Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Merthyr

   Saturday 30/03/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

There was plenty of room for optimism as Tiverton started a new life under Jamie Ward, and this was reflected in the fact that Ladysmead saw its highest attendance since Poole Town visited at the start of December. Three new signings had bolstered the squad, and although Merthyr Town were sure to offer a very stern test, playoff certainties as they are, the supporters of the Yellows reacted positively to the changes that had gone on at the club over the past few weeks, got behind the team, and the players delivered a performance full of grit and determination to pick up a very decent point.

In the last six weeks Tivvy have lost Paul Kendall, Dave Pearse, David Steele, Russell Jee, Harry Nodwell and Joe Bushin from the playing staff so recruits needed to be made. In have come Chris McGrath, Jon Vance and Kyle Bassett, and all three started the game against Merthyr and put in competent performances, with much of the game balanced in favour of the visitors so work ethic was all important. Bassett scored twenty-seven minutes into his debut and in the second half particularly proved to be a willing chaser of lost causes that drew comparisons with Steve Ovens; he was almost rewarded for his perseverance with a goal late in the game after nicking the ball from John Newall on the touchline, but sadly fairytales don’t happed often in football. McGrath, as anyone who had seen his play before would have expected, was a commanding presence  in central defence alongside Tom Gardner, winning virtually everything in the air and keeping his shape to such a stoic effect that Merthyr were often forced into shots from well outside the area. Meanwhile, Vance offered hearty running, strong tackling and a good amount of creativity in midfield, a midfield that had finally seen Andy Taylor freed up and allowed to do his thing on the flanks.

The match itself wasn’t the most entertaining ever and Merthyr were probably kicking themselves as they crossed the bridge on the way home and wondered how they didn’t win. They had the bulk of the possession throughout, boasted a significant territorial advantage, but generally found they couldn’t break down the Tivvy backline despite getting into a number of good positions in wide areas, particularly on their right as Steve Williams scampered up and down the line from his fullback position. Both Ian Traylor and Matthew Harris had shots early on, the former forcing Chris Wright to tip the ball around the post (although the shot was going wide Wright wasn’t to know that), while the latter volleyed a long way over the crossbar. A slightly better chance for Traylor resulted in another save by Wright after a flick-on by Ryan Prosser had broken the Yellows defence on one rare occasion, but other than that there was little to suggest a breakthrough would be made.

However, a goal arrived as Tivvy found their feet and began to explore the Devco End of the pitch and it was a very simple goal in its creation yet a beautifully executed one in its climax. Wright launched the ball high and deep into enemy territory, Jules Emati-Emati flicked it on beyond Newall and Jack Howe, and Bassett raced through full of alertness to clinically lob Giles Cutlan in the Merthyr goal, the unfortunate stopper comprehensively exposed by his flat-footed defence as well as Bassett’s insistence that a relatively innocuous flick would be worth the effort to chase.

Bassett and Josh Searle exchanged passes a couple of minutes later but the new striker shot well wide on this occasion, yet with their tails up Tiverton were enjoying their best period of the match and a move down the left allowed Taylor to cross and Searle to head narrowly over the crossbar. There seemed to be a belief amongst the Tiverton players that had been absent in recent times: some of the football was excellent – pass and move, pass and move – but largely the end product wasn’t quite there. Michael Nardiello’s imminent return will be of great benefit to the team.

Merthyr regained the initiative having weathered a quite demanding five minute storm and they should have equalised when Traylor’s cross found Prosser and Prosser found his feet refusing to interact sufficiently with his brain. Prosser then hammered a free kick over the top, one of a number awarded for seemingly tame challenges yet the only one within any sort of shooting range. It should be said that Referee Lister had a good game on the whole, although perhaps he was a little quick on his whistle on occasions where he could have allowed the game to flow. There were certainly no complaints about the two yellow cards that resulted in a red for Kevin Hill.

The Martyrs from South Wales finished the first half the stronger of the teams and deservedly found an equaliser a couple of seconds before the regulation time had elapsed.  It came from a diagonal ball from the right by Williams which split the Tivvy defence and allowed danger man Traylor to run in and sweep the ball past Wright from the edge of the area. Merthyr could have scored a minute or two earlier when Wright fumbled a low and powerful cross from Kris Leek, but McGrath was on hand to hack the ball off the line with Prosser lurking.

The story of the second half was quite simple: Merthyr attacked, came up against a defence that weren’t for moving, and had to ping in shots from twenty-five or thirty yards. Many of these missed the target; those that didn’t were relatively easy pickings for Wright, and while the visitors would have been clearly frustrated they continued to play good football and stick to their ideals. That it didn’t pay off was a testament to the organisation and discipline of the Tivvy players, so although it is fair to note that Merthyr had the better of the game it would be harsh to justify that they actually deserved to win the match – defending is just as important as attacking.

In chronological order the shots were thus: Traylor (saved by Wright), Lee (wide), Williams (over), Marcus Griffiths (saved), Griffiths again (tipped over by Wright) and finally Ryan Newman (saved). Traylor’s chance was perhaps the best of the lot as he was picked out by Prosser but couldn’t quite find the elevation to beat the Tivvy goalkeeper, while Griffith’s second shot was excellently saved as the Merthyr man had cut in from the right past Vance to create his own space.

There was little for the home fans to get worked up about in the second half although a corner from Lewis Tasker almost developed into a good chance as Hill headed the ball back across the face of goal and Emati-Emati was thwarted by a brave challenge from Newall, who took a boot to the face for his efforts. Hill picked up a second booking for a clumsy mistimed challenge on Harris four minutes from time (his first caution was for a similar foul on Leek in the first half), and the game ended shortly after Bassett had robbed Newall and taken an early shot which sailed over Cutlan but had neither the legs nor the accuracy to find the net. So it ended all square and the optimism was largely justified. The next target is to get back into the wins column.

Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker, Kevin Hill, Chris McGrath, Tom Gardner, Josh Searle (Alex Faux 73), Jon Vance, Andy Taylor (Adam Faux 81), Kyle Bassett, Jules Emati-Emati
Goal: Bassett 27
Booked: Hill 35, 86
Sent off: Hill 86

Merthyr Town: Giles Cutlan, Steve Williams, Jack Howe, Andrew Thomas (Ryan Newman 88), Jon Newall, Jamie Rewbury, Matthew Harris, Kris Leek, Ryan Prosser, Marcus Griffiths (Garyn Preen 81), Ian Traylor (Aaron Cornwall 76)
Goal: Traylor 45
Booked: None
Sent off: None

Attendance: 229

This report ©2013 Alan Reidy