The unofficial archives of Tiverton Town Football Club

Tiverton Town 3 - 1 Hemel Hempstead Town

Wednesday 08/12/2004   Southern League Premier Division
John Reidy

One has to have one´s dreams. Not only the nocturnal variety‚ though the shrinks´ assure us that‚ as a safety valve for the frustrations of the subconscious‚ they are essential; but also those daytime musings that offer faint hopes of a better life. How many young‚ or if it comes to that - old - men have not allowed their waking thoughts to wander in the direction of the girl of their dreams´? Can you honestly tell me that you haven´t at some time made plans for what you will do when your numbers come up on the National Lottery? Our neighbours‚ friends and rivals down the road at Exeter must be thinking they have hit the jackpot with the draw for the FA Cup‚ and I don´t doubt that many Tiverton fans are sharing some of those dreams‚ albeit two stages removed and tempered by a few if´s and but´s. I´ll include myself in those numbers and admit the fact that those fantasies of Old Trafford occupying my thoughts might have gone some way towards relieving the mental anguish caused by the current plight of The Yellows. Even with this crucial match approaching‚ my mind seldom turned to thoughts of Hemel Hempstead. Even without the distractions afforded by the Grecians‚ the Hertfordshire town‚ and more specifically its football team‚ was hardly likely to inspire mad enthusiasm - despite the novelty factor of facing a new club. Even the fact that our visitors were‚ like Tivvy‚ struggling in the lower reaches of the table was hardly a harbinger of expectations of an enthralling match; so my expectations were of a tight‚ tense encounter between two pretty desperate teams. Much as I would like to see a fast flowing‚ skilful and attacking game‚ the situation called for a less flamboyant approach - an attitude that I was quite prepared to accept. The points were more important than the performance at this stage. It was just what we got.

Something else that The Yellows got was a new face at the forefront of their trident strike force. Sean Canham´s early impact at Exeter City a couple of years back had been terminated by injury. Now on the road to recovery he had joined Tivvy on loan and was thrown straight in at the deep end of their struggle to lift themselves away from the foot of the table. There was little chance for him to make his mark during the opening exchanges which for the greater part took place in the Tiverton half of the field.
As early as the second minute it was the visitors that showed they were not in Devon for a point when Nathan Rudge stumbled as George Fowler bundled his way past to fire in the first shot of the match and bring Mark Ovendale into action with a deflection for a corner. Though Ovo´ saw much more of the ball he was seldom put under any pressure‚ unlike his opposite number‚ Dave Lovell who was forced into a tremendous save when Jamie Mudge cut inside his marker from a left wing charge to crack in a ferocious shot with eight minutes gone.
It was the first sight of Mudge in full flow‚ the first of many such sprightly spurts‚ and heralded Tivvy coming out of their shell. A minute later Kezie Ibe‚ who was also looking sharp‚ was hauled down by Danny West (and for all you football club website surfers - no‚ not the Mangotsfield United webmaster!) as he charged down the right. Chris Vinnicombe treked across the field to take the kick and Rudge moved up to the penalty area arc. Vinnicombe took the couple of paces to the ball - Rudge charged. The ball curled towards the near post - Rudge´s path was straighter. The two met a couple of yards from the upright with Tivvy´s captain in front of the defenders and the ball changing trajectory to thunder inside the woodwork. ATROP - against the run of play‚ maybe. But who´s complaining?
Although the mood of both teams remained tentative‚ it was The Yellows that took marginal control‚ and relieved of some of the tensions‚ were the more adventurous and outgoing. Mudge and Ibe were combining well and causing frequent problems for the Hemel back line‚ though Canham was clearly off the pace‚ and did not have the bruising physical presence of Paul Milsom‚ compounded by the fact that he was a stranger to his team-mates and having difficulty in anticipating their play.
Mudge came close with a swinging effort that was just wide of the angle of the woodwork after Ibe had fed him from the left‚ and the Yeovil man was again involved when Canham laid the ball off to him on the opposite wing‚ Ibe pushing the ball back to Steve Winter whose bending cross pressured the defence into conceding a corner; and again when Mudge put him through on Lovell but the keeper bravely went down at his feet to push the ball away‚ though there were the inevitable shouts as Ibe tumbled over the prostrate custodian.
The nearest the visitors came to finding the net was in the 31st minute and they couldn´t have come any closer as Dean Harding touched the ball through to the feet of Fowler to put him clear with just Ovendale to beat. The Tivvy keeper did just enough angle narrowing as he came to meet the Hemel man. Fowler drove in his shot but there were sighs of relief as it smashed back off the base of Ovendale´s left hand post.
There was an interesting interlude in the following minute as West was penalised in a tussle with Ibe just in front of the visitors dug out and a voluminous voice instructed his player that‚ if the circumstances arose again‚ he should step away and fall down´. Did some one mention the word Cheat´?.
Another decent move between the Tiverton strike force suggested that Canham might be getting into the swing of things after Ibe battled his way clear of three defenders wide on the right‚ worked a precise one - two with Mudge‚ and now in the clear teed the ball up for Canham whose shot flew across the face of the goal. Ibe chased it back down towards the left corner and won a corner but the move had deserved more.
The more´ was not long coming‚ though‚ and on the 38th minute a long cross from the left was chested down by Kevin Wills right to the toe of Mudge who made a perfect connection to send the ball past a static Lovell and set the roof of the Hemel net bulging. No way could this strike be classed as ATROP. Tiverton were fully deserving of a two goal interval lead‚ though it might have been more had David Steele‚ who was having a far better game than of late with his forward runs from mid-field‚ hit a better shot after a Winter, Mudge, Ibe build up had seen him through on the left hand corner of the six yard box.

