Match report

Elmore 1 - 4 Tiverton Town

   Wednesday 18/09/2013   Devon St Luke's Cup
Alan Reidy

If Tiverton Town want to win some silverware then this season, as every season the Devon Cup offers the best opportunity. None of that “We-Weren’t-Going-To-Win-It-Anyway” nonsense formerly spouted disrespectfully and without a need to cast an eye on the coffers when Tivvy crashed meekly out of the FA Cup at Larkhall; this one is there for the taking for anybody who takes it with even moderate seriousness, and while a County Cup match might not be the most appetising fixture on a cold February evening, those thoughts can be held for another day. They nearly had to be held for another year as Town pranced about in their new favourite whites and allowed Elmore to go in at the break with a one-goal lead. But a second-half revival gave the final score a degree of accurate reflection on the game as a whole, four unanswered goals seeing the Yellows (yeah, whatever…) into the next round.

It took Elmore three minutes to get their noses in front, former Tivvy youth team skipper James Skinner heading in unmarked from a long Mike Humphreys free kick after Josh Concanen had upended Jesse Howe. And that is how it stayed – somehow – throughout the next three-quarters of an hour. Without ever playing particularly well Tiverton rang up an untold number of corners, most of which came from shots deflected off flailing legs beneath green socks, and dominated possession so completely that if this was a boxing match... no, let’s avoid as many clichés as we can here, including the old chestnut about it being a game of two halves.

Perhaps the Eagles didn’t help themselves a great deal as they failed to get any meaningful foothold in the game despite their early lead, seldom crossing the halfway line with the ball in their control. Their wingback system, in which Skinner played as the central sweeper, became a flat back five amidst the constant probing from this way and that, and with their midfield also forced deep it gave Town extra men almost everywhere on the pitch with the exception of within the penalty area. From their perspective, of course, one must ask the question: what are they to do? They would have known in terms of fitness and ability they would be second best, so once ahead retreating deep was always going to be the safest option. It worked for a while as Dan Smith had a shot saved by Joe Moore, Adam Kelly headed over, and twice Sam Malsom saw efforts blocked, and Elmore’s discipline and simple flooding of one third of the pitch worked in terms of keeping their goal advantage intact until the change of ends.

Tivvy’s response after the break was clinical; deliberately more direct yet with fewer long diagonal balls out to the wingers, Nick Rudge’s impact as a substitute cannot be understated. His presence alone in place of Stephen Reed offered Town more central penetration, pace, and energy, and in turn allowed Shane Krac to take over the mantle of deep-lying string-puller, where Reed had ultimately unimpressed. Nine minutes into the second half Rudge went on a direct run through the middle, was upended in the challenge on he edge of the box, and Malsom curled the free kick over the wall and past Moore. And just a minute or so later Rudge was again in the thick of it, crossing for fellow sub Matt Wright to flick an effort goalwards. Moore saved but a foul in the mêlée that followed gifted Tivvy a penalty which Smith dispatched.

Ahead at last and with expected service now fully resumed it was only a case of how many Tiverton would go on to score. Krak shot just over, Kelly became more prominent playing off Wright (poor Paul Wyatt had too often been forced to play with his back to goal in the first half and anybody who has seen him play before knows that is hardly his strongest point), and Concanen got his token goal when the ball fell back at his feet on the edge of the box after he had an initial shot blocked, his curling left-footed strike finding the bottom corner. The shots rained in from all angles, corners too, Krac, despite playing more conservatively twice went within a smidgen of opening his account for the club (including a delightful try from a shot Smith corner), and Heveran tucked away the fourth Tivvy goal of the night when Moore was unable to hold Kelly’s shot. There was still time for Wright to shoot high when set up by Heveran and for Skinner to have Elmore’s second and final attempt, a low shot which went wide.

All in all the game asked as many questions as it answered: are Reed and Krac the new Gerrard and Lampard? Is Wyatt even an option against teams happy to sit deep? How many goalkeepers will Tiverton this use season and just who is currently the favoured option? Where the hell is Steve Tully? Will we ever play in yellow again? Was the linesman myopic? The answer were: yes, Tivvy have the guts to make right what could so easily go wrong; Matt Wright is by some distance the best centre-forward at the club; while Larkhall was an uphill struggle for some, the season as a whole still seems to be on course. Although it is foolish to get too excited about beating Elmore (1996 was a lot more fun), Wednesday evening proved a decent learning curve for a manager and a host of players for whom Southern League football and Tiverton Town FC is a new thing.

Elmore: Joe Moore, Ian Wheatley, Troy Membury (Johnny Dawe 68), James Skinner, Liam Pike, Darren Veale, Jesse Howe, Brett Worbey, Jordan Copp (Josh Wren 71), Mike Humphreys, Andy Rodgers
Goals: Skinner 3
Booked: Humphreys 57
Sent off: None
Tiverton Town: Michael Searle (Dan Law 46), Josh Concanen, Chris Long, John Heveran, Stephen Reed (Nick Rudge 46), Tom Gardner, Shane Krac, Adam Kelly, Paul Wyatt (Matt Wright 46), Dan Smith, Sam Malsom
Goals: Malsom 54, Smith 56p, Concanen 62, Heveran 71
Booked: Law 82
Sen ott: None
Attendance: 115

This report ©2013 Alan Reidy