Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 0 Halesowen Town

   Saturday 12/03/2005   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

If one of the justifications for operating a play-off system to decide the final promotion place is that it keeps the season ´alive´ for a greater number of clubs‚ then a glance at Tivvy´s final clutch of home fixtures could certainly be offered as justification. The computer‚ though rumour has it that it´s actually Southern League Secretary Denis Strudwick´s notebook and pencil as he lounges by some sun-soaked pool during his annual trip to fairer climes‚ that churns out the fixture lists could well have decided that even if they were not going to be directly involved in the battle‚ Tiverton Town´s season was to be kept alight by a major role in deciding the fate of those teams that were fighting for a play off position. All of the top four clubs in the table as the season rolled into March were to travel west to Ladysmead. The optimists among The Yellows supporters saw it as an opportunity to upset four apple-carts and perhaps in doing so Tivvy could force themselves back into contention‚ a viewpoint which was reinforced with a cursory glance at the other fixtures where visits to the bottom two clubs‚ already almost certainly doooooooomed‚ and home and away games against teams only just clear of the relegation slots made the possibility of a final day showdown with Kings Lynn in Norfolk a bit more than a dream. The Pessimists‚ glass half empty as always and staking a claim to having a true grasp of reality‚ felt that it was just too great a task......Either way‚ for the faithful (or otherwise) that made their way through the turnstiles for that final fling‚ the prospects of a competitive end to the first season of the re-vamped Southern League Premier Division were good. Starting with the visit of the mysterious Yeltz‚ the West Midlands surprise package who came to Devon occupying third place in the table.

Tivvy made a bright start‚ but in comparison to the jaded performance on the previous Tuesday up at Histon‚ that was not difficult. Forward play saw them win the first corner of the game in the third minute out on the left and with a little luck the ball might have been forced home in the scramble that developed at the near post but Iain Harvey´s final touch sent the ball wide of the upright. Though most of the attacking play was coming from the home side there was little further sign of a breakthrough until the 12th minute when Steve Winter crossed to the left to curl in a teasing free kick that Stewart Yetton headed down into the ground to bounce a foot wide of the right hand post.
Halesowen do not have a particularly outstanding defensive record but they were certainly looking well organised and sound enough to hold Tivvy off. From that soundness they were able to build a base and for log spells the game developed into a battle to establish some control of the midfield areas as Tiverton´s defence matched that of their visitors for solidarity. For a while in the middle portion of the first half it looked as if Tiverton were gaining the upper hand in that central contest and were therefore more likely to make some kind of headway but even when they did they lacked the penetration to turn it to their advantage.
There was a rare bright moment for the home fans when The Yellows were awarded a 19th minute free kick just inside the visitors half. Too far out for the long ball into the penalty area‚ Winter hit the ball forward and low to Jamie Mudge who held it and turned out towards the touch line. Threatening to round the defender close on him‚ he surprised everyone by deftly back heeling the ball into the path of Winter who had followed the path of his kick. And the unexpected didn´t stop there as‚ ignoring the temptation to lift in the cross‚ Winter again slipped the ball forward along the ground for Mudge who had continued round his marker without the ball‚ recollected it‚ took it to the by-line where the magic stopped as his cross was diverted away off a Yeltz boot.
And the fact that that move could be regarded a high-light‚ really sums up what the game had settled into: a dour affair of little excitement or even shape. Both sides were failing to keep possession. Both sides were guilty of lack of constructive moves. Both sides became increasingly inclined to miss out their midfield and hoof the ball forward in the hope that their front men might gain possession‚ which was unlikely unless there was a major foul up by a defender. More typical action saw Mike Booth collect the ball just inside his own half and with twenty or more yards of clear beach (I had to make reference to the sand‚ if only to satisfy the Halesowen fans) in front of him‚ hoist the ball forward for Mudge to chase; or the two W´s ‚ Winter and Wills enjoying a bout of head tennis before Harvey interrupted their fun by lobbing the ball forward in the hole that someone would take up the pursuit.
There was another brief moment of relief from the tedium when Chris Vinnicombe made ground on the left and swung a cross field ball right over to the right where Winter was in space and with an empty channel between him and the goal through which he motored to hammer in a shot that crashed off Chris Taylor in the Yeltz goal as he successfully narrowed the angle. The ball came back to Winter who´s second effort was met with a full length diving header by a defender who had his blushes spared by a colleague covering on the line who‚ amid howls of handball from behind the goal‚ was able to block the ball and scramble it away to safety.
Them with the half-time tea queue busters already on their way for their refreshments‚ the break through came. Unsurprisingly it came via route one. Mark Ovendale lifted a magnificent clearance from the edge of his penalty area right down the middle of the field. Half way into the Halesowen half it came to ground‚ close to the two Yeltz central defenders. Jamie wathes the ball go in the netWhether they confused each other or just chose to allow the ball to bounce that´s just what it did‚ up and over their heads with Mudge nipping round the pair of them to latch onto it and make a bee line for goal. Straight down the middle with Taylor coming to meet him but a perfectly placed shot under the keeper to give Tivvy the lead.
There were a couple of minutes of added time through which it was clear that the goal had brightened the home side up‚ but no further worthwhile action.


