Match report

Bridgwater Town 0 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 02/03/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

“How did we get on today?”
“Drew nil-nil.”
“Pretty crap from what I’ve heard.”
“Nah, we played well. Did any of the people that told you about the game actually see it?”
“Well, I don’t know.”

A true story about a conversation I had about four hours after the full-time whistle at Bridgwater. And it says a lot about first impressions when looking at or hearing final scores. Nil-nil by default sounds like the game was poor, a null and void stalemate, a battle of midfields and neither side being better than the other. The truth was that by hook if not by crook Bridgwater got away with this one, comprehensively outplayed for much of the match, and that although Tiverton’s winless run continues it isn’t either from the lack of trying nor from a tactical shortage.

From the first whistle it was clear why Bridgwater had seen so many games postponed; their pitch was a disharmonious cacophony of bobbles and bad rolls, and it took a while for both teams to come to terms with the conditions. One backpass in the first half from the Bridgwater right-back position bounced up horribly just before home goalkeeper Luke Purnell was able to put his foot through the ball, and it was more down to luck than judgement that he didn’t slice it horribly. A little later Phil Veal complained to his bench that it was too much of a risk to play such a pass and he was instructed thereafter to do what he could to launch the ball forward up the touchline. Veal wouldn’t have that opportunity as he was soon wiped out of the game by Purnell when defending a corner, but he had told he truth – the pitch was not conducive to passbacks to the ’keeper, let alone to  swift passing in attacking areas.

The first half was littered with errors because of the conditions and while Bridgwater had the better of the play on the whole there were seldom times when it looked as if they might be able to break through. Graham Mercieca volleyed a long way wide when Tom Gardner’s headed clearance fell to him more than thirty yards out, and a teasing diagonal though-ball from Steve Fitzpatrick amounted to nothing as Craig Veal shot wide and into the side netting. Otherwise there was little to threaten Chris Wright’s goal other than a hopeful shot from the edge of the area by Jon Vance that fell safely into the hand of the Tivvy goalkeeper.

The Yellows perhaps edged that first half strew with mistakes with Joe Bushin almost benefitting from a poor clearance by Chris McGarth seconds into the game, and a sweeping move from right to left saw Alex Faux cross and Jules Emati-Emati denied by a crucial tackle from Bradley Middleton. The fallout from that interception was a corner that was delivered by Andy Taylor and that is when Purnell and Phil Veal clashed, leaving Veal crumpled and motionless, unconscious on the ground. Veal was stretchered away after a lengthy stoppage and we can only hope that a headache in the morning if the sum total of his efforts, but Tiverton we unable to take advantage of the reshuffle required in the home ranks, with the only further opening coming when Taylor crossed deep and Emati-Emati was fractions away from getting on the end of it at the far post.

For a few minutes in the second half Bridgwater came out kicking and first Fitzpatrick volleyed over and then Vance met a cross by Zayne Simpson but shot straight at Wright. It wasn’t quite the all of Bridgy’s attacking play but from that point on they were significantly on the back foot as Tiverton progressively became the dominant force. The Yellows, having weathered what little their hosts could throw at them, took it upon themselves to set the tempo and that tempo was high, pressing as far up the pitch as possible, and simply putting the ball into the box.

A typical instance was when Emati-Emati won the ball back deep in the corner, eventually set up Concanen, and his cross was headed just wide by Bushin. It was typical because Tivvy had regained possession deep inside Bridgwater territory, and the next chance came in the same way when Josh Searle nicked the ball back and delivered. This time it refused to sit for Emati-Emati but finally bobbled and fell to Taylor and his shot was tipped around the post by Purnell. It was one-way traffic and when Lewis Tasker’s effort was deflected it took a brave block to deny Josh Concanen on the follow-up, while a superb run down the left and cross from Searle was thwarted by Purnell as he got his fingertips to a cross that was otherwise bound for Emati-Emati.

All of that in a matter of minutes, and the onslaught didn’t abate: Alex Faux’s cross found Bushin and Bushin found the angle of crossbar and post, and then a overweighted through ball from Searle almost came good but Purnell’s rushed clearance smacked against Bushin and bobbled wide. Tivvy had not only threatened but they had also got the Bridgwater defenders concerned and there were several more occasions when crosses into the danger zone were hacked clear or took a favourable bounce to benefit the home side. Lady luck was on holiday so when the referee awarded Tiverton a penalty as Emati-Emati and Tim Legg clashed it was perhaps predictable that Bushin’s spot kick would be saved by Purnell. In this case justice was probably done – it was a very harsh penalty to give.

Purnell was the hero in the end for not only had he saved Bushin’s penalty but two minutes from time he also saved low down from Michael Nardiello who had been set free on the left thanks to a fine Emati-Emati pass. The shot was arrowing towards the bottom corner from a tight angle, Purnell got just enough on it to divert the ball outside his far post, and Bridgwater had survived. They hadn’t even got close at the other end as the Tiverton offside trap worked like a charm, and one loose backpass from Alex Faux had been dealt with by Wright when Veal might have done better.

Bridgwater Town: Luke Purnell, Phil Veal (Tim Legg 35), Zayne Simpson, Bradley Middleton, Chris McGrath, Graham Mercieca, Steve Fitzpatrick, Kye Mountford, Alex Rigley (Ollie Chamberlain 67), Jon Vance, Craig Veal
Booked: Mountford 8
Sent off: None

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker, Russell Jee, Adam Faux, Tom Gardner, Andy Taylor, Alex Faux, Josh Searle, Joe Bushin (Michael Nardiello 83), Jules Emati-Emati
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 208

This report ©2013 Alan Reidy