Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Worcester City

   Saturday 07/02/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

I have to own up to being in the same mould as Boy George‚ the gender bender´ lead singer in the band Culture Club‚ when he sang in that group´s 1983 (God‚ was it that long ago?) hit Karma Chameleon I´m a man without conviction‚ well - apart from the result of one teenage misdemeanour - I am. Of course‚ in the context of my ramblings here‚ I am only concerned with my conviction about Tivvy and their ability to perform so I have to admit that my pre match thoughts on Worcester City´s visit to Ladysmead tended towards the negative. With City´s recent record of being unbeaten in their previous four league games‚ including a four goal thumping of Nuneaton Borough‚ the injuries ruling out some members of the Tivvy team and the self inflicted staff shortage within the squad thanks to indiscretions earlier in the season‚ I was not optimistic about the outcome. I confess‚ I was mentally filing all the adages about chickens coming home to roost‚ reaping what one sows‚ even making one´s bed and therefore having to lie on it‚ preparatory to scribing a requiem for The Yellows. Even the result attained in a similar scenario‚ when the then high flying Hinckley United came to Devon prior to Christmas‚ did not lift the prospect of a doom ridden vista in my crystal ball of anticipation. Perhaps I should add another conviction to my unimpressive curricula vital - being guilty of unremitting pessimism in matters concerning Tiverton Town FC. Yes‚ m´lord‚ I accept the charge and plead for leniency in sentencing. Perhaps something like being forced to remain cheerful about a trip to Billericay on a Monday evening would be appropriate.......

The Ladysmead pitch was heavy‚ very heavy. There were going to be some tired legs out there before the afternoon was over‚ very tired. Not that any of those watching had reason to suspect that the players were making allowances for the fact and pacing themselves early on. With little chance of being able to trust the surface later on there was quite a degree of urgency about the opening moves with both sides looking to play forward moving football and take control of the game. It resulted in an evenly balanced initial five minutes but it was Tivvy who‚ as befits a home side‚ edged their way on top without really threatening to score. Never-the-less‚ it was Danny McDonnell in the City goal that saw more of the ball and it wasn´t until the tenth minute that Ian Nott muddied his gloves when a city free kick was lobbed forward for the Tivvy stand-in custodian of the mesh´ to comfortably take at head height without a visiting player moving within five yards of him. Two minutes later Town carved out their first real opening. Chris Holloway and David Steele‚ who was looking far more comfortable in midfield than he has in recent outings as a wing back‚ combined to set Steele away on a surging run down the left. Steele lofted in a cross that was met in the area and nodded down by the head of Darren Edwards. Nodded down to the foot of Kevin Nancekivell‚ but Tivvy´s predatory midfielder had to stretch in the mud to make contact and the final shot lacked power and was easily intercepted by McDonnell. Just past the quarter of an hour mark and it was Jamie Mudge´s turn to hoist a ball into the area‚ this time from the left. Again it was the head of Edwards that got to the ball this time steering it on to Steve Ovens who was far advanced for a wing back. Ovo´s header tested McDonnell but the keeper passed with flying colours. With Tiverton now well established as top dogs there was little cause for Ovens to drop back to his nominally defensive role and he was still in a position to attack the City penalty area when McDonnell´s weak clearance was quickly returned and Edwards beat the ragged attempt at an offside trap by the Worcester back line to burst forward on the right‚ carry the ball almost to the by-line and lay it back into Steve´s path. It was only the woodwork that kept the scoresheet blank as Ovens thundered in a rising shot from ten yards out. And that was to be the way the game continued. Tivvy´s upper hand was confirmed by the statistics midway through the first half. Definite chances three‚ against zero for the visitors. Town players caught offside as they marauded forward- five against City´s nil. But the only statistic that really counts is the one that records goals scored‚ and that vital column remained at zero too. If it were to be changed it seemed unlikely to do so at the behest of City. Their main strikers Mark Owen and Leon Kelly were effectively manacled by the confident dominance of Nathan Rudge and Rob Cousins. Steve Winter swept up anything that travelled beyond them and Shaun Goff was unthreatened on the left. In midfield Holloway was‚ as ever‚ the spoiler and Steele‚ relishing the fact that he was unrestricted by the touchline‚ was able to add some constructive as opposed to destructive‚ touches. Nancekivell was familiarly bridging the gap to the front men and Ovens was everywhere on the right. Which just left Nott‚ squelching around in the mud and thinking it was money for old rope‚ such was his inactivity. Yes‚ all that was needed to underline the home side´s superiority was a goal.
It nearly came in the 27th minute when Holloway met a long free kick from Winter to have McDonnell scooping the ball off the line but finally arrived in the 31st minute‚ and for all the decent football that Town had played‚ some of it pretty considering the conditions‚ it was a route one strike. Cousins hoisted a long clearance forward from 20 yards inside his own half‚ Mudge sprang the trap and was away‚ hotly pursued by a turning defender. The Blue shirt was left in Jamie´s wake as he reached the edge of the area and cracked the ball past the advancing keeper to put The Yellows in front. The lead might have been doubled almost straight from the restart as Steele executed a neat back heel to send Nancekivell through but McDonnell spread himself well at Kevin´s feet to stifle the threat and three minutes later Ovens fired wide under pressure as he twisted and turned into the penalty area. Ovo was causing all kinds of problems to the Worcester defence´s left side and when Carty upended him in frustration the City defender was the first man of the afternoon to see the yellow card. And it wasn´t only as a potential threat that Ovens was playing his part. At the back he was sound and on 41 minutes split the City defence with a long ball that sent Edwards twisting and turning to the edge of the Worcester box. Darren´s shot was off target but McDonnell was still called into brave action to scoop the wayward effort off the toe of Nancekivell as he was poised to hit it into the net. In the last minute before the break City won a corner. The ball was played back beyond the edge of the Tiverton penalty area and a lobbed shot lifted in. It counted as a shot on target and brought a replay´ of Nott´s previous save´, head height, unchallenged. Damn. more mud on his gloves. Half time.

