Match report

Tiverton Town 1 - 1 Crawley Town

   Saturday 16/11/2002   FA Cup
John Reidy

My mother (bless her) was a Sussex Lass. Brought up in the Littlehampton area‚ which perhaps explains something I´ve often wondered about (though I´m not sure that the location of one´s mother´s upbringing is in anyway hereditary‚ or that this is the place for genitalia jokes). Though the war caused her and her tribe of sisters to scatter throughout the Southern Counties it was hardly surprising that early family holidays were spent in ´Sussex by the Sea´. Bognor Regis was favourite‚ but Worthing‚ Arundel and Goring- by-Sea also featured. It wasn´t until my teenage years were approaching and I went on my first Boy Scouts summer camp at Uckfield that I realised that the County wasn´t just a strip of coastline‚ but stretched away beyond the Downs‚ which enigmatically went up‚ until it almost reached the Great Metropolis. Even then it was years before I discovered there was a place called Crawley‚ hardly the most endearing of names I recall thinking. And having discovered it existed‚ I had no significant inclination to go there. Gatwick Airport (when package deal holidays became affordable) was inconvenient and crowded‚ and when eventually I did have to use it‚ my return flight from Minorca was delayed 36 hours because it was closed and almost isolated by fallen trees at the time of meteorologist Michael Fish´s classic boob‚ ´The Great Storm´. Not a pleasant memory. The town itself had to wait until earlier this year to be graced with my presence and again there is no fond recall of the occasion as Tivvy sank to a 3-0 defeat‚ though Richard Pears´ second half goalkeeping display was memorable. Having failed to beat ´Creepy´ in either of the two meetings between the sides‚ I found myself offering up a prayer or two in the week prior to the FA Cup tie between the two clubs‚ not only that the rain would abate but also that the outcome of the tie would enable me to have at least one fond memory of inland Sussex.
There was an atmosphere at Ladysmead before the start. Electric‚ anticipatory. After a first attack from Tivvy which saw a sprightly run from Danny Haines end with a cross that was cleared at the second time of asking‚ it was the visitors that took control. Fear was the key. Not the emotion but Crawley captain Peter Fear who took over midfield as if it were his personal realm. Driving his side forward they created their first chance in the third minute but after a goalmouth scramble Nic McDonnel blasted high into the top netting above the Sponsors end. Three minutes later confusion between goalkeeper Paul Edwards and Rob Cousins proved almost disastrous but the full length stretch of a visiting forward was only enough to send the ball trickling wide. With 10 minutes gone it was clear that Crawley had not travelled up from West Sussex with the intention of securing a replay. They were turning their midfield domination into forward attacks and McDonnell was threatening every time the ball came near the Tiverton penalty area. The Yellows‚ though‚ were battling in their own way‚ looking for the breaks whilst concentrating on keeping their back line intact. Steve Winter‚ ever a man for the big occasion‚ made one exceptionally perceptive pass across the width of the field to send Jamie Mudge clear down the left after 11 minutes‚ but just as it looked as if Jamie might create something he was closed down and lost the ball to the defender who swept it away upfield to start another Crawley attack
The first keeper to be really tested was unsurprisingly Eddy. Approaching the quarter hour mark Fear swung in a cross which was cleared‚ but right back to him. His second attempt to float the ball in was then deflected out for a corner mili-seconds after his boot made contact. Despite the obvious threat posed by the Crawley captain he was left unchallenged as the corner kick was fed short to him and flighted into the six yard box where Eddy had to be at full reach to clasp it. And whilst Andy Little between the ´Reds´ posts watched from a distance Edwards again needed all the Velcro he could muster in the 16th minute to hold a fierce rising shot from Neil Le Bihan above his head. But then‚ as so often happens when a team are struggling to stay in the game‚ Tivvy broke the deadlock. It was a hopeful more than realistic ball forward. Jamie Mudge was never really going to be in contention but at least by looking as if he had intentions he made the safest option open to the defence to be the back pass to Little. It was underhit and put the keeper under more pressure than was necessary. Pressure that was rapidly increased as Jamie continued his run to tackle the unfortunate Little at the left hand edge of the area. Neither man effectively won the ball‚ it squished out from between them‚ across towards the penalty spot where Richard Pears had joined the forward motion and was ideally placed to roll the ball into the net with just sufficient pace to cross the line before the rapidly recovering Little could reach it with a lunging boot. The Yellows in front but even the most ´jaune´ tinted eye would have to admit it was ´agin´ the play.
Needless to say‚ Crawley poured forward in their attempt to get back on terms. There was‚ however‚ a consequence. One of the men pushing up was Fear‚ and although he looked threatening going forward it also meant his impact on midfield was lessened‚ and with that Tivvy began to see more of the ball in central areas and so come more into the game. Edwards was again busy collecting a couple of high crosses - had the Sussex side been fed the information that he was weak in the air? - and Chris Holloway sent Mudge on another burst that saw central defender Marc Pullan awkwardly‚ though fairly in the view of Jonathan Ross lookalike referee Probert‚ holding him off to allow the ball through to Little. At the other end a Nathan Rudge headed clearance fell to Fear who thumped the ball wide. But as Crawley pushed up they were caught when Danny Haines robbed one of their forwards and sent through a defence splitting pass only for Mudge to get caught offside as the last man timed his run to perfection. Thirty three minutes gone and it was Tivvy again. A neat move between Pears and Holloway resulted in a wasted corned and it was beginning to look as if Tiverton had drawn the teeth of the visitors. A dangerous assumption that was to turn out to be. The Yellows conceded a free kick just inside their own half‚ wide to the defenders right. The ball was lofted into the six yard box and headed back but wide of goal and not out of danger. Another Crawley head sent it back towards goal forcing Eddy to stretch backwards to tip it up but it failed to clear the crossbar and fell right to the head of McDonnell who had the simplest of nods to send it over the grounded Edwards for the equaliser with 35 minutes gone. And so it remained until the break. Tivvy could not complain. For long periods they had been second best whilst at no time had they looked to be out of the hunt.
