Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 3 Exeter City

   Monday 28/07/2003   Friendly
John Reidy

Time changes everything‚ and as I realise each morning as I look in the mirror‚ not always for the better. It was not so long ago that Devon football had no pattern. I don´t mean the game as played on the field - more the pecking order off the pitch. Plymouth Argyle have always‚ it seems‚ been top of the heap‚ though in their not so good times they have had that position challenged by Exeter City. Torquay United made up a triumvirate of league clubs that were well clear of the rest - Western League part timers who were normally streets behind. This season‚ however‚ sees a clear Devon pyramid in existence for the first time. One club in each of four consecutive layers of the pyramid followed by the narrowest of gaps in the Dr Martens Western Division before the Western League sides come into the equation to complete the pattern. If Bideford had won the Screwfix League and stepped up last season it would have completed the picture; or perhaps Taunton Town might be considered honorary Devonians´ considering their South Devon connections. No‚ on second thoughts I don´t think I´d go along with that. Exeter City´s traumatic 2002/3 season had seem them take one prized claim away from Tiverton Town - that of being Devon´s top non-league side. Not only that‚ City´s unhappy demise had robbed Tivvy of the possibility of being able to claim at some future date that they were the County´s first Conference side. With nothing more than pride at stake the pre - season meeting between the clubs was only relevant in one way. How far had City slipped and how far had they rebuilt; and for the Yellows‚ how far were they off Conference class - being able to compare two sides from that level in three days.

City started the more brightly‚ maybe driven forward by the belief that Town were a reasonable benchmark by which to measure the opposition they are likely to face in their new league campaign. After five minutes things had levelled out somewhat as Tivvy got into their stride and it was the Yellows that made the first attempt on goal - in the broadest sense as Jamie Mudge sent the ball high and wide over the sponsors end. It was an end to end encounter and on ten minutes Stuart Fraser had to be sharp to dash to the edge of the penalty area to force David Gilroy into rushing his shot to send it as far adrift as Mudge´s earlier effort. City continued to look more energetic without seriously threatening the Tiverton defence‚ whilst the home side´s slower more methodical build up provided an interesting contrast of styles. Also interesting was The Grecians goalkeeper‚ James Bittner who Tivvy had faced last season when he had played for Chippenham and the season before that as a member of the Bath City squad. Interesting since‚ having fallen out with Chipps´‚ his had been one of the names mentioned as a possible replacement for Paul Edwards. And it was Bittner who was the busier of the two custodians. In the 18th minute two crosses were flighted in. The first from the right saw David Steele bundled off the ball‚ which flew out to the opposite wing to be crossed in again where Richard Pears made head contact but was unable to seriously test Bittner who collected easily. On 20 minutes Tivvy could well have taken the lead when from a move down the right Steele headed on a cross that Mudge managed to lift over the bar from four yards out when it fell to him in what seemed to be acres of space. Twenty six minutes gone and Town looked to be clearly on top. An intricate double triangle move between Pears and Mudge broke down on the edge of the penalty are as a defenders boot intervened. The ball was carried forward to the centre circle but a strong intervention by Steele saw possession regained as it went loose and was swept up by Pears who fired in a shot that was just wide of the mark.
Then ten minutes of high drama changed the entire complexion of the evening. Twenty seven gone and the Tiverton goal came under threat. Fraser was forced to punch to clear a high cross. City decided that such moves might produce results‚ and they would know Fraser´s weaknesses if anyone would. A couple of minutes later and Steve Flack floated in another high one. This time Fraser held and cleared up field for Pears to break through the middle and cause Bittner to charge forward and spread himself bravely to deflect the ball away with his legs. Right on the half hour it was City´s turn to charge forward on the break down the left. Coppinger´s cross was hammered off the crossbar by Gilroy but with Fraser grounded the Grecian slid the rebound home to give the visitors the lead. Tiverton´s reaction to falling behind was not pleasant. As City charged forward the tackles flew in. Worse came from Chris Holloway and referee Simon Hollick advised that he be substituted. Paul Chenoweth joined the fray in his place but before he had a chance to settle Nathan Rudge‚ who had already caused Hollick´s finger to be raised in admonishment for his choice of words used to describe the official and his decisions‚ upended Gilroy. The tackle itself was possibly not as bad as it was made to look by the felled Grecian. What was bad was the stream of expletives that emanated from Rudge´s oral orifice - or to use a term more in keeping with the Tiverton No. 5´s vocabulary‚ gob. Hollick‚ and a good proportion of the 852 paying spectators too‚ had heard enough and showed Rudge the red card. Yellow was shown a couple of minutes later to City´s Martin Thomas for a tackle on Rees‚ and there was one chance at each end created before the half time break‚ a 30 yarder from Mudge that carried straight to Bittner´s belly and a long range effort from Barry McConnell that lifted just clear of Fraser´s crossbar.

