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Tiverton Town 2 - 2 Walton Casuals

Saturday 25/01/2020   Southern League Premier Division
Tivvy Archive

Tiverton’s high-paced and fast-moving style of play was inevitably going to be put to the test during the Winter months of heavy and energy-sapping pitches. Not only the means to the desired end, but also from the point of view of fitness, stamina, and the ability (or otherwise) to stay healthy and injury-free. We had witnessed before, particularly during the slump of early-Winter 2012 which extended through to the Spring of 2013, that a good team can suffer in the event they lack the ability to adapt to the conditions, and while today’s Tivvy side is of significantly higher quality, they are not immune to the great leveller of heavy going. Consequently, the game against Walton Casuals, which the Yellows entered as strong favourites to win comfortably, ended level, and Tiverton’s squad, already stretched to the absolute limit, suffered further damage, the cost of which will become apparent over the coming weeks.

One might be able to select a decent team from the absentees alone heading into this January encounter: Lewis Williams, Noah Smerdon, Josh Key, George Nancekivell, River Allen, Steve Colwell and Levi Landricombe would all have a very strong case to start, all things being equal, but none did. Add to this list the now-departed Luke Mortimore and it was clear that the bones of the squad were well and truly bared. It meant a subtle change in formation and the deployment of arguably the team’s most creative player in an unfamiliar role. The back four remained the back four, but with Michael Peck alongside the thankfully returned Jordan Dyer, as Michael Landricombe moved forward to create a double-pivot midfield alongside Bradley Riggs. Jordan Bastin started at left back, and despite this unusually deep position remained a threat, while Pierce Mitchell at right back lasted just over half an hour before he needed assistance off the pitch with an injury that Tivvy really could have done without. Up front, Tyler Elliott came into the team on the left wing, with Chris Shephard on the opposite flank, and Ryan Beckinsale played an attacking midfield role in support of Alex Fletcher.

It was just about as coherent as it could possibly have been under the circumstances, and the Yellows started well enough, with Elliott having a decent chance which he tapped without conviction into the waiting arms of Walton’s goalkeeper captain Denzel Gerrar. Shephard then smashed the crossbar from ten yards as Tivvy sought a settling goal, but it wasn’t to arrive, despite the best efforts of the effervescent Fletcher, who was combining well with Bastin in particular as he pulled to the left. It was this combination that forged the next chance, Fletcher’s backheel drifting a yard or two wide at the near post. And their ended the positive opening; enter attritional football.

While Walton had not truly threatened, there were signs of danger when they opted for direct balls into the channels, and it was from one of their forays into enemy territory that they took the lead against the run of play. Tivvy were unable to deal with a ball into the box slightly left of centre, and Cole Brown was able to sweep the ball into the net, via the foot of Town keeper Rhys Lovett. It was a goal that invigorated the visitors, and while they had thus far barely been in the game as an attacking force, they could consider themselves somewhat unlucky not to go on and extend their lead. Jude Mason headed across goal and not too far wide, while Lovett had to extend himself to save from Marcel Barrington. It was time for a re-think for Tiverton, and this was forced when Mitchell went down when successfully dealing with a ball to the far post. Allen came on in his stead and moved into midfield, Michael Landricombe dropped back, and Peck moved to fill the vacated right fullback position.

Allen immediately provided the verve and vision that Riggs and Landricombe were unable to conjure, and again the home side began to control the tempo of the game. Fletcher twice went close, forcing a strong save from Gerrar on the second occasion, and was rewarded for his efforts a few minutes before the interval with a cool finish that left the Walton goalkeeper wrong-footed, the chance created by Elliot just moments after an almost identical opportunity had been presented and wasted by the winger. And so it was level at the break, not least because the referee was rightly unmoved when Tivvy claimed handball against the flailing and floor-bound Joseph Morrison.

