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Tiverton Town 0 - 0 Halesowen Town

Saturday 23/04/2011   Southern League Premier Division
Tivvy Archive

In October last year Ian Sampson’s goal gave Tiverton Town a hard-earned yet fully-deserved victory at Halesowen Town and the three points gained lifted Tivvy to 13th place in the league standings with games in hand over most teams in the top half of the table. The effort shown that afternoon in the autumn sunshine, playing the entire second half with ten men, gave hope that a solid season was on the horizon, but previously the Yellows’ flaws had already been exposed with hammerings at Chippenham, Cambridge and Chesham. Halesowen were in a state of disrepair (Ade Manchester at right-back for the Yeltz was about as round as the M60 which circles the city of the same name), and the win was a false dawn. On leaving The Grove after that game I heard a morose home supporter say to his pal that we had just watched two of the four teams that would eventually be relegated, a claim that I was having none of – Tivvy had won away from home to back up the previous week’s victory over Leamington. There was no way we would be relegated, we just needed to sort out the defence so the stronger teams didn’t fill their boots.

Six months on and the anonymous blue-clad pessimist from a few yards down the terraces was proved right; Tiverton Town joined Halesowen Town as permanent occupants of the relegation zone, and although it may have been tinged with irony how it was Halesowen that guaranteed no escape for Tivvy, the truth is the damage was done a long time before the clubs met for the second time this season. A run of fourteen league games without a victory followed Sampson’s winner in the West Midlands, and it was that awful mid-season form that ultimately consigned Tivvy to the drop. There were opportunities to pick up points that weren’t taken, and on the whole the club deserves to be where it is, an illustration that over the course of the season they simply weren’t good enough.

The Yellows knew that they had to beat Halesowen in the Ladysmead rematch, and that results elsewhere needed to be favourable for there to be any lingering hopes of a great escape two days later at Bashley. But by half time Weymouth led playoff-chasing Chesham, and shortly after the interval they doubled there lead as fellow rivals Bedford took the lead at home to Salisbury. All the while Tivvy laboured – not without effort – against a limited Halesowen side that clearly travelled to Devon with the intention of frustrating their hosts and hoping to sneak something on the counter. The Yeltz’ ploy worked perfectly as they stifled the game and reduced the Yellows to little more than a bunch of desperate attempts from outside the area. And when Tiverton did get into the box there was always a leg or a head or some other part of the anatomy belonging to a Halesowen player that was thrust desperately in the way of any forthcoming shots.

Ryan Leonard missed the target by some distance early on in the game, and in the space of two minutes midway through the first half both Sampson and Mark Saunders went closer but not close enough. Visiting captain Mark Smith made a crucial block to deny Michael Nardiello as Halesowen found themselves almost permanently pinned back and set up in an increasingly defensive formation, and just before the break Simon Flower fumbled a left-wing cross by Alex Faux, but Nardiello was able only to prod the ball onto the roof of the net. And that was the first half, bar a yellow card apiece, for Anthony Bruce of Halesowen and then Kevin Hill of Tiverton. It was low on the excitement scale, not much higher on the quality scale, and just about everything one would have expected from a game involving the bottom two clubs in the league.

In the second half the pattern remained much the same, the only difference being that Tiverton became increasingly urgent as the match wore on, and by committing more and more legs forward they were left slightly more exposed at the back, which was just what Halesowen wanted. In fact, despite having the ball for almost the entire second half, Tiverton conceded the two best chances of the game to the visitors. Felix Kyremeh was the first beneficiary when he chased a cause that should have been lost and was lost until Tom Gardner made a hash of his defensive header, but Ryan Draper gathered in the final shot well. And a few minutes later Kevin Moncheu waltzed through the inside-left channel from within his own half, fed Gareth Davies, and again Tivvy were grateful to Draper for making a fine save.

Those two breakaways underlined the little threat that Halesowen posed, and the threat that Tivvy brought on themselves by their necessary attacking system, but they were the only two times that Halesowen managed to attain any meaningful possession in the attacking half of the pitch. It was, on the whole, all Tivvy. Bushin looped a header over the bar and also curled in a left-footer that was arrowing towards the top corner but arrowing slowly enough for Flower to step to his right and comfortably pluck the ball from the air. Alex Roofe was cautioned for a deliberate handball as Tiverton piled forward, Leonard whipped a free kick onto the base of the post, and then Bushin powered a Leonard corner into the stands.

There was six minutes of added time all told, and in that six minutes Tiverton won six corners as they pressed in desperation against a blue defence that wouldn’t budge. Substitute Adam Mortimer saw a shot bravely deflected wide by Luke Adams, Leonard’s cross/shot seconds later was also blocked for a corner, unseen by the match officials by the hand of Roofe, the lucky (pesky) so-an-so. Flower saved from Leonard in the 95th minute and raced across to take the corner which was floated towards the far post and Faux. But the left-back’s header was too downward and bounced just inside the goal area before launching over the crossbar. Flower cleared with a goal kick and the referee put Tivvy out of their misery.

The inquest hadn’t started in the clubhouse after the game. Curiously the disappointment amongst the players, management and supporters was less tangible that a fortnight earlier when Tivvy had made their task close to impossible by capitulating against Weymouth. The atmosphere was one that felt almost like relief that it was all over, that the club had been living for months in false hope, and that it was best for all concerned that there was the opportunity to take stock and rebuild with the plan of trying to regenerate the club from within and regain a winning mentality that has been absent for four or five years. Everyone concerned knew the task at hand nine months ago and understood how difficult it would be to reach even the minimum requirements. Those targets weren’t met but heads won’t roll – Tivvy’s board is loyal – and the whole club can travel to Bashley on Monday under no pressure, other than that the players might put themselves under in order to justify their inclusion in the squad next season. And next season with be in the Southern League First Division, perhaps the natural level for a club of Tiverton Town’s stature.

Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, Ryan Leonard, Alex Faux, Adam Faux (Russell Jee 39), Mark Saunders (Liam Ellis 83), Tom Gardner, Ian Sampson, Kevin Hill, Jules Emati-Emati (Adam Mortimer 71), Joe Bushin, Michael Nardiello
Booked: Hill 44
Sent off: None

Halesowen Town: Simon Flower, Luke Adams, Adam Robinson, Alex Roofe, Mark Smith, Gareth Davies, Flavien Chambaud (Adam Jarrett 68), Anthony Bruce, Kevin Moncheu (Emmanuel Ibhadon 83), Felix Kyremeh, Andrew Westwood
Booked: Bruce 36, Roofe 82
Sent off: None

Attendance: 293

This report ©2011 Tivvy Archive