Match report

Torquay United 0 - 1 Tiverton Town

   Wednesday 30/07/2003   Devon St Luke's Cup
John Reidy

There were many occasions as I was growing up when I was made to wait. Sometimes I could see the logic - like waiting to cross the road - others seemed nonsensical - no‚ you can´t have a sweet‚ wait til later - others inevitable. It has become something of an anticipatory catchphrase to replace‚ I´m really looking forward to..... (fill in your heart´s desire)‚ with‚ I can´t wait for......even though you know your going to have to wait. And I never really believed‚ nor do I to this day‚ that my mother´s equally platitudal stock reply along the lines that the anticipation would make the forthcoming event even more enjoyable‚ held much truth. I can recall so many cases when the wait did nothing to enhance the occasion. My first date with a young lady that I had fancied´ from the other side of the classroom for months...well‚ perhaps it was only weeks. From the asking to the realisation of the tryst was only about 72 hours. The wait did nothing to embellish the event. It was an unmitigated disaster as the prospect of having the object of my adolescent dreams to myself for an evening ran riot with my overactive teenage hormones and reduced me to a bumbling wreck - a condition from which some would say I´ve never recovered. No‚ I´m not convinced that expectancy is always a good thing. The final game of Tiverton Town´s 2002/3 season was one of those cases‚ like crossing the road‚ where it made sense to delay the action. Both the clubs involved in the Devon Bowl final were embroiled in a hectic finale to their campaigns in more important competitions. It was a prudent step to carry it over to the start of the next term however much I‚ and other fans of course‚ might be looking forward to the event. No point in saying I can´t wait to face The Gulls‚ we were going to have to wait; so we might as well calm down‚ be patient and behave ourselves‚ and stop wining‚ ahhh‚ mum‚ but.....

Both teams had some injury problems affecting their selection; Town the additional handicap´ of Nathan Rudge´s suspension. Never-the-less there were two strong outfits taking the field. The Gulls were in Yellow‚ the Yellows were in white - a further confusion to add to What year is it! and effectively reducing the journalists choice of adjectives. Early moves were purely exploratory‚ albeit at high speed. The result was a scrappy spectacle though Jamie Mudge and Danny Haines showed well on the left. United´s greater experience gradually began to show and twelve minutes in they produced the first serious goal attempt. A prolonged bout of pressure was rounded off by a fierce shot from Martin Gritton as he made a rare escape from the attention of dbutante Matt Aubrey to bring the first of a series of excellent stops from Stuart Fraser. The power of Gritton´s shot was too much for Fraser to be able to hold it but Jason Rees was on hand to hack the loose ball away to safety. Mudge remained Tiverton´s greatest threat and on the quarter-hour he was instrumental in the move that saw Steve Winter whip in a cross that Paul Chenoweth headed over the top of Kevin Dearden´s goal. By the midway mark of the first half there was little if anything to separate the teams as the Mid-Devon side´s defence blunted the Gull´s attack and Tiverton continued to look capable of breaking through with their swift counter attacks. Chris Holloway split Torquay apart with a long ball in the 25th minute that Mudge collected and carried forward‚ forcing in a shot that had Dearden down at the foot of the post to smother. Back came United with their own counter attack and Town´s back line were at full stretch to contain their hosts. Every time the ball was cleared it seemed to be gathered by a United player following in behind the main attack.

Still it was Tivvy that came closest to breaking the deadlock when in the 27th minute Mudge tried a long range lob that was tipped away at the last moment by the keeper. Again the home side stepped up the pressure and twice‚ in the 33rd and 34th minutes were inches from celebrating the lead. The first time it was from a corner on their left. Gritton escaped Aubrey again and met the cross with the deftest of glancing headers to send the ball heading for the net with Fraser nowhere. It was all but over the line. the but being the head of Jason Rees who managed to get enough contact to clear. The pressure though stayed on and another corner was conceded. this time the ball was sent in deeper. It bounced around the edge of the 6 yard area before dropping to David Woozley who let fly. Again the ball was heading for the net. Again there was a Tivvy man on the post‚ the opposite side this time‚ to intervene and keep the scoresheet blank. Town´s second hero? Paul Chenoweth. Despite their continued pressure that was as close as United were to come. Close‚ but not close enough for the home fans who had to admit that over the full 45 minutes Tiverton had been a match‚ at least‚ for their full time opponents.

