Match report

Crawley Town 3 - 2 Tiverton Town

   Tuesday 26/11/2002   FA Cup
John Reidy

Is this a dagger I see before me‚ its handle towards my hand?
Come let me clutch thee.
I have thee not‚ and yet I see thee still.

It only takes the slightest manipulation of the Bards words from his ´Scottish´ play to make them fit to perfection the illusionary feelings of the hard travelling Tivvy fans as they watched their side stride into the second round of the FA Cup at Crawley´s Broadfields Stadium.....and then slink out the back door as they dropped the very real and substantial prize they had held in their grasp. The setting was perfect. The Broadfields ground was packed to the rafters (I know - I was hanging from one in the press area) as the record crowd was ´shoe-horned´ into place. So many fans wanted to see the production‚ that ´curtain up´ was delayed to enable the throng to enter. It was noisy. The atmosphere was charged with a current that threatened to electrify and elctrocute everything and everyone beneath the floodlight´s pool of illumination. For the Devon contingent there was little doubt that the anticipation was tinged with more than a modicum of apprehension‚ but that made the occasion more‚ not less‚ enthralling‚ as the players took the stage.
Within a minute of the whistle the Yellows‚ for thus I shall continue to refer to them despite the recent penchant to play in white when on their travels‚ had dissipated a degree of that trepidation. Steve Winter sent Kevin Nancekivell through the middle. Kevin glided off the defensive challenge‚ closed on Andy Little in the Crawley goal‚ slid the ball under the advancing keeper and into the net to reduced the ranks of home fans behind Little to stunned silence. Seconds later they were in full voice once more as they noticed the linesman´s flag pointing vertically. Nance had been offside. The dye‚ however‚ was cast. Tiverton were intent on carrying the game to their hosts. Jason Rees sent Richard Pears galloping in pursuit of a long ball down into the right hand corner and Pearsy‚ severely restricted for space in which to manoeuvre‚ was only too happy to settle for winning a corner in the 3rd minute. Rees‚ as ever seeking to drive the game‚ took the kick. No ´short one´ this. Floated high into the penalty area with both Nathan Rudge and Steve Peters to add height to the challenge‚ the ball flew over Nathan‚ reached Steve who sent it back wide right where Jason´s second cross had Little under considerable pressure to collect before clearing up field. With five minutes gone Crawley mounted their first attack. Ellis Hooper‚ picking up the ball in midfield‚ embarked on a diagonal run across the centre circle before feeding the ball to Dave Stevens out towards the right. Stevens was challenged by Danny Haines and the ball looped out from between the two of them to sail into Paul Edwards otherwise deserted penalty area to be comfortably clutched to the keeper´s chest. By now the battle for control of the central areas was well underway and‚ unlike in the original tie at Ladysmead‚ it was Rees and Scott Rogers‚ and not Crawley´s Peter Fear‚ that were running the show. With Rogers doing the spoiling and interception work‚ it was Rees that was launching the forward movement. On eight minutes he released Pears on a twisting run through the middle. With Nancekivell parallel‚ drawing a defender away‚ Pears jinked left then right as he made a bee line for the penalty area‚ cruising into the box to drive the ball under Little. No flag this time and Tiverton in front after eight minutes.
The pattern of the game was to remain unchanged for the remainder of the half. Tiverton controlled it. For every threatening move the Reds made‚ the Yellows made three. Pears and Phil Everett looked the more dangerous of the attack forces‚ though Nancekivell should also be included as he could hardly be considered to be playing in midfield; the back line of Rudge‚ Peters and Rob Cousins were seldom troubled; Wing backs Winter and Haines were defensively sound‚ if underworked‚ and causing consternation on the flanks when darting forward. Most importantly‚ the area between the edge of the Yellow´s penalty box and the centre-circle had become a virtual no-go area for anyone wearing red. Crawley players venturing into that territory were assured of being hassled and harried until they were dispossessed. When Nic McDonnell did manage to hold the ball and break into open space near the edge of the area he delayed too long as he waited for support and had the ball poked off his toe to safety when he finally decided to take a pot. Pears again emulated Steve Ovens by chasing a lost cause into the corner and though not winning the ball was rewarded for his effort when his persistence resulted in Ben Judge´s clearance falling straight to Winter whose short ball into the penalty area had Little down to smother at the feet of Nancekivell. A final burst from the home side saw them create their only serious chance of the first period‚ deep into additional time. A right wing sprint. A long cross to the back of the Tiverton area and Peters heading the ball away from Eddy with McDonnell still yards away. An ´own goal´ had looked the most likely way for Crawley to get on the scoresheet.