For the first five minutes after the break it seemed as if Tiverton just might continue where they had left off - once again they were the livelier side. Halesowen showed no great enthusiasm‚ nor did they look like a side sitting in such an elevated position in the league table. They did manage to exert a little pressure on the Tivvy back line and forced a pair of corners on the left after seven minutes of action‚ but even they brought little serious pressure to bear on the Tiverton goal on in fact The Yellows ability to make the quick counter attack nearly provided a second goal. The ball was cleared out to Mudge on the right and having made ground‚ Tivvy´s top scorer switched it inside to Yetton who ‚ being closely marked tried a speculative lob over Taylor. The attempt wasn´t quite judged well enough and the keeper was able to collect as easily as if it had been a ball thrown up in the air in a pre-match warm up.
As the game wore on a pattern began to emerge. Halesowen were getting marginally the best of the midfield ball and thus making most of the attacking plays. Surprisingly - without wishing to diss´ the Tiverton defence who were clearly doing a good job - they were pretty ineffective in the forward department. Jimmy Haarhoff‚ who had caused tremendous problems for Tivvy in the early season encounter at The Grove‚ was obviously just as nippy but was not given the space he needed to get up to speed. Nathan Lamey‚ who´s reputation and performances in previous encounters for a number of clubs against The Yellows had earmarked him as a major threat‚ was a mere shadow of his former self - well‚ maybe it was more the opposite....he looked one and a half times his previous self‚ having added an inch or two to his waistline and an equal amount (plus) to his hips - ponderous and lumbering in comparison to the live-wire striker that had turned out at Ladysmead in days of yore. The result was that Mark Ovendale was not really being tested and it was Tiverton that were creating the greater number of openings with their quick counter raids‚ albeit they were mostly of the hoof and chase variety.
The 57th minute saw one such quick break with Mudge away on the left. He slightly overhit his ball into Yetton and the other half of the twin spearhead had to follow the ball wide to the right to recover it. Yetton turned back inside and bundled his way past a defender before firing in a low cross that would have been the perfect return ball for Mudge were it not to have been too close to the keeper who scooped it up with comparable ease. Tivvy´s mini burst of pressure continued with Mudge finding space on the left and firing in a shot that failed to curl as it fairly flew past the far post with Taylor scampering across too late anyway if the ball had swung and another looooooong clearance from Ovendale that again left central defender Niki Preston losing out to the bounce to allow Yetton to gain possession down deep in the right hand corner. This time Yetton´s laid back cross was right for Mudge who hit a fearsome drive just inches wide.
Midway through the second period the Halesowen bench seemed to realise they needed more bite at the front and they rang the changes. It brought a change. The fresh legs saw them pushing even more but the fire power was still lacking and when shots were unleashed they were of more threat to the cars lined up on the Devco forecourt beyond the ground than they were to Ovendale´s clean sheet. Tiverton, too, made substitutions.Substitutions Nogan replaced Yetton and Goff came on for Booth who had seemed to be having problems controlling the ball throughout the game - maybe he isn´t the beach kind of person! The changes didn´t provide any second breakthrough for the home side neither player making any great impact. Any expected onslaught from the visitors as they attempted to rescue something from a game slipping away from them failed to materialise. There was a chance for Mudge to add to his tally with 10 minutes to go as he met a Winter cross with a header that was directed straight at Taylor and a chance for Halesowen to pinch the game when they won a corner in the first seconds of added time.
Even Taylor charged the length of the field for this one and was charging back even more rapidly as Ovendale rose to collect the ball. It was just too crowded in the Tiverton penalty area for Ovendale to find space to launch one of his massive kicks up field or he might well have doubled the margin. As it was Tivvy had to settle for a more orthodox approach from which they gained a free kick level with the penalty area and half way out to the right touch line. It was Goff´s favourite spot but he didn´t impart enough banana´ to the ball and it sailed wide of the fat post. One more long punt from Ovendale, one more chase from Mudge. Turned inside for Nogan the sub striker managed to force in a shot that was deflected for a corner that was taken short just in time to beat the referees whistle bringing the game to an end.

It was not the most exciting or entertaining of games, though the added openness of the second half was an improvement. Most of the homeward bound fans, though, were satisfied - the result being more important than the performance. And Halesowen lived up to their surprise package´ tag - surprising how unlike a top five side , and how ineffectual they were.


Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe, Mike Walker, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills (Paul Milsom, 87), Iain Harvey, Stewart Yetton(Kurt Nogan, 79), Mike Booth(Shaun Goff, 79), James Mudge.

Subs not used: Jamie Densham, Dave Hambly.

Booked: Cousins, Vinnicombe


Halesowen Town: Chris Taylor, Nick Amos, David Haywood, Niki Preston, Steve Pope, Stuart Skidmore, Alex Cowley, Jimmy Haarhoff (Lewis Baker, 67), Nathan Lamey, Nick Smith (Jason Moore, 67), Simon Forsdick.

Subs not used: Ian Cooper, Karl Johnson.

Booked: Lamey, Amos


Att: 519


Referee: Mr. P. Hutton (Plymouth).

This report ©2005 John Reidy






Please note: The � or ? character in some older reports denotes where an error has occured in translation when the reports were transfered between databases