Make no mistake, Tiverton were the better team in the first half, and they should have been leading, but a combination of tardy finishing and strong, committed defending saw that they weren’t. The same cannot be said of the second half, as Walton edged proceedings, Allen was booked for the only Tivvy caution of the game, and Fletcher again saw a couple of chances go begging on the occasions the Yellows were able to push forward with attacking purpose. All the while, Casuals stuck to their task, and while there were few opportunities for them to edge back ahead, they were able to control the game with good effect, and eventually nosed in front with a goal of great technique and meaningful purpose. When the ball fell to Manolis Gogonas thirty yards from goal there would have been little cause for concern. But there is no accounting for a strike with such vigour and precision: the ball was still rising as it flew past Lovett, and would still have been rising from sometime thereafter had it not been stopped in its tracks by the far top corner of the goal net. It was truly a strike of exceptional proportions, and one which seemed to set Walton up for an unlikely victory.

By now Riggs had succumbed to a knock picked up at the tail end of the first half, and he was added to the walking wounded with Levi Landricombe entering the fray for his belated first appearance of the season. It was of little surprise that Levi was rather off the pace, but the change and the subsequent goal from the away side finally spurred Tiverton back into action. Elliot dropped back to midfield, Fletcher now played off the left, and Allen began to take the game by the scruff of the neck, seeing a chance hacked off the line with twenty left to play. The referee evened up the “denied penalty” count on what was becoming an increasingly rare attack from Walton, while at the other end Town were denied by the run of the ball as a cross from the left ricocheted around the goal area. That man Fletcher then dipped a volley from an angle that dropped just past the far post, Shephard curled a shot over, and Tivvy continued to press for an equaliser. It came, finally with just five minutes of regulation time remaining, and the only real surprise was that Fletcher was not directly involved. This time it was Shephard and Allen that crafted the initial opening, the latter crossing low into a goalmouth congested by defenders. At last there was a bit of luck for Town as the ball cannoned back out to the right, and Allen followed it in and drove a low shot from a tight angle that found the inside of the side netting.

If the relief was palpable amongst the home supporters, the players were not cashing out just yet, and in the dying embers of the match Tiverton had two further chances to grab all three points. Bastin first, as he got forward, met a cross from the right, and headed solidly downwards towards the bottom corner. It looked good enough, but Gerrar excelled with his best moment of the match by quickly flying off to his left to get a strong hand on the ball just a foot inside the post and palm the ball away. And finally, with what turned out to be the penultimate kick of the game Levi, lying deep towards the corner of the penalty area alerted his teammates of his presence, the ball was allowed to run through, and he thrashed his left foot at the ball, the result being a shot that was horribly sliced miles high and wide. Gerrar restarted the game with a goal kick and that was that. Two-apiece in a game Tivvy will feel they could and should have won, but with a performance that was too fragmented to really justify a full haul of points. Yes, they were the better team, marginally; certainly, they had more and the better chances. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many chances you have if you don’t put them away. That is what cost them here, along with a squad that really could use a week at a health spa to get over the bumps and knocks that seem to be accumulating with concerning regularity. But there is no time for that with Chesham visiting in four days. It will undoubtedly call for more square pegs to be forced into round holes.


Tiverton Town: Rhys Lovett, Pierce Mitchell (River Allen 35), Bradley Riggs (Levi Landricombe 65), Michael Landricombe, Michael Peck, Jordan Dyer, Ryan Beckinsale, Tyler Elliott, Alex Fletcher, Jordan Bastin, Chris Shephard
Goals: Fletcher 39, Allen 84
Booked: Allen 64
Sent off: None

Walton Casuals: Denzel Gerrar, Howard Hall, Jay Gasson, Jerome Beckles, Joseph Morrison, Charlie Fox, Cole Brown, Manolis Gogonas, Marcel Barrington, Jude Mason, Jeremiah Amoo
Goals: Brown 18, Gogonas 71
Booked: Hall 80
Sent off: None

Attendance: 232


This report ©2020 Tivvy Archive