Match report

Hednesford Town 1 - 0 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 20/11/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

The last - of three - things that come to my mind when Cross Keys are mentioned to me‚ is Hednesford Town FC. The first is generally Public Houses adorned with the name‚ including the one in Tiverton where I first played darts competitively in the town. The association from there to what I believe is the more general significance of the symbol is clear when one considers the Breweries inclination to entitle their hostelries after cornerstones of society ( Hmm.....´The Rat and Parrot´ ???). Rightly or wrongly it has always been my understanding that Cross Keys´ were an ecclesiastical device; representing the means of unlocking the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus they became the badge of St. Peter‚ guardian of that portal to eternity‚ and in flag form were displayed in gold on a halved yellow and white field as the banner of the good Saint´s (alleged) successors as leader of the Church on this mortal coil‚ the Popes. Clearly the connection to The Pitmen of Staffordshire must have become somewhat dissipated to the vaguest degree of tenuousity by the time it reached the Southern League football club. For a start the keys are no longer gold but a doom laden black - a point that I´ll not peruse for fear of awakening the wrath of both Ol´ Nick´ and our Midlands friends. Regardless‚ over the last four years the pilgrimage to the Cross Keys has been religiously completed‚ but sad to say has seldom given rise to a feeling that redemption was just around the corner. With Tivvy in their current precarious position never were they in more need of guidance from other quarters.....one could only hope that by keeping the faith we might be worthy of salvation.....and that the fact that team took the field in a mix´n match combination of home and away kit was duly noticed as a deserving of Brownie´ points by any influential Guardian Angels that happened to be peeking down from above.

The hopes of the travelling supporters that Tivvy would continue with the policy of three up front´ were put in question by the fact that Kezie Ibe was a late withdrawal from the squad wit a hamstring pull. Regardless‚ The Yellows persisted in the ploy‚ moving Kevin Wills forward and slipping David Steele into the vacant midfield slot. Hednesford‚ too‚ had a five goal blast in their previous home game and were equally keen to go on a goal hunt. Tiverton moved forward first‚ rapidly countered by The Pitmen. The home side´s captain‚ Carl Palmer‚ gave notice of their intent with a battling move past Rob Cousins but spoilt the effect by skying his fourth minute shot. Tivvy replied in kind at the other end with a Booth stab at a long throw in that struggled to reach the goalkeeper but it seemed that there would be ample openings for a feast of goals. Booth‚ in fact was getting forward so frequently it was difficult to make out whether it was he or Wills that was fulfilling the third forward role‚ a conundrum further fuelled in the 7th minute when Jamie Mudge played a ball forward and it was Booth at full tilt that was just beaten to it by Ryan Young in the Hednesford goal. Tiverton had established the upper hand and the ball was seldom travelling deep into their half as they applied the screws to the home defence who‚ though stretched‚ held them at bay and earned themselves some brief respite and re-organisation time by hoofing the ball away to await the next assault. It was not quite one way traffic. Tivvy´s lack of actual penetration meant that the ball frequently came back to the halfway line and inevitably it was occasionally collected and held by a Hednesford man. Such a break saw The hosts fire in their first shot on target in the 14th minute but even then it was only after play had been stopped for an offence by a Tiverton defender. and from twenty five yards out Matthew Turner blasted a shot in that failed to trouble mark Ovendale. From the clearance Tivvy could have taken the lead as they made ground on the left and Paul Milsom fought his way out of a tight corner to force in a cross. Mudge swung and hit in a shot that was deflected across the goalmouth where Steele just failed to make contact as he lunged in at the base of the far post. And that was to be the tale of Tiverton´s attempts on goal‚ plentiful though they were. Deflected‚ blocked‚ sometimes even delayed and therefore cancelled by the determination of the defenders to get a touch to every threat.
Mudge fed Milsom whose shot was tackled out for a corner. Nathan Rudge charged forward for the kick but his header into the ground bounced up just inches wide of the upright on 17 minutes: Hednesford replied with another free kick that curled past the angle of the goal frame: Mudge sent Wills bursting forward but he was tackled and the ball fell to Harvey who saw his attempt also beaten away. A long ball through the middle had Young charging forward out of his area to head the ball away from the chasing Wills. When it fell to Booth 40 yards out‚ the youngster quite rightly tried to lob it back over the top but it was always curling wide of the mark. Three minutes later and Milsom headed a cross down to Wills who slipped the ball back but the big man´s drive was....yes deflected. Back at the quiet end of the pitch Ovendale held a shot from Palmer after he had been found by a cross from the left during what has to be regarded as Hednesford´s best period of pressure so far....they had at least managed to get a shot in! A far more energetic save was called for from Young as Tiverton headed back down the other end. Milsom on the right; turned inside to Wills; a touch on to Steele and a low drive forcing the keeper down quickly to save. With even Chris Vinnicombe spending much of his time in opposition territory it was inevitable that he would be involved in one of the plethora of chances that were being created. Caught forward by a long clearance the Tivvy man chased the ball back into his own half and swivelled to hook it back from whence it had come‚ finding Mudge in the process. The Tiverton man collected the ball but hit his shot high over the crossbar. It looked‚ as 45 minutes registered on the stopwatch‚ that all Tiverton´s first half effort was going to prove to be in vain. In reality it was far worse as when Steve Winter dropped a Tivvy free kick from wide on the right into the penalty area and it was collected by Young there was no rapid retreat. Young bowled the ball out and forward it went to Turner who charged down the wing‚ Winter now in full pursuit but yards adrift. Rob Cousins moved across to try to disrupt the flow of Turners run. Turner was past before Cousins could get there. Down to the by-line almost and thump in the near post cross. Perfectly placed for and perfectly met by the head of Andy Bell. The home side in front at the interval. Sometimes reality is more unlikely than fantasy. It could have been five - or more - in the opposite direction!

