a more adept finish would have given Abingdon a two-goal lead. And that wasn’t all for Woodley as he shot without power straight at Wright having been set up by Nowell as Josh Concanen sold Kevin Hill short, and a couple of minutes before the break the U’s forward took missing sitters to a new level when he picked up on a pass from Steve Davis, took the ball around Wright and then promptly planted it into the side netting with the goal unguarded. It wasn’t even a narrow angle as Woodley was only just outside the post and a mere eight or ten yards from goal.

So it was a relief for Town that Abingdon were as bad as they were (losing at home to Winchester takes some doing) but they were still more able to get into good positions than Tivvy. The only shots of any note came from long range – Lewis Tasker through a crowd and straight at James Foster, Kendall from more than thirty yards a wide enough not to bother the Abingdon goalkeeper. Kendall did have a header scrambled away from danger when he got on the end of an Andy Taylor corner, but in open play Tiverton never managed to open up the United defence.

The second half started just as poorly as the first one had ended although Concanen did cross for Bushin to head over the crossbar, not an easy header by any stretch of the imagination, but at least a relatively decent ball into the box. For fifteen minutes the fare was simply awful as both teams seemed allergic to the ball and quickly gave it back to the other, and eventually Mark Saunders had seen enough and tried to freshen things up. Josh Searle and Dave Pearse in, Tasker and Bushin out; Tasker unhappy, and in fairness any one of the ten outfield players could have been sacrificed for any of the five substitutes. “At least his frustration showed he cares” the optimists will say…

Although the quality didn’t improve at all the pace of the game did and Tiverton hogged the ball almost through until the final whistle. But all they were doing was going nowhere a little bit faster than they had done previously, and still there was a lack of penetration and a lack of ideas once the play got anywhere near Abingdon’s penalty area. There aren’t enough bytes on the internet to note every occasion Jules Emati-Emati, Kevin Hill or anyone else reached that brick wall twenty yards or so from goal and then lost possession, credit to Abingdon to an extent maybe, but also a real need from the Town players to have the ball sat perfectly before they were prepared to shoot or make a telling pass. United’s backline were on their toes and didn’t allow play to settle, so there were a few scrambles but never any real threat to Foster and his goal.

Four half-chances came and went – Alex Faux shot over on the volley after an uncharacteristic run down the left from Gardner, Emati-Emati nodded a Concanen cross straight at Foster, Kendall volleyed into Foster’s gloves, and then Emati-Emati again, this time with a terribly sliced left-footed shot that sailed into the trees behind the goal. If any of those had actually gone in the net it would have been a wonderful goal as they weren’t chances one would have expected to score. Tiverton didn’t have any of those all evening.

The home side remained determined if not calm as they soaked up wave after wave of uninspiring attacks with relative ease, and occasionally ventured over the halfway line in the hope of killing off the game. Gianluca Riccio shot across the face of goal, Biddle was thwarted in a timely manner by Faux tracking back, and then Steve Davis got it almost as wrong as Woodley had in the first half with a pathetic shot into the heavens which would have frustrated Melledew who had laid the ball on perfectly. In the fourth minute of time added on, and once Abingdon had successfully defended a corner they felt shouldn’t have even been give Melledew decided to pass the ball to somebody not as hapless as either Woodley or Davis, picking out instead substitute Nick Christodolou, and with hardly a defender in sight the fresh-legged striker placed the ball high into the top corner past Wright. Tivvy kicked off again and the referee blew for time, bringing to an end what was by far the worst Tiverton match of the season, not just for their own performance but for everything about it. It was horrible!


Abingdon United: James Foster, Chris Baker, Kevin Halliday, Mark James, Gareth Thomas, Tom Melledew, Toby Nowell (Carl Self 75), Gianluca Riccio, Aaron Woodley (Nick Christodolou 90), Matthew Biddle, Steve Davis
Goals: Biddle 7, Christodolou 90+4
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker (Josh Searle 58), Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner (Harry Nodwell 79), Andy Taylor, Alex Faux, David Steele, Joe Bushin (Dave Pearse 58), Jules Emati-Emati
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 56


This report ©2013 Alan Reidy