Match report

Banbury United 3 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 18/12/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Woe to you O earth and sea
For the Devil sends the Beast with wrath
Because he knows the time is short
Let him who hath understanding reckon the Number of the Beast
For it is a human number
Its number is six-hundred and sixty-six (Revelation 13:18)

When floundering around looking for reasons or excuses to explain the unexplainable - or even just incomprehensible - it is one of the natural tendencies of the human psyche to turn to the supernatural. There are those will that follow the reasoning and evidence of science back along it's path and then‚ when having gone as far as logic will permit‚ will smugly suggest that the lack of further evidence proves the existence of‚ and the almighty creative power of‚ The Supreme Being. Not being a theologian I refuse to enter that debate and though I have equally as little knowledge of the occult and it's powers of good and/or evil‚ I am more inclined to turn in that direction in my search for just what caused the wheels to come of Tiverton Town's trip to Banbury. Inexplicably jaded‚ disjointedly lacklustre‚ frustratingly fruitless. It was a performance that bucked the recent trend and beggared explanation. In desperation to find a door at which to lay the blame‚ and obviously wishing to be included in the reckoning of 'Those who have understanding'‚ I can only cite evil influences. Perhaps it is unjust to suggest that those influences emanated from the watching crowd........but it was they that numbered six-hundred and sixty-six - the number of the beast.

There was little evidence of magical influences‚ either black or white‚ at work as the game got underway despite the plethora of young children scampering around the ground as a result of Banbury's 'Community' day or half the visiting fans turning up in fancy dress to celebrate the beginning of the festive season. On the field it was very much business as usual with each site probing their opponents and exploring the possibilities afforded by their intended game plans. Tiverton attempted to play a tight passing game but soon found that it was unlikely to work as after two or three sweet accurate touches the ball inevitably found a bobble and disrupted their flow. The home side‚ clearly more familiar with the vagaries of the surface and just as obviously placing their hopes on the shoulders of big top scorer Howard Forniton‚ looked to pump long‚ high‚ hard balls forward that might be chased down‚ won and fired into their 'hitman'.

The Yellows did manage to work their way close enough to force in the first shot of the game after four minutes when Kevin Wills fired in an effort that edged wide and two minutes later things were still looking reasonably bright for the visitors when Steve Winter charged down the right to win the first corner of the game. Vinnicombe's cross would have been made for a Rudge charge but in the absence of the big central defender‚ and his replacement Paul Milsom lacking the mobility or agility to get on the end of the ball‚ it was left to David Steele to get under it and send it flying nearly vertical over the crossbar.

As far as penetration went‚ that was about it from Tivvy for a while. Banbury got their act together‚ started weighting their long balls more accurately and with greater variety of distribution‚ and thus began to look more dangerous. A dash down the right saw Jody McKay send a floating cross to the back of the Tiverton penalty area where Chris Potter imparted as much curl onto his header as we expect to see from a Shaun Goff free kick. Mark Ovendale had to be on his toes to pluck the ball out of the air just as it threatened to sneak inside his right hand upright but just a minute later the keeper was not quite as sharp. A free kick wide on the Banbury right was hoisted high across the front of the penalty area. Ovendale started to come‚ hesitated and stopped in no-man's land as the ball carried to Howard Forniton lurking at the back of the box in space. United's top striker delighted in executing a perfectly judged header to send the ball looping over Ovendale and dropping into the net for a sixteenth minute lead.

At that stage Tiverton might have felt that the goal was against the run of play - but they could have no such claims about the subsequent play. Confidence began to grow within the red shirted Puritans as they realised that their tactics of getting the ball into the danger area by the swiftest and most direct route was causing Tivvy problems. They could well have capitalised just three minutes after scoring when Chris Jackson flighted a left wing free kick to the back post and Potter declined a second opportunity to add his name to the scoresheet by lifting the ball over the top from close range.

Tiverton persisted with their attempts to play pretty football in their build ups but the result was too slow an approach that allowed their hosts to track back‚ pack and crowd them out - though Wills did again manage to find the space to swivel and rifle in a ground bound shot that Simon Tricker‚ between the posts for United‚ spilled but grabbed to the safety of his chest as Jamie Mudge followed in.

Perhaps it was an omen‚ a sign that the last of the late-comers had eased through the turnstiles to bring the attendance up to that fateful number. Evil powers were about and interfering with Tivvy's game. No‚ let's be realistic...they weren't up to it. There was no cohesion‚ little link between defence‚ midfield and attack - little recognisable shape. And even when Mudge did create enough space to fire in a shot‚ the demons‚ if it were they‚ decreed that he should not really connect and should therefore present Tricker with only the easiest of saves.