If the first half had found a pattern then the opening exchanges of the second mirrored it. Crawley had most of the ball. Crawley did most of the attacking. Crawley looked most likely to upset the bookies odds. Three minutes after the restart‚ Dave Stevens‚ allegedly a striker though largely anonymous in the first half‚ was sent through down the left outer edge of the Tivvy penalty area. Closely monitored by Rudge‚ Stevens decided that his best chance of getting himself a shot on goal was from the penalty spot and forthwith threw himself full length. Mr Probert was not impressed‚ however‚ and rewarded him with a view of yellow other than that of a Tivvy shirt. Fear again showed his influence in the 52nd minute as he sent in a threatening cross that was headed out only to be lobbed back in by Ben Judge, forcing Edwards to touch over the angle for a corner. But it was only most of the play, most of the attacking. The Yellows were still hanging on in there and having their dangerous moments. The 53rd minute saw Mudge just beaten to the ball by Little and right away a long centre from the right was flicked on by Pears and sent inches wide by a Haines flying header. McDonnell missed a chance to double his tally when he headed a left wing cross over the top in the 57th minute and with the ball out of play Martyn Rogers started to ring the changes. Kevin Nancekivell replaced Holloway and almost made a Welling-esque impact on the game as Winter lobbed in a long hanging cross that Nance just failed to connect with. On the hour Steve Peters galloped forward for a long Rees free kick but had to be content with winning a corner as the ball was just deflected from his head as he rose at the far post. A corner that was again wasted. With Peters in the middle we might have expected a high cross. No. It was played low to the back of the penalty area where it was easily carried away by the Crawley defence with Rees - the taker - and Peters hopelessly out of position for defensive duties.
The pace of the game dropped a little, hardly surprising considering how heavy the pitch was after the last week of rain - it was another tribute to Gordon and his team - as the legs began to show signs of fatigue. There was a little spell of total disruption for a series of yellow cards and substitutions. The cards went to Cousins, Rudge and Rees for Tivvy and Hooper for the visitors, whilst Phil Everett and Steve Ovens replaced Pears and Mudge. Ovens was right into the action as he forced over a cross from the left that Peters, pushing forward more and more, headed down and goalwards without causing too many problems for Little, while Fear again showed his inability to adapt by sending in his umpteenth swinging cross for Eddy to collect. It was left to Le Bihan to test the Tivvy keeper with a low shot as we entered the final fifteen minutes, and sixty seconds later McDonnell was through one on one with Eddy but despite his lack of match practice the ´´joker´ in the Tivvy pack was quickly out and down to claw the ball away from the marksman´s feet. It was a sign of things to come as both sides threw what caution they had displayed so far to the wind and went for the win as if a replay would be a disaster to match the Great Flood.
End to end went the game. Ovo showed his trademark harassment to win a corner - guess what? - given away to a defender. Stevens hit wide after a quick break by Crawley. Rogers crashed his shot on the turn wide after Nancekivell had powered forward out of midfield. Judge found himself free at the back of the Tiverton penalty area when a long free kick flew over the top of the goalmouth but in his excitement lifted the ball high out of the ground. Straight back down to the sponsors end burst Tivvy. Ovens down the left, swung in the cross. Everett met it fair and square and powerfully enough, but Little had ample time to see it and dramatically saved as if applying for an ´Oscar´. 3 minutes said the board as my stop watch registered 90. Swimming pool end. Sponsors end. And the last drama of the afternoon in the Tiverton goalmouth. God knows what order things happened. First off, I know, was a shot, parried not held: followed by in random order, a goal line clearance, a deflection, a rebound from the crossbar and no doubt something else. It was pandemonium. Ironically nothing would have mattered. The flag had been up for ofsie from the cross that lead to the first shot. Never mind it acted as a fitting climax to what was a cracking contest.
I took my ´heart pill´ and watched and listened to the departing fans before attempting to write and phone in my first reports. Everyone was more or less happy with the entertainment if not with the failure to reach a conclusion. I´d have to go along with that even if it does mean a midweek trek to Sussex-not-by-the- Sea.

Tiverton Town: 1. Paul Edwards, 2. Steve Winter, 3. Danny Haines, 4. Steve Peters, 5. Nathan Rudge, 6. Rob Cousins, 7. Chris Holloway, 8. Jason Rees, 9. Richard Pears, 10. Scot Rogers, 11. Jamie Mudge.
Subs: 12. Phil Everett (Pears,67), 14. Kevin Nancekivell (Holloway,58), 15. Steve Ovens (Mudge,67), 16. David Steele, 17. Antony Lynch.
Cards: Yellow: Winter (40), Cousins (67), Rudge (68) Rees (73).

Crawley Town: 1. Andy Little, 2. Ben Judge , 3. Ernie Cooksey, 4. Ellis Hooper, 5. Marc Pullan, 6. Peter Fear, 7. Stewart Holmes, 8. Mo Harkin, 9. Nic McDonnell, 10. Dave Stevens, 11. Neil Le Bihan.
Subs: 12. Danny Hockton, 14. Warren Bagnall, 15. Ian Payne, 16. Nigel Brake, 17. Kevin Hemsley (Fear,89).
Cards: Yellow: Pullen(37), Stevens(48), Hooper (69)

Referee: L. Probert (Bristol).

This report ©2002 John Reidy

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