Match report

Tiverton Town 2 - 3 Hednesford Town

   Saturday 01/05/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

Someone has to take the blame‚ it just depends on who. As good candidates as any must be The Tolpuddle Martyrs. If those early Trade Unionists had not organised themselves as they did then there would have been no left´‚ no workers emancipation‚ and therefore no threat of come the revolution.....´. And without that thread in history May Day would have had no basis for celebration and therefore no reason to be a Bank Holiday. But history decreed otherwise and here we are with The Workers´ holiday. Now‚ I´m not saying the labourer doesn´t deserve his days off‚ but surely no worker alone can justify the dedication of a day to their toiling‚ for they could not do it without the aid of others - teamwork! The butcher could not work without the slaughterman. The slaughterman would be redundant without the farmer. Fine. The Worker accepts his responsibility to‚ and reliance on‚ others; a scenario reflected in Tivvy´s position as the last of 42 League fixtures approached. They knew what they had to do to earn their wages´ of a place in Conference 2. They were also aware that they were relying on others. All they could do was execute their job effectively and hope that the other links in the chain held equally firm.

Tivvy started showing a determination to carry out their part of the bargain to the best of their ability‚ something not always obvious this season. Three men up front indicated that the plan was for all out attack and within two minutes a scintillating run from Steve Ovens saw the Hednesford defence happy to concede the first corner of the game. The initial ball in from the right was defended back out to the taker‚ Paul Chenoweth and the second cross was met at the back of the goal area by David Steele whose first time effort was scooped high over the bar. The contest continued and a frantic pace was maintained‚ particularly in Tiverton´s trident style front line with Ovens and Jamie Mudge causing consternation on the ball and Carl Cliff-Brown exploiting every inch of space off it. All Hednesford could offer was breaks out of defence as they concentrated on absorbing the pressure‚ and those breaks were swift and threatening enough to keep Tivvy´s defenders awake. Never the less it was The Yellows that looked most likely to break the deadlock and‚ following the script‚ that is just what they did in the 9th minute. Awarded a free kick just inside The Pitmen´s half and wide on the right‚ Steve Winter took it quickly and hoisted the ball into the left hand side of the Hednesford six yard box where it was met on the volley by Cliff-Brown and rocketed off his boot into the roof of the net. The lead brought confidence‚ not that there had been any indication of a lack of such‚ to the home side. They continued to have the upper hand‚ maintaining the pressure but being held off by the height of the Hednesford back line. Steve Winter was noticeable by his efforts to keep the ball on the ground‚ or at least reasonably close to it‚ though the next goal chance came from an airborne cross from the right by Mudge that was headed over by an effervescent Kevin Nancekivell who was taking every opportunity to increase the numbers of Tivvy´s strike force. There was a prolonged stoppage after quarter of an hour as Rob Cousins required treatment after a clash of heads with Mark Danks as the pair went for a high ball‚ but with a left eye closing like that of a well battered boxer Cousins was able to continue‚ as was Danks who had shown that he was the most dangerous of the Staffordshire sides forwards - and not just for the hardness of his head. That status was confirmed in the 19th minute when he turned Cousins inside out to fire in a cross that had Stuart Fraser troubled and only able to palm the ball on to be poked away under pressure by Nathan Rudge who took a knock in doing so and also required treatment to a torrent of howled abuse from the away fans behind the Tiverton goal. Not sweet on the ears!
So‚ midway through the first 45 minutes and everything seemed to be going to plan‚ particularly since news had filtered through that Chelmsford were leading Merthyr and Eastbourne were a goal behind at Newport. Paul Evans in the Hednesford goal proved he was an able replacement for first choice custodian Ryan Young as he was forced into contortions to grasp a free kick that had already passed over his head. Twisting backwards Evans grabbed and held the ball that had been floated in by Winter from just inside the visitors half after Winter had been unceremoniously upended by Chris Gray‚ earning the first sight of a yellow card for the afternoon. Tiverton were still looking comfortable and in control - but the same might be said of the Hednesford defence who had settled and seemed to have taken the edge off the early pace of Mudge and Ovens. The visitors back line might have been more in the game but they still seldom looked like creating much at the front and what chances there were fell almost exclusively to The Yellows. Nancekivell sent Ovens sprinting to the by-line on the half hour‚ only for Ovo´s cross to be turned away for a corner. Again the visitors defended the kick only well enough to allow a second cross but though Cliff-Brown made contact the ball popped neatly into the clutches of Evans. Ovens had a golden opportunity to increase the lead two minutes later when Steele´s long throw from the left touchline‚ as telling as any corner‚ was nodded down by a white shirted player but Steve´s snapshot from ten yards was a good three feet wide of the upright. Hednesford replied with a weak shot by Danny McGhee after a casual attempt to side-step him by Jason Rees had gone wrong whilst with 5 minutes remaining the ball was touched off Oven´s foot just as he was set to meet Mudge´s low cross. But the best chance‚ and worse miss ‚ of the afternoon came in the 44th minute. Clearing a Hednesford corner‚ the ball fell to Nancekivell just inside the Tivvy half. One touch on and Mudge was away and free heading straight through the middle with just the goalkeeper in front and a couple of defenders behind. Those defenders caught him and Jamie was forced to turn sideways to find space to force in his shot. He needn´t have bothered for wide of him on the left‚ having made a parallel run was Nancekivell who had yards of space and a free line of sight to the back of the net. But Mudge did bother‚ and curled his shot wide of the upright. Danks closed the action of the first half with a hard driven shot as he cut in from the right that was beaten down my Fraser before being hooked to safety by firstly Cousins then Steele. Half time. The script being closely adhered to‚ we thought.

