Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 3 Bath City

   Tuesday 19/09/2006   FA Cup
Alan Reidy

A hobby-horse of mine is the British press‚ or more specifically the red-top‚ sensationalist‚ celeb-whoring rags that make up the large majority of newspaper sales in this country. It´s not that they write about things that I don´t particularly care about‚ and on most occasions it is not even the sloppiness and lack of thought that goes into structure and effect of the stories. The main thing that gets my back up is far more conventional‚ something even an ardent purchaser of such a rag would get annoyed about the build em up‚ chop em down´ syndrome‚ that very concept that these media outlets claim is in the readers interests‚ and perhaps justifiably‚ as outrage and slur‚ prying and crying certainly appear to make money. What the journos‚ paid a small fortune for writing such stories seem to forget is that there is that in many cases there is no need to build up and chop down´ as we‚ the human race‚ living in the real world‚ the night before the papers go to press are more than capable of doing this ourselves.

One defeat in eight matches‚ two excellent battling draws at Twerton Park included in that run‚ along with a further impressive draw at Halesowen‚ and a more than impressive victory against Yate Town had seen Tiverton Town‚ yellow clad warriors of Ladysmead build themselves up quite nicely‚ thank you very much. The relative success which had been preceded by a number of years of inane mediocrity had been founded on a good work ethic and a couple of regular star performers‚ and witnesses to such a positive beginning to the new season could be forgiven for believing that Tivvy were back on their game‚ back where they should rightfully belong‚ back to the good ol´ days. But alas‚ with no need for Fleet Street to intervene‚ the Tivvy faithful saw their heroes brought back to earth with a thud as dull as an opposition leader. The Romans came‚ saw and most certainly conquered in what was a mismatch in just about every respect.

The opening exchanges of this FA Cup replay indicated otherwise‚ however‚ as Tivvy raced out of the blocks‚ and a frantic five minutes culminated in the home team further enhancing their false reputation as really-men´ rather than nearly-men´. Chris Holloway‚ one of the early-season stars once again proved his invaluability to the side‚ retaining possession under the greatest of pressure‚ while Barry McConnell was full of running as has become the norm since his arrival to Ladysmead last season. But it was another player the almost forgotten Jamie Mudge‚ barely fit and certainly not as sharp as in the days of yore that carved out the first real goal scoring opportunity‚ and ultimately the first goal itself. Mudge‚ dropping deep‚ saw Chris Bale dart between the Bath City centre halves and played a pass as perfect as a Maxim Magazine airbrush artists work. Bale was away‚ and not only clear but with not a player within fifteen yards of him as he raced goalwards‚ ball at feet. Steve Evans‚ the never unimpressive City custodian advanced to narrow the angle‚ but Bale showed a calmness for which he is not renowned and slotted the ball between Evans´ legs and into an otherwise unguarded net. Tivvy led Bath for the first time this season‚ the first time in three encounters‚ and this time they had home advantage. It was a tabloid writers dream!

No sooner had the dynamic Welsh midfielders effort nestled into the net that the knives were being sharpened‚ for the writing was on the wall. Bath resumed, pressed, and then pressed some more, and simply made a mockery of what should have been a competitive game. Every pass hit its mark, every challenge was won, and every tackle was committed, assured and successful. Tiverton were totally inept for the next thirty minutes, not able to retain possession for more than a handful of passes, not able to decipher the code needed to unlock the Romans´ defence for a second time. It seemed so easy to begin with, but as soon as Bath stepped up to the plate and realised they were in a meaningful match there was only ever one team in it.

Justice to the territorial advantage was done after twenty-five minutes when, receiving a simple pass from Craig Davidge on the right wing, former Yellows midfielder Scott Rogers struck the sweetest of first-time shots into the roof of the net, poor Mark Rock being left helpless. It is fair to say that Rogers would have preferred to have scored such a goal, such a significant goal against just about any other team in the world, but this is the FA Cup and that means stories are created in reality, not fabricated. Scott had written the first chapter of his return to Ladysmead, bittersweet maybe, devastating for the hosts undoubtedly.

Maybe Tiverton brought it on themselves, for as far as Bath City brought the game to the hosts, Town´s parlous containing ploy was no more than a request for punishment. But the equalising blow should have been enough to wake up the sleeping Yellows, encourage them to push on and restore the advantage they had gained in the early part of the game. Not so, as any momentum Tivvy may have had in those opening five minutes was now well and truly banished to distant memory, and all the belief was still with the visiting side. On they charged, laying the Tiverton goal to siege, moving quicker, passing sharper, believing more, much more. Longings for the interval from the home support began far earlier than they should, and Rock was beaten again shortly after the half-hour mark, only for the frame of the goal to help keep the scores level, Jon Holloway looping his headed his effort just a fraction too high. But before the interval there was time for chapter two of the Scott Rogers story. Another strike from the edge of the penalty area, teed up by the effectual Scott Partridge, this time low, but with equal venom and with an equal result, followed by an identical celebration as Rogers rushed to take the plaudits from the travelling support in the corner of the Ladysmead pitch. It was no more than Bath deserved to be ahead, and despite a short passage where Tivvy did manage to play some improved football the advantage gained by the visitors remained intact through to the midway point of the match. Mudge has, in the meantime, worked his way into a good position only to be denied by the safe keeping of Evans, Flack had screamed wide from a promising position, and a series of free kicks had been dealt with by the Romans´ defence with consummate ease. Bath were well worth there 2-1 lead, and there was little indication that the second half would prove much more of a contest than the bulk of the opening period.

And so it proved, for despite the will and desire shown by Tivvy any attacking move was halted before they reached areas of real danger. Holloway and McConnell tried to keep the ball moving swiftly on the green stuff, and Mudge was proving a good option in his outside right position, but rarely was their a final telling pass. Indeed, Mudge found himself isolated with chalk smeared boots on more than one occasion, and was left to cut in on to his less favoured left foot and let fly himself. One effort from the edge of the area trickled harmlessly wide, another bounced thrice before Evans fielded with ease. Tiverton even managed to force a few corners, but neither Mudge nor Darren Davies found the touch to deliver a dangerous set piece.

Bath City, FA Cup specialists of yesteryear were in control, and soaked up what little the Yellows could muster in terms of attacking play before breaking with pace and purpose. Every time they entered the home sides half of the pitch they looked a threat, and Nat Pepperell showed his class on more than one occasion, using guile and trickery to carve through the Tiverton defence as if he was up against a schoolboy team. The tie was put beyond any doubt after sixty-one minutes when a City corner on the left was inadvertently headed on by Tivvy defender Tom Gardner and Partridge scored with a scissors kick against Tivvy for the second time this term.

Paul Wyatt replaced the lethargic Flack while Gardner moved forward to create a three-pronged attack for the home side, but although Town pushed in search of the distant light at the end of the FA Cup tunnel there was never really any danger of a reward. Kwame Ampadu was also introduced in the hope that his experience would help Tiverton dictate the pace of the game and in a last throw of the dice Chris Vinnicombe replaced Davies. But the damage was done, and the reward of a home tie in the next round against Merthyr Tydfil belonged to Bath City. Tiverton, having built themselves up so admirably over the past six weeks were now chopped out of the heavens, primarily by a player that has scored one of the most important goals in the history of the Ladysmead club. But there is no room for sentiment, Scott has moved on and completed a hugely successful return to his old hunting ground. And what is more he did it with the same dignity and charm that he showed when playing in Devon. It´s just a shame he had to make such a dramatic return.

This report ©2006 Alan Reidy

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