Part two was inevitably different. City had a spare man and were intent on capitalising on that advantage. They went straight for the jugular forcing a corner in the 48th minute as Fraser could only get his legs to a swerving shot from the edge of the penalty area by Thomas. When the kick was taken there was a bout of bagatelle before the ball finally fell to Gareth Sheldon who drove it low‚ hard and straight‚ through the crowd and into the net to double the lead. Having drawn blood for the second time City adopted the role of an insatiable vampire and went for more. Briefly interrupting matters to make substitutions they began to pepper the Tiverton goal. Les Afful burst through‚ leaving Jason Rees in his wake to fire in a low cross shot that had Fraser down low and in the 57th minute Coppinger fired in a long range effort that was only inches wide. City had everything under control and even‚ old man´ Steve Flack looked almost worth Chester City´s valuation of him. Thomas‚ Afful‚ and Reinier Moor were certainly looking the part of League stars let alone Conference players. They did have that man advantage it is true but the goals had dispelled any apprehension they might have had. Twice Fraser was called into action to prevent Moor from adding to the scoreline but come the 79th minute and the Grecian live wire delivered the goal he richly deserved. A solo run down the left‚ cut in from the corner of the penalty box to the edge of the six yard area‚ look up and across for the team-mate charging through the middle and with the keeper hesitating between dealing with the shot or covering the cross‚ fire low inside the post. 3 - 0 and game over. Well‚ it had been over really since the sending off‚ but to underline the fact City spent the remaining ten minutes shooting on sight. Tivvy couldn´t even get within sight let alone within shooting distance. The final whistle was a relief.

It has often been said that a good referee is one that you don´t notice. I´d generally go along with that. At the same time I´d qualify the opinion by saying that he can only be allowed to remain anonymous if the players play the game. Hollick had no option to take the action that killed this match as a contest. He was not responsible for ending what had been an entertaining and delicately balanced encounter. I don´t need to name the culprit. The overall effect is that there was no morale booster for the Yellows before the more important fixture on Wednesday evening. Martyn has a double problem. To fire up the lads for the St Lukes Bowl‚ and to sort out the central defence.

Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser‚ Andrew Robinson‚ Danny Haines‚ Nathan Rudge‚ Rob Cousins‚ Steve Winter‚ Chris Holloway, Richard Pears, Jamie Mudge, David Steele.
Subs: Kevin Nancekivell, Steve Ovens, Paul Chenoweth, Luke Vinnicombe, Ben Harris, Marcus Gross.

Exeter City: James Bittner, Lewis Read, Alex Stanley, Barry McConnell, Santos Gais, Alex Jeannin, James Coppinger, Kwame Ampadu, Steve Flack, Dave Gilroy, Gareth Sheldon.
Subs: Martin Thomas, Chris Todd, Sean Canham, Reinier Moor, Dominic Rivens, Dean Moxey, Ed Forbes, Jonathan Harris, Les Afful, Martin Rice.

This report ©2003 John Reidy

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