Whether it was inspirational words from beleaguered manager Barry Powell‚ or the threat of not being included in the squad for the FA Trophy final‚ it certainly seemed to work. The Pitmen were a different looking side after the break. It was they that looked determined to do the job. It was they that did the majority of pushing forward. A complete reversal of the first half´s opening exchanges with the end to end´ element being maintained only by Tiverton making the quick breaks as the visitors had done an hour earlier. The alarm bells began to ring and a relatively sluggish looking Mudge was replaced by Holloway‚ with Nancekivell moving forward more positively. But before there was time to assess the effect‚ if any‚ of the change the visitors pulled themselves level. A set piece again. Free kick‚ midway inside the Tiverton half‚ a dozen yards in from the Hednesford left. It was played in low to the edge of the penalty area by Les Hines. the defence moved out‚ but the ball was laid right back to Hines who sent it right where the place kick might have been expected to be sent - the far post. Patiently hovering in the area was Danks to nod the ball just inside the upright as Fraser scrambled across to get a hand to it but not enough to pat it clear. All square and suddenly the picture was not as bright as news of Eastbourne´s equaliser came through. Just one link in the chain remained intact Merthyr were still behind at Chelmsford. Even that would not matter if The Yellows failed to repair the fracture in their own section. They never really looked like doing that. A brief burst of energy that saw them win a corner that Steve Ovens hit in the right direction but weakly, and it was the visitors that were again on the attack looking for all the world like a team seeking the goal that would secure them the championship. McGhee picked up the ball in midfield in the 67th minute and was allowed by Tiverton´s backing off defence to carry it right to the penalty area before firing in a low shot that crossed the goal line in just about the same place as Dank´s header had six minutes earlier. The underdogs, for such had they been viewed by most - and not only Tiverton´s supporters - were in front.
It is at such times that words like character, spirit, resilience, are often bandied about. There was an evident lack of any cause for their use in the description of the home players response to the change in the situation. The heads were decidedly down. Another six minutes of coping with the rampant Pitmen and they were scouring furrows in the turf. Danks ran at the Tiverton defence, cruising past Rees but being forced to the right hand side of the penalty area. Rudge lunged, Danks fell, the linesman flagged, the referee blew. It was not as blatant a foul as the shove at the other end earlier in the half that had been waved away, but once the man in black makes a decision there´s seldom any going back. Danks picked himself up to crash the ball past Fraser. The play-offs beckoned. Like the confirmed and convinced anorexic Tivvy struggled to convince the watching faithful that they had any appetite for the remainder of the afternoon´s contest. Darren Edwards replaced Rees, Shaun Goff came on for Steele who had been struggling throughout the second half. There was a glimmer of hope when, with eight minutes remaining, Chenoweth and Holloway combined to win the ball in midfield and send Nancekivell to the by-line. Nance´s low cross was smashed home by Edwards to bring parity within sight but despite Winter splitting the visitors defence to send Edwards through two minutes later, and an 89th minute corner that the same man headed inches wide, the win was never a realistic proposition. In added time Danks had the opportunity to complete his hat-trick but his attempted chip over Fraser as he cut in from the left was safely clawed out of the air by the Tivvy keeper.

As the final whistle sounded it took only minutes to calculate the cost of the afternoon to The Yellows. Whilst the visiting players celebrated their victory with their travelling fans - even though it failed to lift them out of the bottom four - news from the other games reached mobile phones around Ladysmead, Tiverton would finish 15th. Play off on Monday......against Chelmsford. Win that and another game Saturday. The door had not been slammed shut, but it was only just still ajar.


Tiverton Town: Stuart Fraser, Steve Winter, David Steele (Shaun Goff, 76), Jason Rees (Darren Edwards, 74), Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Nancekivell, Steve Ovens, Carl Cliff-Brown, Paul Chenoweth, Jamie Mudge (Chris Holloway, 60).
Subs not used: David Hallett, Ian Nott.
Booked: Chenoweth.

Hednesford Town: Paul Evans, Ross Adams, Les Hines, Jordan King, Stuart Ryder, Lee Barrow (Darren Simkin, 77), Carl Palmer, Danny McGhee (Steve Evans, 84), Steve Anthrobus, Mark Danks, Chris Gray.
Subs not used: Anthony Maguire, Steve Piearce, Ryan Young.
Booked: Gray.

Referee: Colin Spence (Newquay)

This report ©2004 John Reidy






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