Swindon Supermarine 2 – 2 Tiverton Town
In 1879, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift saw 141 brave, weary British soldiers outnumbered considerably by Zulu warriors, but still staved off a relentless wave of attacks. The 1964 film ‘Zulu’ remembered this astonishing feat by this band of men led by Lieutenant John Chard and his subordinate Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. In footballing terms, on the 8th April 2017, this feat was repeated by nine Tiverton Town heroes, but instead of Stanley Baker and Michael Caine leading the cast of players, the brace authoritative Steve Kingdon and the suave, debonair Tom Gardner inspired their troops to resist a relentless barrage of attack at the ‘Battle of Supermarine’.
Having more confidence in my reverse parking skills and a desire to nip into IKEA on my journey home, I decided to drive myself to the quaint, picturesque Webb’s Wood Stadium. As I drove I reminisced previous visits which had yielded no more than a friendly welcome, with Tiverton barely producing a shot on goal in previous occasions, let alone securing a point. It hadn’t been the luckiest ground for me and I wondered whether I’d made the right decision supporting the team in Swindon. I relayed my concerns to my girlfriend, who seemed uninterested, distracted by the after match shopping at Home Sense, so I ploughed on trying to hide all nervousness and worry.
On arrival, the trusted bunch of hardened Tiverton away crowd were waiting in the sunshine, led by the Loose Women, trying to drink their way through the trauma of the coach ride. There was an optimistic glow from the ranks – the play offs were in touching distance and the team were ready to go.
Maintaining the movie theme, the first twenty minutes resembled the James Cameron classic ‘Titanic’. There were twenty minutes of pleasurable cruising, which saw the yellows sail into a two goal lead. Firstly, an Owen Howe flick and well timed run from Levi Landricombe saw the latter drift behind the Swindon defence and calmly slide the ball passed the helpless Connor Johns. Just four minutes later the lead was doubled when Howe converted a penalty, having been brought to the ground by Johns. Tivvy were in complete control … but then the iceberg! Owen Howe was given a straight red, after the linesman spotted an incident off the ball. Things were about to take a considerable twist.
The momentum was firmly with Supermarine and they then preceded to launch a wave of assaults on the Tiverton goal. Joe Shepherd reduced the arrears sliding home at the back post and bar one brilliant free kick routine between Levi and Jamie Price, which resulted in a header brilliantly turned over, it was one way traffic. The Yellows were rattled, with the referee suffering from writers cramp due to endless writing of names in his little book. Half time was badly needed.
Whilst supping a refreshing glass of lemonade, I contemplated a difficult half, but felt confident that the boys were capable of grinding out a victory. All we needed was a calm start to the second half, contain the Supermarine for twenty minutes and pick them off as they committed more men forward, chasing the victory they desperately needed. Two minutes into the second half, all that measured thinking disintegrated as Jamie Price was given his marching orders for a second yellow card…
I looked across at the players, dripping with sweat and frustrated at the position they were in. The odds were firmly stacked against them. How could nine men resist the intentions of this decent footballing side chasing promotion? Surely it could only be a matter of time before defeat enveloped the team. This view hadn’t taken into account the bravery and sheer courage of the nine men left standing on that pitch.
Swindon came forward relentlessly; it was attack versus defence. Swindon stretched the team from one side to the other with endless crosses into the box. But every time, the commanding trio of Mammola, Kingdon and Gardner swallowed up the pressure and cleared to the furthest corners of the Webb’s Wood stadium. Hurst and Storey harried and chased, running themselves into the ground; Rogers rolled back the years pushing through cramp to irritate, block and thwart the opposition in their attacks; and Mike Landricombe – a man possessed – was everywhere. At every break of play his voice echoed around the arena, firing up his teammates to give everything for the cause.
With ten minutes left, the brave resistance was finally breached, with Ryan Morgan tapping home at the back post. Tiverton simply ran out of men after blocking a number of attacks. Nerves were stretched,minutes later, when the Tiverton post was rattled by a curling drive. I looked away, overcome by tension; but then remembered I was writing the report this week so continued to watch them battle bravely!
Every minute seemed like ten as the Supermarine invaded the Tiverton box time and time again. But then it came; the shrill blast of Mr James Valance’s whistle. The fans saluted the bravery and tenacity of the nine men like we had won the league. It was a magnificent effort from the team.
Honourable mentions to Tom Bath, Levi Landricombe, Joe Perry and Tiegan Rosenquest for all running themselves into the ground as well.
And what resulted … a confirmed playoff spot. A fitting tribute to these lads who overcame the odds on a gruelling hot day to refuse to accept defeat. If ever a draw felt like a win, today was the day. After so many disappointing exits from this ground, I left with a huge smile.
Moments like today make it all worthwhile. Yes my good mood resulted in possibly excess purchasing from both IKEA and Home Sense, but wouldn’t change a thing. As we head off down the M5, back window intact, the world seemed both a happy place for me and my lovely girlfriend.