Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 0 Stafford Rangers

   Saturday 27/03/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

It might be my state of mind‚ but since last week´s preamble I haven´t been able to wrench my thoughts away from holidays. Like my own first family vacation‚ my children´s initial summer break experience came courtesy of Billy Butlin. Intended as a cheap´ spell away from home it was to turn out to be one of the most expensive ever taken. It was fine until we hit the first cafe and found a Space Invaders´ machine set into the table top. Early 80´s‚ it was‚ so this was the latest in hi tech! I have to admit that from that moment on I‚ as well as the boys‚ was hooked. First expense: an endless flow of coins to feed the infernal beast. Second expense: A Sinclair Spectrum to continue the adventure´ at home. Third‚ and most costly‚ expense: hours of wasted time as each family member tried to score more‚ go faster‚ progress further than the others. They were only games but they had that vital element - competition. As soon as someone became too dominant interest from the others waned. A bit like Formula One and the Ferarri / Schumacher Snr combination. Close competition made Speccy´ life interesting and as the prospect of this weekend´s visit from Stafford Rangers loomed‚ that thought about competition also brought hope for an interesting real life football encounter. With one exception‚ Tivvy´s 6-2 drubbing at Marston Road a couple of years ago‚ games between the Yellows and Rangers have always been close‚ certainly at Ladysmead where Town have won by the single goal once and the other meetings have ended all square. It would have been nice‚ in view of the precarious position we find ourselves in‚ to have believed that Tivvy could stroll to an easy and emphatic win but I wasn´t going to hold my breath until it happened. This is not the old Western League!

Thankfully the climatic flatulence of Eastbourne had abated and conditions were good‚ if not ideal. A few moments of tentative exploration and then the game came alive in the third minute as Jamie Mudge and David Steele combined down the Tiverton right with Steele overlapping in a run that threatened to see him run out of space as he reached the by-line in the corner. Braking sharply and twisting back on himself under pressure from defenders‚ Steele managed to force in a low cross that Darren Edwards connected with firmly just five yards out from goal. It brought a fine reaction save from Stafford keeper James Lindley who managed to turn it away from point blank range - a portent of things to come from both goalkeepers. It was Edwards and Steele in the action again a minute later when the Tivvy striker‚ looking lively as he responded to the challenge from his manager to stake his claim for a place‚ burst through onto Steele´s ball to make his own right wing run. This time‚ though‚ the Stafford back line came out on top and Rangers gained possession and began to work their way into the game. Their first reward came with a corner in the 8th minute and that was rapidly followed two minutes later by their first clear cut scoring opportunity. Robert Heath avoided challenges on the Stafford left flank and worked himself enough space to hook in a lowish cross that curled inwards and‚ aided by a deflection‚ totally confused the Tiverton central defenders. One man not befuddled by the changing trajectory of the ball‚ though‚ was Craig Wilding‚ selected in preference to goal-scoring drought sufferer Daniel Davidson who had to be content with a spot on the bench (I can think of more uncomfortable places to have a spot...). The ball flew directly to Wilding who could manage no more than a weak shot that Gareth Williams smothered with ease and possibly a little more dramatic effect than was called for. So ten minutes gone and one chance each but the game being played at a good pace of knots and flowing freely from end to end. Lindley was probably the more active of the keepers‚ rising to pluck a Goff cross out of the air and then scampering across goal with outstretched arms to see out a Mudge curling shot that didn´t bend enough. Steele cracked a snapshot straight at the Stafford glovesman after a long goal kick from Williams had resulted in a head tennis rally before the ball came to earth on David´s toe: so Town were on top but only just.
The pendulum slowly swung the other way around the 25 minute mark and it was the visitors who began to have the better of things with Williams becoming busier‚ stretching to pluck the ball off the head of Wilding from a cross deep out on the flank by Lee Downes and with the half hour mark approaching having to clean up with a save after another long ball in from the left had seen Steve Winter´s clearing header ricochet back off Milsom and fall to Neil Grayson´s reputedly deadly boot. Grayson´s reputation had been massively enhanced with two goals in each of his first duet of appearances for Rangers‚ but though looking sprightly for a 39 year old he was getting little change from the Tiverton back line of Winter‚ Rob Cousins‚ and Milsom‚ all of whom looked comfortable. So despite Town having difficulty in making forward progress‚ thanks partly to a bout of their own ineptitude in the simple operation of passing the ball to one of their own‚ Stafford were unable to weave many telling ways through what was a sound defence When‚ in the 38th minute they did‚ thanks to Nick Colley´s cross from the left after the former Tamworth man had got behind the line from a throw in‚ Wilding staked his claim for the Miss of the Day´ award as he scooped the ball over the Tiverton bar from six yards with all the time and space he could have wanted as The Yellows defence suddenly went AWOL. A couple of minutes later and the same striker(?) beat the offside trap to sprint through the middle onto a long route one clearance by his defensive colleagues to fire in a hook shot on the run that Williams held cleanly with consummate ease. In a final pre interval flurry Edwards burst through into the Stafford penalty area‚ found himself surrounded by three defenders but nevertheless forced a low cross into the goalmouth. Now‚ with three defenders shepherding Darren there had to be space for Mr Mudge and as sure as eggs is eggs Jamie found it‚ but the ball was behind him and as he turned to fire in a decent shot Wayne Daniel lunged to get a boot in the way‚ block the effort and allow his colleagues returning from their marshalling of Edwards to hack the ball away. Plenty of action, plenty of chances, no goals but competitive, flowing football. Entertaining, so no half time moans.

