Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Clevedon Town

   Tuesday 09/04/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

It was written in the stars. Art imitates life and football fortunes eventually go full-circle, so it was inevitable that Tiverton would break their famine and get to dine on the luscious taste of victory on the evening Clevedon came to town. The run of twenty-two games without a win had been the second longest futile sequence in the history of the club, exceeded only by a hapless forty-match winless sequence which ran from April 1980 to January 1981. That year ended with Tiverton facing life in the Western League First Division but more poignantly the futile run of results came to an end at Ladysmead with a 1-0 victory – against Clevedon Town. Without intending to undermine the efforts of the players on show, Tuesday’s game against the Seasiders was always going to end this way; fate, destiny, a statistician’s dream; call it what you want, it was meant to be.





The action itself was almost secondary to the reason why what happened happened. There were three changes to the side, two of which were enforced due to Chris McGrath and Andy Taylor being unavailable. In came Michael Nardiello and the returning Liam Ellis, while Alex Faux started at left-back in place of Lewis Tasker in the only adjustment to the starting line-up that was made through choice. The formation also changed with massive benefits: Nardiello and Kyle Bassett both played off Jules Emati-Emati, each taking their turn to drop deep (although Nardiello was more often the one who slotted into midfield), and Jon Vance played a much deeper role to the one he is most accustomed. Meanwhile, the Tivvy right wing, perhaps conscious of the trouble they had containing Clevedon’s Aron Robbins, won out in a battle of wits which saw the visitors’ winger cast a lonely figure on the fringes of the game. Robbins’ unwillingness to carry out defensive duties meant that, as long as Tiverton controlled the game, Joshes Concanen and Searle could exploit the space on the wing and double up against the cumbersome yet experienced Rory Predergast, something they excelled at, particularly in the first half. With Vance deep and Ellis more mobile than McGrath behind him there was extra insurance in that area of the pitch should Robbins find space; although such was Tiverton’s domination he seldom got more than a sniff of the ball. More significant still was the shape of the attacking set-up for the Yellows: With Nardiello and Bassett readily helping out in midfield it meant Tivvy could simply outnumber Clevedon in the central areas. It also caused a degree of confusion amongst the away side – should the midfielders drop to pick up Tiverton’s deceptive attackers, or should the defenders move forward? All of this combined to allow Emati-Emati the run of the green, and he helped himself with a brilliantly disciplined and energetic performance that saw him cause trouble and strife from the first whistle to the last, surely his best performance for the club.





Clevedon had three shots in the first half worthy of mention but little threat otherwise. All three of these came from the boot of Scott Murray, the first two wide and the third, although bouncing awkwardly, straight into Chris Wright’s waiting arms. There really wasn’t much else from them; they couldn’t get hold of the ball and when they did they couldn’t move it into space anywhere near as effectively as they did eight days earlier on their own patch. Tiverton were much more progressive, far more inventive, and at ease with a pitch that was bobbling a little more than anyone would have liked. Emati-Emati worked hard to keep the ball in play and nutmeg Predergast in the fifth minute, but shot wide after a quick exchange of passes with Searle.  A minute later Vance found Nardiello whose shot deflected off Steve Kingdon and fell kindly for Joe Perry in the Clevedon goal, a deflection that could have been kinder. Next came a surge forward and Concanen played a smart one-two with Emati-Emati, his low driven cross agonisingly just too far ahead of Kevin Hill. Tivvy were dominant and playing with the belief and confidence that belied their recent form; Bassett shot just a yard wide from the edge of the area and Vance skied one as Concanen again pressed forward to add an extra body to the attack. The goal was coming, and deserved when it finally arrived five minutes before half time. A harmless-looking foul on Nardiello gave Vance the opportunity to float in a free kick (his set-piece delivery was excellent with the exception of his first corner which was cut out by the first man), and Hill leapt towards the heavens to outjump Kingdon and guide his header in the only place it could do damage – back over Perry and into the far corner of the net.





There was no further goalmouth action in the first half, and only a yellow card apiece for Bassett and Robbins for a little scuffle as play was called back for a foul committed by Hill a couple of seconds earlier. For thirty minutes after the restart the pattern remained the same with Tiverton continuing to attack and Clevedon holding on by luck as much as by judgment. Only Kye Mountfourd mustered a shot for the away side, hopeful and harmless as it sailed well wide of the target. Tivvy could have scored a hatful: Emati-Emati volleyed wide from a Vance free kick, another set piece deflected off the wall and behind for a corner, and that corner, once redelivered into the area, bounced peculiarly over Perry despite his loud calls indicating he was ready and able to claim, and then desperately over Emati-Emati at the far post. Another corner, all Tivvy now, and Jules bundled the ball forward for Nardiello to shoot, with Perry making a stunning reflex save to pat the ball up in the air and his defence to eventually hoof the ball clear. The second goal, which Clevedon could have no complaints about, refused to arrive, not for the want of trying. Joe Swift put Hill’s cross onto his own bar with Perry static, Hill himself flicked a Vance centre just past the post as Clevedon’s defenders were irate at the refusal of the assistant to raise the flag for offside, and three times Emati-Emati had further chances, blocked, a fraction over, and then a brilliant volley that rattled the crossbar. Inevitably Clevedon needed to change things around a bit if they were to have any hope of getting back into the game, and they did just that when they pushed the giant Clayton Fortune up front. It was his header from a long Kingdon throw-in that brought the only proper save from Wright, and late pressure failed to give birth to anything more clear-cut. Such was Tiverton’s defensive stubbornness that Clevedon’s best hope was from one of the many free kicks that were pumped towards Fortune from deep, usually by Predergast. Tom Gardner was controlled in defence and played a big part of keeping things organised, and Faux made a decisive challenge on Murray to prevent what could have materialised into a good opportunity to cross into the area. Murray’s frustrations grew and finally exploded when he was booked in stoppage time for a needless and foolish kick out at Faux who had made another strong tackle towards the corner of the pitch, and thus ended the game.





Tiverton didn’t only win this game, they comprehensively outthought and outfought Clevedon; they beat them in terms of desire and beat them in terms of quality. Jamie Ward deserves special praise for his team selection, and also his use of substitutes. In the final fifteen minutes, with Clevedon trying to throw everything forward, it would have been tempting for Ward to add an extra defender and play with caution, but this he rejected, preferring to stay instead with the basic shape that had seen the Yellows dominate the match. Granted, Nathan Haskins isn’t as attack-minded as Kyle Bassett, but the introduction of Jesse Howe for Nardiello five minutes from the end speaks chapters of Ward’s mentality and how best he felt the game could be secured: the best form of defence is attack. Tivvy attacked wonderfully throughout the game and that led to a clean sheet and – at last – a victory.





Tiverton Town: Chris Wright, Josh Concanen, Alex Faux, Kevin Hill, Liam Ellis, Tom Gardner, Josh Searle, Jon Vance, Michael Nardiello (Jesse Howe 85), Kyle Bassett (Nathan Haskins 79), Jules Emati-Emati
Goal: Hill 41
Booked: Bassett 44
Sent off: None





Clevedon Town: Joe Perry, Kaine Gazzard (Sam Teale 67), Aron Robbins, Rory Prendergast, Steve Kingdon, Joe Swift, Kye Mountford, Reeko Best (Russell Church 90+2), Clayton Fortune, Scott Murray, George Brimson (Ben Murray 67)
Booked: Robbins 44, Scott Murray 90+3
Sent off: None





Attendance: 157




This report ©2013 Alan Reidy