Tiverton Town 5 – 1 Didcot Town – Tuesday 10/11/2015 Southern League First Division
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
And so it didn’t come to pass: Tiverton finally did change, both in terms of personnel, and also in front of goal, racking up five unanswered goals in a second half of exquisite marksmanship, and sorry Didcot were left to contemplate a disappointing few days as they limped back onto their bus for the long journey home from Devon. The Yellows team selection has been consistent for some time, but there were enforced adjustments due to Steve Kingdon’s injury and Jamie Mudge’s suspension. In came Alex Faux on the left side of the three centre backs, while Levi Landricombe replaced Mudge up top, and in very different ways both replacements came out of the evening with due credit. Faux had already filled in the previous week for Kingdon, and some time ago had also operated in the centre in games of lesser importance, so it was hardly the craziest decision Martyn Rogers have ever made in terms of his defensive selection. And Alex eased through the game with minimal fuss, seldom if ever looking out of place, while Landricombe for his part was more prominent and maintained his presence despite a horrible fluff early in the match; his equalising goal minutes after Didcot opened the scoring swung the game indisputably into Tivvy’s favour.
However, it almost did come to pass that the changes required showed no positive impact, and for the bulk of he first half we bore witness to a display almost a carbon copy of a week earlier against Larkhall. Tiverton played good football, created a number of excellent openings, and failed to score. By the interval there was a feeling of genuine frustration around the ground, and the season-long concern that we lacked the killer instinct in front of goal was as strong as ever. It is perhaps a little harsh, particularly considering Owen Howe has recently been on a fine run of nine goals in ten games. It is indisputable though that the Yellows hardly thrive in the first half, and indeed the last seven matches Town have played have seen them score just one goal before the break.
Landricombe’s miss was maybe the result of having far too much time to think about what could go wrong, and he feigned a shot and then lifted an awkward effort wide. There was barely two minutes on the clock and already James Richards had driven a low effort past the same post. The pattern had been set early, Dan Smith twice hit the target and on both occasions Leigh Bedwell in the Didcot goal was able to save comfortably, Howe had two chances of his own, the first bobbled way up and over and the second a difficult header that Bedwell was once again not extended to field. It was slightly contrasting to the Larkhall game in that on this Tuesday there was little praise needed for the goalkeepers: Bedwell again saved easily from a Ben Mammola header, and Joe Perry between the Tivvy sticks looked decidedly shaky, flapping at a high ball which led to Adam Learoyd contriving to miss an easy chance, and later in the half completely missing the ball as he attempted to sweep up towards the left touchline. While Diddy were having their moments – most notably a tight offside call that ruled out a ‘goal’ by Mark Janes, it remained Tiverton primarily on the offensive; Smith struck a powerful shot which didn’t miss by much and probably shouldn’t have missed at all, and Mikey Williams almost scored a beaut only for his final effort to bring to a disappointing end some fine individual skill.
To say that the match sparked into life after the change of ends would do a disservice to some of the high-quality play in the opening period, but ultimately football is about goals, and for the first time in 667 minutes (plus various lengths of time added on for stoppages) Perry found himself on the receiving end. A ball in from the right was headed clear but not away from the danger zone, and josh Dutton-Black struck so sweetly from outside the area that the ball would have continued rising for some time has the net not scuppered its progress. Perry had no chance, and while he will of course be disappointed to have finally been beaten after such an impressive run, the goal may prove to be something of a relief as there is no longer any pressure to meet and beat Ian Nott’s 21 year old clean-sheet record. Without a doubt it forced Tiverton to play with more purpose, and had Landricombe been able to extend a leg quicker, or had Howe not seen the ball trapped between left foot and right but not on either then the Yellows would have been level immediately. Instead it took four minutes, and Howe, who was putting in a great shift despite his sequence of missed chances, eased a ball through for Landricombe to score a debut goal with a composed finish into the bottom corner.
From here it was all about the Yellows, aside from another disallowed goal for Didcot, this time for a more clear-cut offside. Richards went into the book for a dive of questionable proportions as he sought a penalty, but Howe was undoubtedly brought down by Bedwell midway through the second half, allowing Richards to hammer a penalty into the roof of the net and put the hosts ahead. With noses in front and Didcot looking more and more like their FA Cup exertions were taking a toll both physically and mentally Tivvy simply had to keep their heads to see this one out. They did more than that: they turned the screw and were helped significantly when Dutton-Black was dismissed for lashing out at Richards. Ethan Phillips came off the bench in place of Landricombe and immediately scored a smart goal having teased Bedwell off his line, while fellow substitute Dan Western further extended the margin of advantage with a deftly placed shot that looked for all the world as if it was heading wide only to squeeze just inside the post. A devastatingly impressive final period of the game was wrapped up through Phillips’ second; a goal similar in many ways to the one Western had scored a couple of minutes earlier, and one that put the metaphorical cherry on top of a performance and glut of goals that Tivvy had been threatening for some time.
Tiverton’s desire and application has never been in question over the past four months, and against Didcot they illustrated very clearly what they can do when it all comes together. Granted, they were helped by being up against a team who will readily point to the exertions of two days earlier and who did look very tired the more the game wore on. But the reality is Tivvy have bossed games in equal measure this season without scoring the goals their play has deserved, and they will take to Essex on Saturday bagfuls of confidence as they visit East Thurrock United in the FA Trophy. It is a nice little diversion from league requirements, but one must not lose sight of the fact that here we have a team are can be genuine playoff contenders if their consistency matches their heart. Fifteen games without defeat doesn’t happen unless you are a good team, and if that sequence is extended one more game then Martyn Rogers will have guided his charges to a run better than any streak his predecessor managed.
Plus ça change… plus ça change!
Tiverton Town: Joe Perry, Jake Wannell (Dan Western 61), Mikey Williams, Ben Mammola, Alex Faux, Tom Gardner, Dan Smith, James Richards, Owen Howe (George Rogers 87), Levi Landricombe (Ethan Phillips 77), Rob Norrish
Goals: Landricombe 51, Richards 67p, Phillips 85, 90, Western 88
Sent off: none
Didcot Town: Leigh Bedwell, Kieran Collins, James Organ, Andy Ballard (Lance Williams, 77), Luke Carnell, Adam Learoyd, Marvin Martin, Jack Self, Mark Janes, Mark Francis (Jimmy Deabill, 75), Josh Dutton-Black
Goal: Dutton-Black 46
Sent off: Dutton-Black
This report ©2015 Alan Reidy