As Harold Wilson pointed out, a week is a long time in politics, and I´m sure that current incumbent of the Prime Ministerial hot seat, Tony Blair, would agree, in the wake of recent goings on in the House of Commons. And those same long weeks can bring dramatic changes but surely none as conspicuous as those that were registered after a mere fifteen minute break in the changing rooms at Ladysmead. Worcester reacted to what was possibly, nay probably, a half time rollicking from manager John Barton by metamorphosing into a dangerous attacking force. Just as Tiverton had wrested control in the early stages of the first 45 minutes, so City grabbed the initiative upon the recommencement of the game. They could have drawn level within the opening minute. Owen escaped into space on the right and fired in a shot that had Nott at full stretch to hold as the ball took a wicked deflection off Steve Winter. Tivvy responded with a raid of their own but Mudge suffered the ignominy of sending the ball into the Devco forecourt thanks to a vicious bobble off a divot as he swung his boot to shoot. Steele charged forward to beat the line´ but was denied by McDonnell´s smothering slide as he fired goalwards with Nancekivell unmarked and parallel in the centre but then the Tiverton chances dried up and the visitors dominated proceedings. Kelly might have levelled things up in the 56th but Nott´s clean sheet was preserved firstly by the woodwork and then. as the ball came back into play the head of Winter. But the pressure was relentless and after Owen had carried out a neat chest down and turn manoeuvre that resulted in him shooting weakly wide, the yellow defensive wall finally cracked in the 63rd minute. Kelly again escaped the attention of Rudge to break clear towards the right of the penalty are and fire in a shot. Well, he obviously, in the light of subsequent claims regarded it as such, but it was well off target and was more akin to a cross field ball towards the far side of the penalty area where a colleague was covering ground dangerously. Cousins and Winter were in tandem in the centre of the six yard box. Cousins realised the threat and stretched our a leg tin an attempt to stop the ball carrying. He was successful, the ball didn´t continue to the spare City man, but neither did it head where Rob intended, spinning instead into the Tivvy net.
So all square again. City searching for the lead and Tivvy seeking to re-establish themselves. City came closer to realisation of their objective. They continued to have the best of the play and the game spent large periods in the area between the half way line and Town´s penalty area. Town, though, still had their moments on the break. A corner from the left was headed goalwards by Rudge but clasped under the crossbar by McDonnell, Mudge lifted another effort high and Edwards, not as noticeable as he had been in the first half, fired wide from an Ovens head down. At the opposite end Darren Middleton announced his arrival as substitute by forcing Nott into action to parry a fierce shot away and bringing a second goal-line clearance from Winter. Mudge reciprocated in a rare Tiverton attack by chesting down a long right wing cross from Ovens and extracting a good save from McDonnell, a feat repeated a minute later (76th) following a Winter free kick that deflected off an arm in the wall. And so the game petered out, or rather, ground itself and the players to a standstill. By the time it was all over - more half chances having been bogged down at either end - the pitch resembled a field after swede harvesting. One half each, one goal each; but both teams to be congratulated on an entertaining spectacle despite the handicaps.

And me, I resolve to Keep The Faith´. The makeshift line up did what they did before. Played for each other and earned their places through sheer endeavour, team spirit and attitude. They deserved more - including my conviction.


Tiverton Town: Ian Nott, Steve Winter, Shaun Goff, Steve Ovens (David Hallet, 90), Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Chris Holloway, Darren Edwards, David Steele, James Mudge.
Subs not used: Pete Conning.
Booked: Goff, Holloway, Winter.

Worcester City: Danny McDonnell, Alan Davies, Paul Carty, John Holloway, Carl Heeley, John Snape (Liam McDonald, 60), Jai Stanley, Patrick Lyons (Adam Webster, 89), Leon Kelly, Adam Wilde (Darren Middleton, 68).
Subs not used: Daniel Packer, Shaun Hayes
Booked: Carty, Snape.

Referee: Colin Spence (Newquay).

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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