It was Tivvy that made the first threatening move of the second half. Pears made a pacy(!) burst down the left flank and with Mudge Making ground through the middle it was disappointing that the low cross was weak and caused Dearden no problem. Then it was the Gull´s turn to fly again.....and again....and again. Up went their momentum and up went the strain on the Tiverton defence. The 52nd minute saw Matt Hockley and Sean Hankin work a scissor movement down the Torquay left that had Winter stranded. Hockley finished the move heading wide from Hankin´s cross. Three minutes later Fraser was plucking the ball off Gritton´s head and then Hankin sent in a low drive that again had Fraser in action. There was little respite for Tivvy. As the midfield was dragged back to help in defence Pears also had to drop deeper to collect what balls were coming out from the Town rearguard. That left Mudge to plough a lonely and mainly fruitless furrow up front - if you can call the halfway line the front. It was a gritty defensive display but the Tiverton fans were beginning to wonder how long the troops could resist. Until the 62nd minute‚ it seemed. Gritton it was who´s work lead to the ball finding the net. Bursting through the middle he squeezed between a double challenge to rifle in a shot. Fraser saved well again but could only parry and the ball span across the face of the goal to be bundled into the net at the post by substitute Jonathan Kuffour. The celebrations were short lived. Firstly because Gritton had fell under the dual challenge and was still prostrate. Secondly because referee Simon Hollick (hardly a favourite with Tiverton management‚ players or fans after his (mis?)handling of the game against Exeter City 48 hrs earlier) had spotted that it was a hand that had guided the ball over the line. No goal! Gritton was stretchered off. Play resumed with a massive kick from Fraser‚ blessed relief for the Tivvy defence. The couple of minutes break worked wonders. Tiverton even managed to push forward but a long ball into the left hand corner looked to be too far gone for Danny Haines. Not so. Danny caught it inches from the by line and turned inside to drive in a low cross. Richard Pears threw himself low to get his head to the ball and send it looping past Dearden and into the net. The underdogs were in front.

There is absolutely nothing like a goal to relieve the pressure and lift the spirits. For a few minutes Tivvy poured forward. They were rampant. Equally‚ United were stung. Stung into yet greater effort. Jason Fouler had a shot deflected; Alex Russell had a shot saved. Hankin blasted a free kick through the wall into the safe arms of Fraser and then the Tiverton keeper was beaten by Kuffour after parrying another shot. Fraser was beaten but Rob Cousins was not. Another goal-line clearance. David Steele replaced Nancekivell‚ Goff replaced Haines. Fresh defensive legs to aid in the fight under the cosh. As United pushed everything and everyone forward there was always the chance that they would be caught. It happened on 84 minutes. Mudge‚ still chasing as if he´d only been on the field five minutes‚ charged down the right on a solo run. As Jamie cut in towards goal and Dearden edged out to meet him we all waited for the shot from the youngster. It didn´t come. Mudge looked up and laid the ball across to Steele who had paralleled his run and was faced with a gaping net. Even David will be asking himself how‚ but after steadying himself he sent the ball rocketing into the net - the side netting. It should have been the end of the game‚ as it was there were four minutes more for Tivvy to hang on. One more shot from Kuffour‚ wide. One more header from Kevin Hill‚ wide. No more. The final whistle and the battering was over. The Devon Bowl was returning to Tiverton.

Inevitably the victory bought comparisons. One I heard was last season´s victory at Barnet. For me it didn´t compare. Up in London that day Tivvy were dominant. No‚ I´d compare it to the win with 9 men at Weymouth. There was that kind of resolution in defence. No John Wayne but True Grit´ none the less.

Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser‚ Steve Winter, Danny Haines (Shaun Goff,76), Jason Rees, Matthew Aubery, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell (David Steele, 74), Chris Holloway, Richard Pears, James Mudge, Paul Chenoweth.
Subs not used: Steve Ovens, Luke Vinnicombe, Ben Harris.

Torquay United: Kevin Dearden, Matt Hockley, Sean Hankin, Steve Woods (Lee Cannonville,56), David Woozley, Alex Russell, Jimmy Benefield, Jason Fowler, Martin Gritton (Craig Taylor, 63), David Graham (Jonathan Kuffour,56), Kevin Hill.
Subs not used: Graham Killoughery, Scott Corderoy (GK)

Referee: Simon Hollick (Plymouth)

This report ©2003 John Reidy

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