Following the interval there was only a slight indication that the game was about to change in any dramatic way. Hednesford were competitive for the opening five minutes or so‚ nay even longer for they caught Tivvy on the break in the 52nd minute and Leon McSweeney went close with a swirling drive. Tivvy bounced back with what was to turn out to be their most gilt edged opportunity of the game. Wills through one on one with Young was thwarted by the goalkeepers legs and the ball rolled free across the penalty area to Milsom. With apparently ample time to make sure his effort was on target Milsom let fly with a poke that was last seen heading out of the ground and into the depths of Cannock Chase. Hednesford began the Substitutions round well before the hour mark‚ not a bad policy if it is the only way you have of disrupting the flow of your opponents‚ but they were again beginning to have more of an impact than they had in the opening half‚ far more frequently breaking forward as Tivvy pushed up looking for the equaliser. Indeed‚ the first replacement‚ Marlon Walters‚ had barely been on the field five minutes before he came within a fraction of an inch of increasing the margin as he rose to head a right wing free kick just past the post. It was a far more open game even if Tiverton still marginally had the upper hand. A diagonal ball from Mudge on the right‚ in towards Booth (again!) had Young down to smother and a subsequent cross in by Wills was headed away by Lee Barrow‚ a stalwart in the Hednesford back line despite a head bandaged to protect three stitches incurred in a first half incident.
With the balance of play‚ and the lack of time available‚ moving relentlessly in the home side´s favour - not to mention the fact that one or two sets of Devonshire legs appeared to be flagging - changes were made. Shaun Goff came on for Winter‚ quickly followed by Tom Stocco for Milsom. Sadly neither were able to add anything to the contest let alone change it in The Yellows favour. Tivvy huffed and puffed but failed in their attempt to blow the Hednesford house down. It even came close to being re-enforced when the lumbering giant that is the Staffordshire club´s assistant manager‚ Steve Anthrobus latched onto a ball in from a wide left free kick to bring a superb reaction save from Ovendale. The kick had been conceded by a crude hip tackle by Harvey and was indicative of both the frustration and exposure that Tivvy´s situation was causing. It was Harvey´s last contribution to the game as he was replaced for the final couple of minutes by Dave Hallett. Tiverton threw every body forward. Three added time free kicks were gained as Anthrobus thundered solo‚ and without a great degree of delicacy‚ after the long balls that were pumped out from the Hednesford back line. Ovendale took all three‚ the last only a handful of yards inside his own half. It was all futile.

Hednesford´s fans were delighted with the win - and rightly so. They had been overwhelmed in the first half and probably not even been able to claim they had the better of the second. One thing they could claim - and did - was the three points. Goalz Meanz Winz. Winz Meanz Pointz. Pointz Meanz Prizez. The Ladysmead trophy cabinet is not looking as if it´ll need an extension this year.


Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter (Shaun Goff, 77), Chris Vinnicombe, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, Iain Harvey (Dave Hallett, 87), Paul Milsom (Tom Stocco, 81), David Steele, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Jamie Densham.

Booked: Mudge, Vinnicombe, Harvey.


Hednesford Town: Ryan Young, Ross Adams, Mark Branch, Lee Barrow, Richard Teesdale, Grant Beckett (Marlon Walters, 57), Anthony Maguire, Carl Palmer, Andy Bell (Steve Anthrobus, 64), Leon McSweeney, Matthew Turner ( Lee Williams, 89).

Subs not used: Chris Brindley, Paul Evans.

Booked: Anthrobus.


Att: 418


Referee: Mr. C. Henry (Northampton)

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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