Match report

Poole Town 2 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 06/04/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

It is almost a case of when rather than if Poole Town will clinch the league title, and I can happily report that it is also a case of when and not if Tiverton pick up a first victory under manager Jamie Ward. Travelling to the league leaders was a task fraught with trepidation due to the relative form of the two sides, and while Poole did enough to win the game with a little to spare they certainly didn’t have it their own way. Dolphins manager Tom Killick noted his mild concern that his side dropped a level or two at the end of both the first and second half, but he was happy enough with the result; Ward was also satisfied on the whole with Tivvy’s performance, citing this game as the best in terms of ball retention that he had seen from the Yellows. The tangible difference was Poole’s ability to punish mistakes and that is how they found both goals. They were stronger on the whole but on another day might have found themselves in a rather awkward situation towards the end of the match. Tiverton need a little more focus and mental stability and then they will be a match for most teams.

For twenty minutes the difference in league positions was illustrated clearly on the pitch: Poole passed the ball around well and controlled the tempo of the game, and scored their first goal in the tenth minute completely in keeping with the balance of play. It was their first real chance of the game and came when Jacob Cane clipped the ball through the channel from the right, dissecting the Tiverton defence to a point where Chris Wright was drawn from his line towards the edge of the penalty area. This left the goal unattended and Carl Preston was able to smoothly lift the ball over the green-clad ’keeper having stolen in behind Tom Gardner.

Tiverton were really struggling at this stage, particularly with their passing in deep positions. No one player was the main culprit but a host of square balls were cut out and it required Andy Taylor to drop unusually deep to make up the numbers defensively as the Yellows scurried around to regain shape and then possession. Taylor’s own performance was energetic and determined as were the displays delivered by the front two of Jules Emati-Emati and Kyle Bassett who came more and more into the game as the first half wore on and they learnt to exploit the space on a particularly large pitch. But before either of the strikers had a meaningful sniff in enemy territory Cane missed from close range after Warren Byerley’s shot had been saved and parried by Wright, a warning to Tiverton that they could well be cut apart devastatingly and embarrassingly should they dare expand excessively. Josh Concanen played a more rigid role at right-back after Byerley had twisted and turned past him to force Wright into this save.

Killick was accurate in his assessment: Poole had much the better in the first half of the first half, but Tiverton were stronger from around the twenty-five minute mark through to the interval. The one thing missing was a save from Nick Hutchings. Kevin Hill, unusually playing on the left wing, almost found space to cross for Emati-Emati as he chased down Jon Vance’s through-ball but former Yellow Adam Kelly tracked back to poke the ball of Hill’s foot and behind for a corner. Taylor took the honours from the quadrant and pulled the ball back to Josh Searle on the edge of the area, who in turn teed up Vance to slice his shot well wide of the mark. Emati-Emati suffered a similar fate although his radar was better tuned and a shot following Taylor’s pass missed the left upright but just a few feet rather than plenty of yards. And half an hour in the best chance of the game for Tiverton never quite materialised as a neat move down the left involving Hill, Vance and Taylor ended with Emati-Emati cutting the ball back from the touchline and Keith Emmerson intercepting in a timely manner just as Searle was about to tap the ball into a net emptied by the sprawling yet ineffective dive from Hutchings.

Poole had two efforts from a long way out, through Kelly and then Sam Clarke, but neither brought any action from Wright, so the teams changed ends with the home side holding a slender advantage on the scoreboard and Tivvy with a little momentum with which to work in the second half. Neither of those states of play were maintained for very long and Poole must have had go-fast stripes in their half-time cuppa because they came out and regained the initiative, played with more authority and assertiveness, and the second period began much as the first had, Tivvy pegged back and oft chasing shadows (for indeed the sun was shining). What the Yellows did do for ten minutes was keep calm and think of defending, and that meant that for all the ball Poole saw they had little opportunity to test Wright. A break from Byerley posed questions of Gardner and Chris McGrath which were answered with top marks, the Town pair effectively sparing Bassett’s blushes after the forward had carelessly conceded possession as he dropped deep.

What Poole wanted, maybe even needed in mind of how the game had changed during the first half, was a goal to underline their current dominance of the match, and ten minutes after the restart that is just what they got. For all their neat triangular passing through midfield and their ability to work the ball out wide it was perhaps surprising that the goal came in the most direct fashion, and from a Tiverton attack of sorts that had broken down. Emati-Emati chased a cause that was clearly lost on the right, always a yard or two behind Michael Walker, and while he received the deserved applause for his futile efforts Walker was able to turn close to the goal line and step away with Jules offered no support from his teammates, too concentrated on regaining their positions that had served them quite well. What nobody would have banked on was that Gardner would completely misjudge the flight of the ball when Walker hammered it forward over the halfway line – well, nobody except Cane – so off went the little livewire on loan from Exeter City, capitalising on the defensive error, in behind and one-on-one with Wright. The Tiverton goalkeeper has a very impressive record in such situations but Cane was not to be denied and slid the ball past Wright once he had reached the edge of his area, and that was game, set and match Poole Town.

Whether Tiverton were allowed to come back into the game thereafter as Poole eased off is open for debate, but the truth is that although things were relatively even and static for the most part of the second half Poole still enjoyed the better chances. Preston ran and shot straight at Wright after a sliced clearance, Kelly fired wide, and even Walker ventured forward to shoot low into Wright’s midriff. It was all change up front for the home side as they utilised the full extent of their substitute’s bench, Michael Charles, Dan Cann and Luke Burbidge all offering fresh legs, while Tiverton introduced Jesse Howe and Jimmy Hinds to the fray, neither of whom disappointed despite their combined experience being extremely limited at this level of football. Bassett had an effort from just outside the penalty area that sailed not all that far wide of the mark, and a couple of minutes before the end Emati-Emati jinked between a couple of defenders as he lifted the ball over them and into space before shooting onto the underside of the crossbar, onto the post and eventually away from danger with the ball refusing to fall kindly from an attacking point of view. It was to be the last goalmouth action of the game bar a shot wide from Charles in added time, leaving Poole on the verge of glory with Tivvy continuing their slide down the table. There were, however, plenty of positives both in terms of attitude and quality for Ward to mull over – Tiverton just need to blot out a few key errors.

Poole Town: Nick Hutchings, Sam Clarke, Will Spetch, Keith Emmerson, Michael Walker, Marvin Brooks, Adam Kelly, Steve Devlin (Dan Cann 68), Warren Byerley (Michael Charles 59), Carl Preston (Luke Burbidge 62), Jacob Cane

Goals: Preston 10, Cane 56
Booked: None
Sent off: None


Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Lewis Tasker (Jesse Howe 66), Kevin Hill (Jimmy Hinds 75), Chris McGrath, Tom Gardner, Josh Searle, Jon Vance, Andy Taylor, Kyle Bassett, Jules Emati-Emati
Booked: Emati-Emati 46
Sent off: None

Attendance: 320

This report ©2013 Alan Reidy