Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 1 Hitchin Town

   Saturday 19/08/2006   Southern League Premier Division
Alan Reidy

If the end result is all that matters then Tiverton Town Football Club can look back at the opening day of the Southern League season‚ rub their hands together in quiet satisfaction‚ pat each other on the back and feel pretty pleased with their afternoon´s work. But the stark reality is that‚ while results are king‚ there are still plaudits handed out for quality‚ and on an inclement August Saturday both teams were lacking in this department for large periods of the match.

The Yellows started brightly enough‚ and inside the first five minutes or so they had already set their sights‚ although the radar clearly needed some fine tuning. Chris Bale drilled an effort inches wide of Paul Taylor´s right upright‚ and Steve Flack produced a mirror image‚ being denied by inches on the other side. Flack did get the ball into the net moments later but his effort was ruled out for offside‚ and as the half progressed so the Canaries of Hitchin found their perch and eased their way into contention.

Mark Rock‚ making his competitive debut as the Tivvy glovesman found himself rooted for the one and only time as the visitors took a twentieth minute lead. Taylor´s punt upfield was not dealt with by Danny Harris‚ and Wayne Mills encroached between a static back four and the goalkeeper to lift a tasty header beyond Rock and into the net.

The lead could and perhaps should have been increased‚ but Rock lived up to his name with a solid display‚ and both Carl Williams and Gavin Jaggard saw chances go begging. The writing was already being etched onto the wall‚ and Harris´ deflected free kick at the other end offered little hope that Tiverton could drag their way back into the game a game that was already starting to peter out as the first half drew to a close.

After an uninspiring 45 minutes of flat-four football the second period opened with a double substitution by the home team‚ and a return to the more familiar tried and tested wingback system. It was a kick in the teeth to the complainants as this new old style reaped almost immediate reward. Tivvy attacked‚ played with vigour and intent at a high tempo‚ and drew level after 52 minutes. A series of corners on the right‚ all swung in dangerously by Darren Davies culminated in Barry McConnell stooping unmarked to nod in an equaliser that was deserved purely on the new found belief that had been instilled in the home side.

Barely three minutes later Town were ahead. Flack‚ impressive in his role as a target striker was able to head down a long ball perfectly into the path of Bale‚ and the Welsh midfielder rushed in to connect sweetly‚ sending a pile-driver beneath the body of the despairing Taylor. It was a lead that Tivvy would hold through to the final whistle‚ and a victory that was ground out rather than emphatically earned. The final minutes were tense as Hitchin sought a leveller‚ but for all their best efforts the Yellows backline held firm. A special mention should go to Rock who was particularly impressive‚ picking out everything within his area‚ foiling attacks with his shrewd and consistent positioning‚ and generally putting in a performance with which both he‚ the manager and the Tiverton defence can draw a great deal of confidence from.

McConnell and Bale were sharp and decisive in midfield‚ while Rudge looked after the back line‚ be it three‚ four or five with a majestic swagger. The addition of Tom Gardner at the half way reshuffle must also be seen as a masterpiece of tacticmanship‚ as the centre half proved to be as solid as one could wish for in the dying minutes when Hitchin were throwing everything at Tiverton.

No‚ it wasn´t pretty‚ but it was workmanlike‚ effective‚ and it was an opening day victory.

This report ©2006 Alan Reidy






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