Match report

Tiverton Town 0 - 2 West Bromwich Albion

   Thursday 25/07/2002   Friendly
John Reidy

From the earliest kindling of childhood interest in football some teams had a degree of ´glamour´ for me. West Bromwich Albion could not be counted among them. Some of their players would appear on the bubblegum cards that I collected. Their colours‚ badge‚ nickname (they were always listed as The Throstles though I later found that their own fans called them The Baggies) and honours were included in all the directories etc. at the start of every season but still somehow they remained in the pack along with the majority of clubs. Then when I started to watch League football I tended to head towards London to see Chelsea‚ Arsenal‚ Fulham or West Ham. And even when I did venture Northwards from my Oxford home it was to visit Villa Park‚ St. Andrews or during their brief stay in the First Division‚ Northampton Town. It wasn´t until I moved to Devon that I first saw ´The Baggies´. The setting was perfect. Thanks to the Referees Association I secured a ticket for the 1968 FA Cup Final. Everton v W.B.A. It should have been a memorable occasion. Sadly it was not! For a showpiece game it was the dreariest I can recall - and that was the view of many neutrals. That same season I also went to the League Cup Final‚ supposedly a less important‚ low key event. Third Division Swindon crucified the mighty Arsenal. As an ´Ox´ I have little love for the Wiltshire side but have to admit that that was a truly memorable occasion. I waited a long time to see Albion again but when I did‚ they redeemed themselves by being party to a match that I´ll never forget. The Hawthorns was the setting for Oxford´s debut in the top flight of English soccer. The whole family went. It was‚ I believe‚ my sons´ first First Division match. Like their first words‚ their first steps‚ you don´t forget those moments. So would West Brom provide another such memory or would it be another of those instantly forgettable pre-season friendlies?
From the outset it was clear that the Yellows were in for a severe test. The Baggies fielded a side that consisted almost entirely of players that had played in more than half of last years promotion winning games in the First Division. The difference between full time pros embarking on a Premiership adventure and Dr Martens League part timers was obvious. Danny Hains made his delayed debut for Town allowing Phil Everett to partner Jamie Mudge in attack. Not that either of them were able to do much attacking‚ they seldom had a sight of the ball in the opening ten minutes as the visitors mounted wave after wave of assaults on the Tiverton penalty area‚ most of them inspired by livewire Scot Dobie. The home defence was well enough organised and worked hard to hold the midlanders at bay but when they did manage to clear the lines the impressive Darren Moore marshalled his back line to stifle any threat and set off another attack on Tiverton territory‚ and were it not for some poor shooting Albion might have stormed into an overwhelming lead. After a dozen minutes Mudge did sprint through onto a long pass but was easily hustled off the ball in a rare moment of action in West Brom´s penalty area. The action was all at the other end and Jon Vaughan was busy‚ and at times brave as he spread himself at the feet of pacey forwards. That the half time score was 0-0 (which it might be pedantically argued is not a score) augers well for the resolution of the Tivvy back line.
It was five minutes or so into the second period before it was noticed that Albion had changed goalkeepers at half time. Not really a surprising in view of the fact that Joe Murphy who had worn the jersey in the first half had taken so little part in the game he was hardly likely to have been noticed. The Baggies continued to dominate the play though Tivvy did have one good half chance after fifty two minutes. Mudge´s persistence deep in the left hand corner saw him upended as he looked like shaking off the attention of two defenders and heading into the penalty area. From the free kick‚ Everett rose well at the back of the penalty area but was unable to get either power or direction on his header and substitute keeper Brian Jensen was untroubled. Half way through the second half and the scoresheet was still blank. There had been the usual spate of substitutions‚ all the Tivvy contingent except Marcus Gross getting a run. Most of the forward movement was still coming from the visitors but the Yellows won a corner. Jensen gathered the cross cleanly‚ and set another attack in motion. Out to the right wing‚ long ball forward‚ Nathan Rudge failed to clear and was left flat footed as Skipper Derek McInnes closed on goal. Vaughan failed where he´d previously succeeded and Albion were in front. The strike settled West Brom. Their play became less energetic‚ smoother. They played keep ball‚ spreading the game all over the pitch and leaving Tivvy chasing shadows. In the 80th minute they added the second. Scot Dobie‚ not for the first time‚ caused chaos with his pace down the right wing. His firmly driven cross was diverted home by veteran striker Bob Taylor to great cheers from the hundreds of Baggies fans around the ground.
If the purpose of pre season ´friendlies´ is to seriously test a team then defensively this match was a success‚ the Yellows are unlikely to come up against this class of opposition in their league games this season. The revenue generated by the 1370 paying customers will go some way towards the expense of preparing Ladysmead for Conference football. Memorable? Not really; not as entertaining as Fulham or QPR a couple of years ago but a lot better than Wembley 1968. Oh‚ and the outcome of my two other encounters with The Baggies? They won by the single goal at Wembley and drew against Oxford United. Undefeated when I´m watching‚ perhaps they´ll offer a free ticket for their opening Premiership game against Manchester United!

Tiverton Town: 1. Jon Vaughan‚ 2. Steve Winter‚ 3. Danny Haines‚ 4. Steve Peters‚ 5. Nathan Rudge‚ 6. Rob Cousins‚ 7. David Steele‚ 8. Jason Rees‚ 9. Phil Everett ‚ 10. Scott Rogers‚ 11. Jamie Mudge.

Subs: 12. Richard Pears‚ 14. Antony Lynch‚ 15. Luke Vinnicombe‚ 16. Marcus Gross.

West Bromwich Albion: 1. Joe Murphy, 2. James Chambers, 3. Neil Clement, 4. Derek McInnes, 5. Darren Moore, 6. Lloyd Dyer, 7. Ronnie Wallwork, 8. Adam Chambers, 9. Bob Taylor, 10. Scott Dobie, 11. Jordao.

Subs: 12. Andy Johnson, 14. Jason Roberts, 15. Danny Dichio, 16. Larus Sigurdsen, 17. Igor Balin, GK. Brian Jensen.

This report ©2002 John Reidy

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