The second act opened with the same cast but with different players. Crawley looked a totally reconstructed company. Gone were the personas of the local Dramatic Society‚ to be replaced with the master Thespians of the Royal Shakespeare Company. No longer were they nervous‚ confident seeking neophytes‚ but full blown professionals intent on turning a potential flop into a box office success. They set about the Yellows with a vengeance and in the opening ten minutes had Tiverton pinned back in their own half of the field. Fear was in the driving seat. Harkin set up Stevens with a cross that was headed directly at Edwards‚ who was then called to palm another cross away from Le Bihan. The Devon men could merely contain and clear. Then there was a glimmer of recovery. The Yellows strung three passes together in midfield before losing the ball and being forced back again. Then a series of five passes‚ from left defence across the width of the field to right attack‚ Everett wide near the corner. Over into the middle Phil hoofed the speculative cross. Hopeful perhaps, but Pears had found space at the far post and when the ball swirled over and clear of Little he was there to nod home to bring the ´daggers of the mind´ swimming into reality. We thought.
There is no accounting for the vagaries of institutions such as the RSC. Suddenly someone tore up the script of Macbeth and replaced it with that of A Comedy of Errors. Undeterred by the goal, they realised as well as anyone present that it came against the run of play, they continued to force the pace. Tiverton allowed them to. At 2-0 up away from home there should have been some way that the Yellows could have killed the game. If they tried they failed. Within two minutes it was wide open again. Harkin went on one of his evasive runs and unleashed a low drive. A good enough shot but Edwards was down to it. One handed. It needed the second hand to hold it but the second hand was sweeping around elsewhere and the ball dribbled free to McConnell who had no problem in poking it into the net. The clock said there were 24 minutes remaining. It seemed a difficult task faced the visitors unless they could re-establish some of the control they had displayed in the first half. They were only partially successful. It wasn´t as one way as it had been for the first quarter of an hour after the break but it was not far short as Tiverton spent most of their time on the back foot. Tackles were ridden where they had dispossessed in the first half. Balls poked off a Crawley toe fell to another home foot. White legs looked tired. Edwards was under increasing duress, and there was a sign it was taking it´s toll in the 78th minute as he was left vainly flapping at a cross which luckily flew over the crossbar. Dave Stevens on the left turned inside Steve Peters, the first (tired?) foot that I had noticed the Tiverton man put wrong. Cutting in towards the near right hand corner of the penalty area it was as clear as a slow motion film what Stevens options were. He could either take s shot himself or lay the ball sideways for McDonnell who was hovering beyond the penalty spot unmarked as the Yellows right hand of defence had gone AWOL. Stevens chose the later course, but not until he had drawn Eddy and the remnants of the defence beyond a recoverable position. McDonnell gratefully accepted the gift and we were faced with a 10 minute finale.
There was no inkling of any idea that the home team might be prepared to cruise to extra time. They maintained their blitz and searched for the winner. Within two minutes McDonnell was through again, hitting his looping shot on the run right into Eddy´s hands. Stevens jinked trough but failed to connect with any power in his shot. With three minutes to go the final throw of the dice, a long ball through into the area. The type of ball you expect a goalkeeper to sprint forward to, scoop up and stand, ball clenched to his chest while the excitement dies down. The scenario stopped at the sprint forward phase. Substitute Warren Bagnall got there a fraction before Edwards to flick the ball away from Eddy´s hands and into the empty net. Three minutes, plus five added.
The End

Quite honestly even an additional half an hour would not have been any help to Tiverton. They had hardly created an opportunity in the last half hour and had seldom looked comfortable or likely to hold out against the intermission revived home side. The first half was a mere memory, it might just as well have been ´a false creation proceeding from a heat oppressed brain´. Certainly the vision of the Daggers visiting Ladysmead in the 2nd Round had faded into the mist like the prophetic witches of Shakespeare´s ´Scottish´ play.

Tiverton Town: 1. Paul Edwards, 2. Steve Winter, 3. Danny Haines, 4. Steve Peters, 5. Nathan Rudge, 6. Rob Cousins, 7. Kevin Nancekivell, 8. Jason Rees, 9. Phil Everett, 10. Scot Rogers, 11. Richard Pears.
Subs: 12. Jamie Mudge (Haines,89), 14. Steve Ovens, 15. Chris Holloway, 16. Antony Lynch, 17. David Steele (Winter,89).
Cards: Yellow: Rudge (88).

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 (Hooper,72), 15. Kevin Hemsley (Harkin,90), 16. Ian Payne, 17. Marlon Patterson.
Cards: Yellow: Stevens(77), Judge(43), Bagnall (?).

Referee: L. Probert (Bristol).

This report ©2002 John Reidy






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