The first day of the season is often a tentative affair and a step into the unknown, but Tiverton Town began proceedings with as predictable a line-up as possible. Alex Faux was unavailable so Josh Searle slotted into the left wingback slot, while any lingering doubts about Michael Nardiello’s fitness and prowess up front had been dispelled a week earlier as he hit a hat-trick and played his way into a sure starting berth. Otherwise it was a standard line-up with Ryan Draper behind a back three of Paul Kendall, Kevin Hill and Tom Gardner, and Ian Sampson wide on the right. David Steele had a couple of new buddies to play with in the middle as Chris Onoufriou and Harry Nodwell made their first competitive starts for the Yellows, while Joe Bushin partnered Nardiello up top.
However, despite the familiarity of the Town side it was Gosport Borough who took the early initiative when a cross from the left by Dan Wooden found Justin Bennett at the far post who nodded the ball down only to see James Taylor's shot go narrowly over the crossbar. Two minutess later it was Bennett and Wooden involved again when a throw-in from the right was received by Bennett, who neatly turned to cross the ball across field to Wooden who’s shot across goal had Ryan Draper well beaten and the net bulging.
The heads of the Tivvy players didn't drop as they duly rose above their hosts when a throw-in from David Steele was picked up by Harry Nodwell on the edge of the area, only for the newcomer’s strike sail agonisingly over the Gosport bar to the despair of the dozen or so travelling Tivvy faithful. With Tiverton picking up the pace it was Michael Nardiello who picked up the ball wide on the wing to instigate the next attack, heading off on a mazy run down the wing then cutting inside to thread the ball to Chris Onoufriou, who’s outstretched foot toe-poked the ball to Ryan Pryce in the Gosport goal. The Yellows’ supporters didn't have long to wait for the equaliser when the ball was rolled out by Draper to Searle, and the youngster went on an inspiring run down the left wing and slotted the ball through to Nodwell in the centre of the park, and as the ball bobbled Nodders struck a fierce 30-yarder past the outstretched arm of Pryce and into the back of the Gosport net, to the delight of the players, management and travelling supporters.
Tivvy, having gained the upper hand almost got caught napping when a free-kick from Bennett was fired just over the bar, closely followed by a shot from Taylor which was well blocked by Gardner. It was then a similar move by Gosport which led to their opening goal only to see the shot across goal by Taylor well saved by the diving Draper in the Tivvy goal, resulting in a series of corners and some excellent defending from the Yellows dressed in white defenders and Steele. Town then went on the attack down the right wing through Ian Sampson into Joe Bushin whose shot was blocked, only to see it land at the feet of the advancing Searle who shot just wide.
A fierce drive was then struck by Gavin Jones from 25yards and headed safely away by Kevin Hill. a laugh was brought to the travelling support in the form of Matt Conridge the vice-chairman retrieving the ball and attempting to kick the ball up to the half way line only to see it slice off towards the Gosport keeper. As the half time whistle loomed Bushin collected the ball on the right hand side and had a run just outside the area and played the ball to the unmarked Searle who with the best chance of the match and goal at his mercy fired just wide.
The 2nd half started brightly for Tivvy with a lot of good possession, Hill taking a quick free kick to Searle who went on a surging run down the wing, jinxing past several players, and having good interplay with Nodwell and Nardiello ending in Searle pulling the ball back to Steele who should have shot, but chose to stop the ball and play in Nardiello whose shot was blocked. Both teams continued to have decent possession with Tiverton being the more intelligent of the two but with not much more happening in terms of opportunities being created. Tivvy continued to press and deserved to claim a winner when a fantastic cross from the left by Steele was agonisingly missed by all strikers. But alas, it was not to be and Town had to settle for a point, curiously the outcome of the opening day matches in Tiverton’s only other two season’s in the Southern League First Division.
Gosport Borough: Ryan Pryce, Gavin Jones, Dave Birmingham (Brady Norton 64), Aaron Cook, Lee Molyneaux, Nathan Kirby, George Way (Pat Cox 59), James Ford, Dan Wooden, Justin Bennett, James Taylor (Lee Chuddy 45)
Goal: Wooden 7
Booked: Birmingham 59, Pryce 90
Sent off: None
Tiverton Town: Ryan Draper, Ian Sampson, Josh Searle, Kevin Hill, Paul Kendall, Tom Gardner, Chris Onoufriou, David Steele, Michael Nardiello, Joe Bushin, Harry Nodwell
Goal: Nodwell 21
Sent off: None