Match report

Merthyr 0 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Saturday 17/01/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

I guess that in view of the last week´s happenings involving a certain Mr Kilroy-Silk‚ I should be wary of making any comment regarding my feelings about Wales or the Welsh nation as a whole. That‚ though‚ could be difficult in a preamble to my views on Tivvy´s latest visit to the principality. Never-the-less‚ I shall do so‚ trying to remain within the bounds of political correctness as I go‚ and avoiding stereotyping (does that mean typing with both right and left hands?). Actually‚ there should be no problem as the majority of my memories and connections with the Land of Song and its inhabitants - or their descendants - are pleasurable. Unfortunately the closest connection has bittersweet associations. Bitter at the way it ceased - sweet at the two sons who could‚ if they chose and were good enough‚ represent that Celtic breed with a lot more justification that was necessary for John Aldridge to contrive in order to play for Ireland. For The Yellows the memories of the Principality are mainly sugar coated. Journeys across the bridge before this latest excursion had shown an above average return as far as points brought back to Devon were concerned. A win and a draw over Newport County‚ and three points from the previous inaugural visit to Merthyr. That victory in the Town named after St. Tydfil (who in heaven was she? I hear you ask. Try Google!) desperately needed to be repeated after the results in Town´s last two matches had seen Tivvy only avoid sliding down the table by a similar lack of consistency among their rivals or by dint of the inactivity of those teams closest to them. Such is the tightness in points tally among the gaggle of clubs in which Town find themselves that a win could theoretically carry our favourites to third place in the table‚ whilst a defeat could see them languishing as precariously low as 12th. Precariously because they have played more games than so many of the teams below them. Yes‚ a result was needed....and a positive one at that!

Town were quickly into their stride on the heavy pitch and drew first blood in the form of a corner on the right that saw Paul Milsom‚ recalled at the expense of Richard Pears being relegated to the bench‚ bundle the ball wide at the far post when he could so easily have given Tivvy a second minute lead. Two minutes later and a long throw in from their left saw The Martyrs test Stuart Fraser´s handling of high balls‚ the Tivvy keeper sharing the Brownie points by grabbing the ball at the second attempt. Away came The Yellows sweeping the length of the field‚ forcing their way through a crowded right front edge of the Merthyr penalty area to net for the first time. Strangely the goal´ was not allowed to stand as referee Adrian Sainsbury eschewed his option to play advantage and pulled play back to the edge of the area‚ awarding Town a free kick just outside the box. It was to be the first of several decisions by the Devizes based official that were to once again underline the inconsistency of the way in which different referees handle games. The positioning of the kick‚ though‚ gave reasonable hope the Devon fans that something could be gained from the award. All the required personnel were present. Steve Winter‚ Jason Rees and Paul Chenoweth took up their stations. It was not to be. A variation on the so far successful manoeuvre was attempted. It went sadly wrong and the ball was forced out to the wing from where a long cross to the far side of the 18 yard box was hooked Well wide by David Steele. There was still plenty to be optimistic about for the travelling contingent‚ though. Town continued to move forward more than their hosts who showed little imagination in the attacking department and with Nathan Rudge effectively bottling up Merthyr´s top scorer Cortez Belle the balance of play was definitely in Tivvy´s favour.
Come the thirteenth minute and Neil Thomas between the Martyr´s sticks‚ badly sliced an attempt at clearing from a back pass. As the ball span upwards‚ Jamie Mudge changed direction but was forced wide. Turning inwards there was one too many retreating defenders in his way and no support so Jamie was dispossessed. Almost immediately the home side created a chance when Kevin Aherne-Evans latched onto a throw in down the touchline and forced in a cross that Belle headed over the crossbar whilst Mudge replied by bursting into the area at the opposite end‚ this time managing to force in his shot but unable to trouble Thomas who held comfortably. The game was quite open at this stage but there was little doubt that The Yellows were having the better of things. Their raids looked far more likely to bring success than did those of the home side whose defence looked rattled at times whilst Tiverton´s back line appeared to be comfortable. Steve Winter was adding width to the attack well and Paul Milsom was working away to great effect laying balls off for others to run onto. The two of them combined in the 36th minute but Winter´s looping shot was no problem for Thomas‚ nor was Milsom´s gentle flicked on effort from Winter´s cross in the 42nd. The first 45 minutes were brought to an end with Fraser having to make his first save´ of the game as Craig Evans drove a low shot on target. Despite his comparative lack of activity Fraser held the ball cleanly and everything remained as it had been at the outset as the half time whistle sounded.