Town started the second half looking as bright as they had at the start of the first. Pushing forward and keeping the action in the Stafford half of the field they had to wait five minutes before they carved out their first concrete opportunity. They won a corner on the left. There were groans from the spectators side of the touchline as the ball was played back along the touch-line rather than being hoisted into the six yard box. The complaints were stillborn in throats, though, as Paul Chenoweth curled the ball in towards the near post. Steele, forward to give height for the original set piece, was still in position and hurled himself horizontally to head the ball solidly, but wide of the upright. Rangers player manager Phil Robinson replaced himself a minute later but Town were still to have the better of the exchanges up to the hour mark. First, Shaun Goff made a powerful run through midfield, twisting and turning his way past, through, over, challenges until eventually stumbling into one red shirt too many. Mudge blasted a free kick from 30 yards out that flew well wide. Edwards brought another great save from Lindley with a 35 yard drive that had the Stafford keeper flying to his left to flick the ball away for a corner. That kick was in turn forced out for a throw, taken long by Steele and headed out of the penalty area where it fell to Goff who imparted ample power but excessive lift to his shot which found the netting above the advertising hordings as it headed towards Safeways (the shot, not the hoardings or netting above.....). Two minutes to the hour and at last the ineffectual Wilding was replaced by Davidson. Instant reaction from Town. Mudge left Craig McAughtrie flat footed as he burst through the middle. Edwards was alongside as Jamie closed on goal with Lindley coming to meet the pair of them. With the keeper committed to closing the angles open to Mudge, Jamie slipped the ball sideways. Lindley changed direction but would have been too late had Edwards kept his cool. As it was Darren shot first time and lifted the ball over the top. Wilding had a challenger for Miss of the Match´. Then, once more, things began to swing the visitors way as Davidson made his impression on the game.
First up was a cross from the right that had the big man pressurising Williams into a punched clearance that was far from clean contact but fell luckily to Winter who was able to hoof clear. Then, Stafford´s misfiring gun showed the trademark danger that had hauled his side back into contention in the encounter between the two teams at Marston Road earlier in the season. Latching onto the ball he showed both his control and pace as he cut diagonally across the Tiverton penalty box leaving Milsom and Cousins in his wake, rounded Williams and fired in a low shot that was goal bound until Milsom, recovering with admirable speed, slid in to cut it off and force the ball out for a corner. Rangers maintained the pressure from the kick as Neil Moore charged forward to meet the ball and send Williams sprawling full length to push the ball round the base of his right hand post for another corner. For the next five minutes, rather like their purple spell in the first period, Rangers buzzed industriously round the Tivvy area, Davidson in particular threatening whenever the ball came near him. But threats are meaningless unless carried out and The Yellow´s defence always looked capable of coping and sure enough, they weathered the onslaught and the game opened out again with ten minutes remaining. Edwards, who had quietened down considerably in the mid section of the second half (though it was noticeable that he was dropping well back in support of the defenders as the visitors pushed forward), came back to life as an attacking force. Harrying Daniel as the central defender attempted to see the ball safely out for a goal kick, Darren´s perseverance saw him win the ball right on the line and leave Daniel in a tangle footed mess as he slid the ball across the goalmouth. From a Devon point of view it was unfortunate that it was the boot of McAughtrie that made contact to clear rather than Kevin Nancekivell´s - ot any other Tiverton foot - that would have surely poked it into the goal. Ian Patchett joined the fray in replacement of Chenoweth and added a degree more forward momentum as Tivvy mounted a final push to secure the point that was in limbo as well as the one being held by Rangers. He set up Mudge whose cross was deflected out for a corner, in turn forced out for a throw in on the left. Long from Steele, the shouts went up for hand ball from behind the Stafford goal but the man in black, Mr Hawkes (not Will Smith - he remained on the Rangers bench through-out) was having none of it - probably quite correctly. One last effort from Stafford as Davidson - who else? - cut from the centre to the left of the penalty area to chip in a shot that Williams was unbothered by, and that was it. A final blast from the whistle and the end to competition for the afternoon.

There was a general feeling of satisfaction with a good game when it was all over. Sure, both sides would have liked to have won, perhaps needed to if their ambitions were to be kept alive. But even the disappointment of only taking one point was mitigated by the quality of the game and the spirit in which it was played. Hard, fair but clean, competitive but sporting and most of all, entertaining. Now, lets grind out some boring wins against teams below us in the league to secure our position for next season. Chelmsford, Grantham, Bath. It should be possible.
Think positively!


Tiverton Town: Gareth Williams, Steve Winter, Shaun Goff, Jason Rees, David Steele, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Paul Chenoweth (Ian Patchett, 80), Darren Edwards, Paul Milsom, Jamie Mudge.
Subs not used: David Hallett, Pete Conning, Ian Nott.
Booked: None

Stafford Rangers: James Lindley, Craig McAughtrie, Richard Beale, Neil Moore, Wayne Daniel, Lee Downes, Phil Robinson (Craig Lovatt, 51), Robert Heath, Craig Wilding (Daniel Davidson, 58), Neil Grayson, Nicholas Colley.
Subs not used: Alan Dodd, Gary Fife, Will Smith,
Booked: None

Referee: Kevin Hawkes (Quedgeley, Gloucs.).

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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