And if those powers were working against the Yellows then if follows that they must be on the side of the Reds. If evidence were required then it was abundantly displayed by the circumstances surrounding Banbury's second goal. Another long ball into the threat zone. George Redknapp to it first and hoisting a delicate lob over the advancing Ovendale. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. The ball heading just inside the upright at about five foot off the ground. David Steele in pursuit and raising his boot to make contact. The ball flying up and across the goalmouth‚ bouncing down off the crossbar and being scrambled away. The referee apparently happy to allow the game to go on (he was behind the action and central - like Tivvy‚ getting caught by the home side's quick‚ direct approach) but checking with hiss assistant. The assistant unequivocally signalling towards the half way line. The goal awarded. 2-0.

Banbury relaxed and looked all the more comfortable and in control for it. Tivvy buzzed around going nowhere. Winter‚ one of few who seemed to be battling with any composure‚ fired in a 25 yard free kick that cannoned away for a corner and the home side mirrored the move at the other end‚ though Tivvy did clear that one. And that was it for the first 45 minutes.

It only ever seems to be Tiverton's opponents that are transformed by the half time pep talk. Yes, The Yellows might show signs of improvement but never of a total revival or revitalisation. And true to form things looked a modicum brighter after the break.

Mudge could not be criticised for trying to do it all on his own when he twisted and turned to make space to lob in a 47th minute shot that floated just inches wide - let's face it he had no support. Wills was as ineffective as he had been on previous occasions as an attacking man and Canham was further strengthening his growing reputation at Tiverton. Why the boy was on the pitch is beyond me. Tivvy would have been better playing with ten men - at least they would not have been distracted by a yellow shirt that was contributing zero.

So for ten minutes or so Tivvy attempted to battle their way back into the game but despite seeing the majority of the ball their efforts were far from convincing. In fact the second period rapidly began to mirror the first half - only a little more compressed as Banbury's break to add the next goal came a few minutes sooner after the start. The fifty-seventh to be precise. That man Forinton again, This time he battled in pursuit down the right and escaped the attentions of Vinnicombe for just long enough and winning just enough space to fire a cross across the face of the goalmouth. Up pops McKay with a glancing header to leave Ovendale flat footed and the home side three up.

Time for changes. But there were only two available. Only two substitutes named. What is all that about? Injuries, suspensions, illness. Too much being spent on too few players?

Goff replaced Steele, Hambly replaced Wills...Not Canham??

Both new men slotted in without causing disruption. In fact nothing much changed with the game other than the fact that noteworthy incidents came less frequently. Forinton got on the end of another high ball to send it over the top and then turned and fired in a snapshot that looked to be the fourth goal until Booth succeeded where Steele had failed in the first half and hammered the ball off the line.

Really that says everything about the last quarter of an hour. What possibilities of a goal that there were came from the home side as they caught Tiverton on the flanks time and time again. Goff made a few attempts to drive The Yellows forward but he had more energy than the remainder of the side could muster. Hambly looked as comfortable and confident as any Tivvy player....and more than some. If players of this young man's ilk are the future of our club then perhaps the future should be brought forward!

The final minute of normal time saw Town come close when Booth (another inexperienced youngster!) escaped on the right and blasted in a shot that woke Tricker to bring a full length save that deflected the ball for a corner. Back and forth across the goalmouth the ball shot before being turned out by a defender again, and this time Tricker claimed cleanly.

Hambly found the defenders backing off him so ran at them briefly before the ball bobbled and ran away from him and then Canham went down as he attempted to gain control of the ball in the penalty area. Another quick look by Mr Singh and an 'added time' penalty for the Yellows. Ah!, just like Donny Rovers....and despatched with even greater venom by Winter as if to vent all his afternoon's frustration.

What wasn't like the Donny game was the other 90 minutes performance. Again all the questions will be asked. No prizes for guessing who will be labelled as the 'Anti-Christ', responsible for all the ills that afflict the world of Tiverton Town. If the hat fit's wear it. It's a very good means of hiding the '666' on the forehead.


Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe, Mike Booth, Paul Milsom, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, David Steele, Sean Canham, Iain Harvey, James Mudge
Booked: Booth

Banbury United: Simon Tricker, Ady Fuller, Chris Jackson, Keiran Sullivan, Jason Burnham, Jody McKay(Mark Essex 83), Ollie Stanbridge, Wayne Blossom, Howard Forniton (Matthew Brandish 89), George Redknapp, Chris Potter (Liam O'Neill 39)
Booked: Redknapp, Fuller

Referee: Mr. Haj Singh (West Bromwich)

Attendance: 666


This report ©2004 John Reidy






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