This season´s games have taught us not to expect the half time break to leave the flow of the game remaining unchanged, but for once it did. Tivvy restarted where they left off - pressing forward against what has to be considered a dodgy defence - lets face it, they conceded six at the weekend against Kings Lynn. Seven minutes into the half and the ball was again in the Hemel Hempstead net. Steele made another powerful run at the defence and his momentum, coupled with a couple of direction changes, carried him past a clutch of defenders before the ball seemed to run away from his boot. He´d over touched it - not enough to be a shot - but enough for West to take a swing in an attempt to hoof it away. That was the intent, but not the effect, as the ball sliced off West´s foot to skew into the net past the helpless Lovell. Three -nil.....surely this time The Yellows would get it right and take the three points.
Hemel were not about to give up the fight, though, and as so frequently happens in such cases they battled hard; physically hard. And none more physical than their captain Brian Hammett with a bar-room brawl tackle on Rudge that left the Tiverton man writhing in agony on the green stuff. It sounded bad, studs against shin pads, and though the protection did it´s job there was little doubt that the challenge deserved the yellow card it eventually earned - if not more. It took a while before the card was shown as the referee first had to break up the push and shove that ensued between players of both sides; and even then, after Rudge was back on his feet after treatment, the niggles´ lingered with Harding, hands behind back, putting himself in Rudge´s face, trying to provoke the Tivvy skipper.
And it was also clear to see that Rudge had revenge on his mind. A recklessly high foot up was penalised by the referee but allowed to pass with a sensible stern word of caution to Rudge, but the pivot of the Tiverton defence seemed to be concentrating so much on staying close to Hammett in the hope of exacting retribution that he was a yard too far forward when a high ball was played forward towards Fowler. Rudge back peddled and did manage to get his head to the ball but only to touch it on to the Hemel man who was now behind him. As Rudge tried to retreat Fowler slipped the ball to his right where Hammett, now unmarked, had begun a run that took him clear of the Tiverton back line and one on one with Ovendale. As in the first half, Ovendale came forward to narrow the angle but this time the break was right through the middle and he stood little chance as Hammett beat him to bring the scoreline to the dreaded (look at the last two games) 3-1.
Lifted by the goal the visitors forced Tivvy onto the back foot, Fresh legs were brought into their side to add to the liveliness of their attempted come back and, as in the opening ten minutes of the game, Ovendale was the busier keeper. But unlike the two previous occasions at 3-1 up, Tiverton continued to look dangerous on the break and continued to create chances. A free kick ten yards outside the penalty are was touched to Mudge, no fancy routine this time, but Jamie sent the ball rising over the terracing roof at the swimming pool end and a few minutes later Wills made a scintillating right wing sprint to lay the ball back for Mudge who hit wide from the edge of the penalty area. He wasn´t the only one to miss the target, however.
At the other end Fowler rounded both Rudge and Vinnicombe to miss by mere inches with a weak shot. The seventy seventh minute brought Tivvy´s lone substitution, and tactically it seemed - and was to prove - the right move. Canham was replaced by Goff, and since the Exeter loanee was adding little to the Tiverton attacking play his presence was unlikely to be missed. Goff joined in midfield and, hey presto, the much vaunted 4-4-2 was in place. Goff, in fact, did add what had gone missing; runs from midfield, which had faltered as Steele and Wills became more involved in defensive duties.
That last fifteen minutes saw Tiverton regain their equilibrium if not control and domination. There were a couple more chances created, which had they been converted would have provided the icing on the cake but Winter´s neat interchange with Steele saw the wing-back´s shot trickle wide, and Ibe was denied by the spin of the ball as he challenged Lovell when the keeper spilled a fierce Mudge shot, leaving West to blast the ball away to safety.
A frantic three minutes of added time saw Lovell holding another Mudge shot, a high looping one this time, and colliding backwards into an upright but hanging on to the ball and avoiding falling back into his net; and a goal-line clearance by Rudge at the other end as Ovendale was beaten by a low ball in along the right by-line that somehow crept behind him.

Not by any means a flowing performance from The Yellows - but effectively efficient, (or should that read efficiently effective?) given the target of securing the three points even if it be at the cost of entertainment. Too often they looked like three separate units - four if you separate Ovendale. Defensive four - pretty efficient, no obvious weak links. Midfield three - hard working in a destructive rather than constructive way...though good to see the runs being made. Forward three - apart from the shortcomings of the new face already mentioned, sharp and threatening. Now, link them up a little better and we´re on our way!

Tiverton Town: Mark Ovendale, Steve Winter, Chris Vinnicombe, Mike Booth, Nathan Rudge, Rob Cousins, Kevin Wills, David Steele, Sean Canham (Shaun Goff, 77), Kezie Ibe, James Mudge.

Subs not used: Jamie Densham, Dave Hambly, Matt Lock, Ian Nott.

Booked: None.

Hemel Hempstead Town: Dave Lovell, Marcelle Bruce, Nick Leach (Neil Perrin, 83), Lee Allen, Dan West, Matt Corbould, Paul Kelly, Dean Harding (James Bent, 46), George Fowler, Brian Hammett, Nick Jackson.

Subs not used: Stuart Deaton, Fabian Forde, Martin Peat.

Booked: Hammett, Kelly.

Att: 343

Referee: Malcolm West (St Austell).

This report ©2004 John Reidy