The second half was barely a minute old when Town showed they were going to continue to push forward. Mudge‚ who seemed likely to pop up anywhere‚ fired in a cross from wide on the right and Milsom´s header had Thomas at full stretch to spectacularly palm the ball away. It wouldn´t have made one iota of difference had he not reached the ball - Kevin Nancekivell‚ who was playing almost as a third forward‚ was lurking in an offside position. Tivvy were obviously well in control of things. Sound and solid across the back line‚ Chenoweth and Holloway up for it´ in mid-field‚ Mudge a constant threat as stretched the Merthyr defence and Milsom the physical presence; all that was needed to complete the balance and rationality of the picture was a goal. In the 53rd minute it looked‚ for a moment‚ as if Paul Milsom was going to provide it. Winter‚ again‚ was the instigator. His long cross in from the right was headed down and back perfectly to the foot of the big man by Nancekivell. Milsom swung his boot but just before it made the contact that would of surely seen the net bulging‚ a Martyr´s leg shot out just enough to flick the ball off his toe. The disappointment of another opening having gone begging was not to last long - three minutes to be precise. During that 180 seconds Merthyr decided to freshen up´ their negligible support for Cortez by replacing Lee John with former Weston - super - Mare striker Justin Pritchard but it was at the back that they needed the fresh legs to cope with Jamie Mudge and his incessant running. Mudge chased onto a long ball through the middle‚ from Rees if I recall correctly‚ but found himself wide of goal to the left and closely attended by a black and white shirt. Unperturbed‚ Jamie turned through 270 degrees to cut in towards the centre. As he began to move into the space he had created he was unceremoniously shoved. There were few arguments from the other retreating Merthyr defenders‚ and what there were were only the token ones that accompany just about every decision made - or come to that‚ not made - by football officials these days. Steve Winter was forward to place the ball on the spot. It rolled. The referee replaced it. It rolled again. Steve replaced it‚ more firmly; then placed it even fore firmly into the back of the net, sending Thomas stepping the wrong way in the process. The deserved lead was attained.
For eleven minutes the score was to remain the same, though a fairly sizeable portion of that time was taken up by the consequences of another example of thoughtless inconsistency from the man in black, and I don´t mean the late Johnny Cash, country music legend who went under that assumed moniker. No, this man was the same one who about an hour earlier had decided not to wait and see if Tiverton could get the ball in the net but had decided to award them a free kick. This time he did wait and see as the ball was trapped beneath two grounded players. Would it come out? let´s wait and see. Two more sets of legs went in to try to dig it out. Would they be successful? Let´s wait and see. More boots joined the fray, must have been a metric dozen in there now....still no sign of the ball. Ah, there´s more than boots flying now....better blow the whistle! Appalling delay and lack of anticipation. Even with the whistle bringing a cessation to play, the action continued with every body within striking(!) distance and some that weren´t joining in. The more placid players joined all three officials in restoring some semblance of order and Mr Sainsbury and his colleagues retreated to confer. Judgement was passed and sentence handed down. Red cards for Chenoweth and Dean Clarke. Someone had seen something obviously. Even if they hadn´t seen the likely outcome of the original trapped ball. Rant over. David Steele joined in the forward motion of the Yellows to fire in a low shot that Thomas held comfortably as proceedings returned to normal. Yes, normal, as in Tivvy swapping attacks with their hosts but looking more incisive. The 67th minute and Town added to their increasingly superior corner kick tally. Lifted in close from the left the ball was headed clear but only as far as Nathan Rudge hovering round the half circle on the penalty box. Rudge steadied himself and volleyed the ball through the mass of bodies crowded around the six yard area and into the net. A just reward for a fine performance from the central defender. Winter made another of his right flank bursts to force in a cross that gave Mudge another chance to test Thomas but the home keeper passed with flying colours as he held the ball cleanly. With ten minutes remaining there was a spate of substitutions as the Welsh side attempted to salvage something from the afternoon. It was in vain. Cortez did actually manage to beat Rudge and force his way towards goal but Fraser was out to spread himself at the Merthyr marksman´s feet to deflect the ball away and allow the recovered Rudge to hack the loose ball into touch for a corner. Seven minutes and 40 seconds after the 90 minutes were up, the whistle was heard for the final time. Town had maintained their South Wales unbeaten record.

To preserve that piece of trivia to the end of the season The Yellows will have to avoid defeat at Newport in March. Now there´s an example of the dangers of racially stereotyping football clubs. On past experiences the welcome in Monmouthshire will be far less amicable; and the ground, though far more modern and therefore less dilapidated, lacks the character of Penydarren Park which, unless the Martyrs record improves could have seen the last visit from Tivvy - for a while at least.


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter, David Steele, Jason Rees, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell (Shaun Goff, 90), Chris Holloway, Paul Milsom (Richard Pears, 83), Paul Chenoweth, James Mudge (Steve Ovens, 88).
Subs not used: Steve Peters, Peter Conning.,
Booked: Ovens.
Sent off: Chenoweth.

Merthyr Tydfil: Neil Thomas, Kevin Aherne-Evans, Paul Keddle( Michael Regan, 82), Craig Evans, Gethin Jones, Gary Thorne, Danny Carter, Dean Clarke, Cortez Belle, Lee John (Julian Pritchard, 55 (GrantThomas, 80)), Jason Donovan.
Subs not used: Adrian Needs, Ian Edwards.
Booked: Jones.
Sent off: Clarke.

Referee: Adrian Sainsbury Devizes)

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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