Tiverton Town 0 – 0 Larkhall Athletic – Tuesday 03/11/2015 Southern League First Division
It is almost 24 hours after the full time whistle as I write, and if we were still playing there is a high chance that it would still be nil-nil. One cannot fault the determination, the application, or the eagerness with which the players went about their business on a damp Ladysmead evening, and it was by luck as much as it was by judgement that the scorekeepers were not disturbed: there was judgement by both goalkeepers, but it was fortune (or misfortune, depending on your allegiance) that won over in the end. Tiverton and Larkhall both took a point which might be useful at the end of the season, and certainly the former will look upon last night’s game as an opportunity missed. The Larks will undoubtedly be happy to come out of the encounter unscathed as they were put to the sword for extended periods.
A word first about goalkeepers: it’s a lonely place when things aren’t going very well, and the poor chaps are often the easiest to criticise; Tuesday was far from the case, and both Joe Perry for the Yellows, and Athletic’s Dan Jackson stood up to the tests that were thrown at them, each making crucial saves which would otherwise have swung the game against their respective teams. First it was Perry, unbeaten now for well over 500 minutes of football (penalty shootouts notwithstanding) who flew off to his right to push away a Jack Camm header, and he was also unflappable in saving a low shot from Brad Norris early in proceedings. The first was excellent, the second rather more routine yet still impressively solid, and a third save, much later in the evening, was unorthodox as Perry tipped over a dangerously looping long-range effort from Joe Raynes, the like of which nobody would have been surprised to see drop in had David Seaman been in goal. At the opposite end of the pitch Jackson took centre stage and produced a save of impressive proportions when Jamie Mudge curled in a shot which was heading for the bottom corner, the best save of the evening, and also did well to field attempts from both Dan Smith and James Richards.
Larkhall had had the better of the game for the first ten minutes, but thereafter had to be content with attempting to break on the counter attack as Tiverton found their feet and played some impressive possession football. There was a lot of passing and probing well inside the attacking third of the pitch, countless corners which the Larks dealt with to a greater or lesser degree, and a moment or two when the visitor’s goal lead a somewhat charmed life. Smith came close but his drilled shot clipped the heel of Jamie Lyons and whistled a foot the wrong side of the post, while Mikey Williams had the ball in the net as the assistant referee raised the flag for offside, Williams mistiming his run fractionally in order to latch onto Jamie Mudge’s clever through-ball. Smith again had a chance – of sorts – which threatened to loop in at the far post; Jackson was present and correct as he was almost all evening, and pushed it over the top. Tivvy had won the first half in every respect except for scoring goals.
There wasn’t undue concern at this stage; after all, Town had bossed the first half of their previous home game and Owen Howe settled tings down a minute after the restart, so why not a little déjà vu all over again? If that was the plan then Larkhall had other ideas, and the second period was not as hectic or ridden with opportunities as the first had been. With that said, Jackson was finally beaten but without damage when Howe crashed a shot off the crossbar from the edge of the area. It was close and remained close for a split second as the ball rebounded off the back of the visiting goalkeeper’s hand and then back onto the crossbar before being cleared. Two woodwork interventions would become three a little later on in proceedings as Town substitute Dan Western lifted in a cross which may have been a shot, or a shot that may have been a cross, and Jackson was left to thank his lucky stars again. There were also free kicks from Richards and Howe that hit the wall or flew off target, a goal line clearance to deny Howe, and pretty much nothing to wake Perry from a rather slumberous evening, until that late, late save from Raynes.
Ad so the game reached its close twelve minutes later than scheduled due to time added on for injuries. And that was perhaps the other talking point aside from the impressive goalkeeping on display: Steve Kingdon was withdrawn from the action after half an hour or so following a collision with Jackson which left the Tivvy defender with a nasty facial injury, Rob Norrish also had to give up early, and near the end of the 90 minutes Jackson himself landed awkwardly when taking a high ball, and required lengthy attention before being stretchered off with his leg in a protective brace. For the sake of these three individuals and for their teams we should hope the injuries are not as serious as they would have at first appeared, for all three played a massive part in what was a thoroughly entertaining match, albeit one which must have left the Yellow contingent rather frustrated.
Tiverton Town: Joe Perry, Jake Wannell, Mikey Williams, Ben Mammola, Steve Kingdon (Alex Faux 25), Tom Gardner, Dan Smith, James Richards, Owen Howe, Jamie Mudge, Rob Norrish (Dan Western 80)
Sent off: None
Larkhall Athletic: Dan Jackson (Josh Egan 90+2), Bradley Partner (Matt Morris 72), Luke Scott, Ben Wych, Ollie Price, Daniel Jones, Jack Camm, Joe Raynes, Brad Norris (James Billing 53), Dan Cleverley, Jamie Lyons
Booked: Partner, Scott
Sent off: None
This report ©2015 Alan Reidy