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Tiverton Town 3 - 1 Weston-super-Mare

Wednesday 30/09/2020   Southern League Premier Division
Tivvy Archive

Death. Taxes. And if Benjamin Franklin was born 200 years or so late: Tiverton Town winning despite finding themselves under pressure for much of the game. America’s founding father probably wouldn’t have picked up on the latter point, not least because he was an American politician, and would therefore have been unlikely to have passed too much interest in English non-league football, or maybe just because he was an American politician and therefore a bit of an idiot. But if Franklin was (and he wasn’t), for example, a supporter of the most Albion of past times… okay, even then he would likely not have been all that bothered about what was going on in the Devonshire football scene. But we have to start somewhere.

I always get nervous before football matches involving the clubs of my fancy: the bigger or more important, or more challenging the match, the more my knees clatter, and the visit to Ladysmead of all-round decent guys Weston-super-Mare pitted my Yellows against one of the early-season favourites for promotion out of the Southern League. Make no mistake about it – Weston are a very useful side, and what Franklin failed to premeditate can true as they did everything but take points from their visit to our County. They hit the post, they found Lewis Williams again in fine fettle, and they were sent on their way back to their deckchairs with nothing to show for their courageous yet futile efforts.

Amongst the onlookers, Taunton’s management team of Rob Dray and Matt Villis would have wished they could learn something about Tivvy ahead of the upcoming FA Cup tie, and they probably did learn a bit: that Tiverton were strong in defence, particularly from a mental perspective (although able to be cut open), that they were efficient as an attacking force, and that they made good use of their wingers in a 4-4-2 system. Ha! The 4-4-2 system! Tivvy have played four matches this season and used this system once, so maybe Taunton will be in for a bit of a surprise on Saturday (or, given the effectiveness of this formation, maybe they won’t). It does, however, say a lot about the versatility of the squad that Town can set up almost as they please, and have players capable of adapting their roles to fit the system, without any significant loss in performance. 3-4-1-2 was fine against Wimborne, less so but still enough against Bideford, and 4-2-3-1 worked wonders at Swindon.

The change in formation also came with a change in personnel: in came Jordan Lam after his match-winning cameo in Witshire, in came Ed Butcher for his first competitive start, and in came Louis Morison to add bite to the midfield. Jared Lewington also returned to the starting line-up, with Jordan Bastin, Chris Shephard, Andy Watkins and Aaron Dawson (on the eve of his wedding) relegated to the bench. Bastin was o the pitch sooner than he would have expected, if not later than he would have hoped, as Butcher suffered a knock to the ankle when a shot was blocked at close quarters, but the team’s shape didn’t change, and by then Tivvy were already ahead as Lewington poked the ball into the net following a save by Luke Purnell from Alex Fletcher’s shot. The goal was timed at five-and-a-bit minutes, Butcher went off after thirty-one, and Tiverton had made a decent enough start to the game. A penalty was questionably denied when Dan Hayfield went down in the area, with Fletcher once again at the heart of the play, and Hayfield himself rammed a free kick into the wall, an effort he will likely be rather disappointed with.

On the subject of being disappointed, as Weston over came the initial pressure and forced their way into the ascendancy, Ben Griffith was the first to come up against and be denied by the excellent Williams. One on one, it is easy to say he should have scored and he ran onto Sam Avery’s through ball, but the Tivvy goalkeeper did everything right: stood up, expanded his width, forced his adversary into making the crucial decision, and the ball flicked off the keeper’s leg and away.  It was something of a warning sign that the chance arrived without too much effort – we may cite Craig Woodman for not tracking, but he would have played Griffith offside had Michael Peck on the far side not been a little lax in stepping forward himself. That there was o damage done was a relief for the home side. Williams’s second save a minute later was just as good as he chucked himself to the right to palm away a skidding shot from Lloyd Humphries. When James Waite was then put in by Jacob Jagger-Came only to see his shot rebound off the post, there was a feeling that maybe this was to be Tiverton’s night.

There was little more in the way of true goalscoring opportunities for the remained of the first half: Lewis Hall shot over at one end, Fletcher at the other, and the feeling amongst the home support was that one goal wasn’t going to be enough. Jordan Lam seemed to agree and grabbed his second goal in two games early in the second half. Picking up on Peck’s headed clearance wide and on the half way line, Lam, cut in side and was allowed to advance, swapped passes with Fletcher on the edge of the area, then nonchalantly passed the ball beyond Purnell to double the lead. It looked so easy from a Tivvy perspective, and in the end it way; on the other hand, Lewington’s run across the line from left to right was crucial in disorientating the Weston defence and allowing Lam and Fletcher the space in which to play. These things will often go unnoticed, but they are an essential ingredient in creating chances that look simple or look like tardy defending.

Another decent (yet not spectacular) save from Williams later, the game seemed to be in the bag. Less frequently were the Seagulls of -super-Mare able to penetrate, and while they had the bulk of the possession, they reached the Tivvy defensive third and found nowhere to go. Defensive shape was maintained by the men in yellow, the back four all played their part, with Woodman and Martin again excelling, and the performance was only really tarnished by a wave of cautions – to Martin for a tackle from behind, to substitute Chris Shephard for needless fisticuffs after his tame shot was easily saved, and to Peck for hoofing the ball away after he fouled Mike Symons. Andy Watkins, on for Lewington, could have wrapped things up, but Purnell saved well, and then we were treated to a rather frantic finish with a penalty at either end. Woodman tripped Chris Knowles which allowed Scott Laird to reduce the deficit with a couple of minutes of regulation time remaining (no question that was a penalty), then deep into stoppage time Fletcher went down under Avery’s challenge, and planted the resultant spot kick past Purnell.

To win clearly, to keep up the perfect start to the season, and to see both main forwards on the scoresheet was the perfect way for Tivvy to head into the weekend cup derby. Weston may feel a little had done by, but it is worth noting that their three best chances (aside from the goal) all came within the space of ten first-half minutes, and none were converted. One by luck, two by judgement, so be it; Tiverton can take a lot of heart from a game in which they largely matched a strong opponent, were willing, if not happy, to give up possession for the sake of staying strong at the back, and showed decisiveness when they moved forward. It is games, performances and results like this which make for a season towards the top third of the table, and while it is far too early to be thinking ahead, there should nevertheless be a feeling of positive optimism amongst the team and amongst the supporters. This really is a very strong and versatile squad, able to battle, able to play, and just like last season, able to score a lot of goals. A few against Taunton would be nice!


Tiverton Town: Lewis Williams, Kyle Egan, Craig Woodman, Louis Morison, Michael Peck, Neil Martin, Jordan Lam (Chris Shephard 76), Dan Hayfield, Jared Lewington (Andy Watkins 69), Alex Fletcher, Ed Bucher (Jordan Bastin 31)
Goals: Lewington 6, Lam, 53, Fletcher 90+4p
Booked: Egan, Bastin, Martin, Shephard, Peck
Sent off: None

Weston-super-Mare: Luke Purnell, Kieran Thomas, Lewis Hall (Chris Knowles 58), Lloyd Humphries (Aaron Parsons 58), Sam Avery, Greg Tindle, Ben Griffith (Mike Symons 73), Scott Laird, James Waite, Dayle Grubb, Jacob Jagger-Cane
Goal: Laird 88p
Booked: Tindle
Sent off: None

Attendance: 334


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