Match report

Tiverton Town 4 - 1 Merthyr

   Saturday 28/12/2013   Southern League First Division
Alan Reidy

Top of the league – you’re having a laugh. There would have been few people laughing in the visitor’s changing room after the match, a match which had seen Tiverton ruthlessly exploit the very visible frailties within the Merthyr defensive line, and three first-half goals all but put to bed any doubts as to the destination of the three league points on offer. The Martyrs were reeling even before kick-off having shipped four goals in each of their last two outings: without even a consolation at Mangotsfield a week ago and then five days later in a draw at home to Cinderford who equalised deep into added time. So statistically there would have been means for encouragement in the Tivvy camp, and twenty minutes into the game it was clear to see just where Merthyr’s problems lay. They lined up with a curiously high flat back four – and could well have found themselves six goals behind with less than a quarter of the game played. That is not said with even a hint of exaggeration: Dan Smith and Michael Nardiello in particular were finding it all too easy to use their pace against a Merthyr defence;  Nardiello should have scored when he broke through and eased onto a cutting pass from Shane Krac, but Tivvy had to settle for a corner when Giles Cutlan managed to get the faintest touch on the ball and send it just wide of the post. Smith’s corner was flicked on by Ed Palmer, Tom Gardner volleyed the ball into the net and Town were on their way.

Twice Max Kowal missed when it was easier to score, the most embarrassing going over from four yards following an indirect free kick awarded against Cutlan for picking up a backpass from Alun Griffiths. Nardiello also went close again and there may have been thoughts that Tivvy’s lack of killer instinct could haunt them later in the afternoon. The Yellows were so handsomely on top throughout the first half that it would have been easy to feel sorry for Merthyr had they not been so comically awful, and when they weren’t turning like tugboats to give hopeless chase they were kicking and tripping the Tiverton players in order to break up the flow of the match. One such foul thirty-something yards out allowed Palmer to dip a humdinger of a free kick over the wall, over Cutlan and beneath the bar, and that gave Tivvy the cushion they deserved, not that they were quite ready to ease off at this early stage. There was still hay to make and although the Martyrs attack briefly took the pressure off their defence they never really looked like troubling the underworked Michael Searle – one shot plenty too high and another, deflected wide inadvertently off a fellow attacker, was just about all the visitors could rustle up before Nardiello added his name to the list of goalscorers by rolling the ball disturbingly slowly over the line after James Richards had cracked an effort off the post.  That was quite enough for the first half, although Palmer belted in another free kick from a similar range to his first which didn’t trouble Cutlan but would have left Ryan Prosser in no doubts that Palmer can pack plenty of energy into his right foot.

The second half was contrasting to the first with Tivvy now happy to sit back, nine men behind the ball became ten at times once Kowal had departed and Aaron Wilson came on to add an extra body into the midfield, and Merthyr – aided by a double substitution – now looked the more likely to trouble the scoreboard. Searle remained unflappable, however, and Tivvy still looked dangerous when they broke with pace, although the balance of the team had been upset once Smith and Josh Searle swapped flanks, so goalscoring chances were few and far between. That is until the away side grabbed one back with a snapshot from the edge of the area by Kerry Morgan. That strike gave Merthyr a further lift and for five or ten minutes they harboured thoughts of salvaging a point that had seemed a million miles away earlier in the afternoon. That it wasn’t to be was down mainly to the perfect reading of dangerous situations from Palmer, a mountain of a man in the Tivvy defence, and not only did he continuously break up play with well-times interceptions, but his distribution into the midfield areas with without question, leaving most to ponder just how he avoided the honour of picking up the bottle of plonk as Man of the Match. That distinction instead went to Gardner, announced to polite applause after Nardiello and Krac had given way for Matt Wright and Marcus Martin. And after weathering what storm Merthyr were able to brew (which was not much - the nearest they came to another goal was when John Heveran's backwards header almost saw Searle wrong-footed) the game was put to bed a few minutes from the end as Smith’s short corner was curled deliciously towards the far post by Richards, and Wright guided his header just inside the upright.

On this showing it is difficult to reason why Merthyr had started the day on top of the pile, but we can be sure they aren’t always this woeful because teams a lot worse than Tivvy would have won easily against them. It’s also difficult to understand how Tivvy, so creative and disciplined, contrived to lose 3-0 at Bishop’s Cleeve just five weeks ago. Such uncertainty is the reason we keep coming back, and regardless of form there is no guarantee of more points to add to the total when the Yellows entertain Wimborne on New Year’s Day.


Tiverton Town: Michael Searle, James Richards, Chris Long, Ed Palmer, John Heveran, Tom Gardner, Shane Krac (Marcus Martin 87), Dan Smith, Michael Nardiello (Matt Wright 61), Maksym Kowal (Aaron Wilson 64), Josh Searle
Goals: Gardner 9, Palmer 31, Nardiello 41, Wright 83
Booked: Nardiello
Sent off: None

Merthyr Town: Giles Cutlan, Steve Williams, Alun Griffiths (Marcus Griffiths 54), Jamie Rewbury, Andrew Thomas (Dan Summerfield 60), Matthew Harris, Ryan Newman, Aaron Cornwall (Kerry Morgan 54), Ryan Charles, Luke Prosser, Kayne McLaggon
Goal: Morgan 74
Booked: Harris
Sent off: None

Attendance: 357


This report ©2013 Alan Reidy