Tiverton Town 1 Swindon Supermarine 1 (Southern League Premier League South – 11/09/21)
This was an entertaining match that kept spectators intrigued from start to finish. It was an end to end contest with the players of both sides giving their fullest endeavours. It was also intriguing because of the two teams differing playing styles. Tiverton Town very much played to the aerial threat of their strikers alongside the danger they could pose from set pieces where they could also load the box with the height of their centre backs. They very much preferred to get the ball into their opponents half and play their football from there. It would though be unfair to label them a long ball or route one type of team – they were far more entertaining and comfortable in possession than that. Swindon Supermarine meanwhile were more inclined, as is their want, to try to build from the back and create their opening by passing football. Essentially the two teams knew their respective stylistic strengths and the battle was very much one of which team could impose their approach on the other. The reality was that, in most respects, they entertainingly cancelled each other out.
The game started briskly and within the first ten minutes both sides had engineered chances. In the first minute Marine’s Chris Zebroski was denied by the legs of the Tiverton keeper Williams. Then in the fifth minute the host’s Watkins had a chance that was miscued but eventually the ball fell to the Dawson who fired just wide.
The ebb and flow of the match continued throughout the first half. In the 18th minute Watkins for the hosts hit a volley just over the bar; then Marine’s Kotwica looked to curl a deft shot from the left edge of the penalty area across goal and into the top corner only to see his well crafted effort superbly saved by keeper William’s finger tip save; then five minutes later a corner reached the home team’s Koszela at the far post but his drilled effort hit the side netting – much to the relieve of the visiting support; and then with ten minutes of the first half remaining a well struck 20 yard shot by Tiverton’s Morrison was well saved by Horsell in Marine’s goal.
The tempo of the match never really dropped in the second half which was very much a tribute to the fitness and efforts of both teams. The first ten minutes started with the same intensity and then, rather like the proverbial London buses, two goals came along at once. In the 54th minute Tiverton opened the scoring. A free kick from the left saw Warren’s header draw an excellent save from Marine’s Horsell. However, Tiverton’s Olaf Koszela reacted quickest to the loose ball to open the scoring. Before though the host’s supporters had time to fully enjoy their lead Marine had, within a minute, equalised. Chris Zebroski was played in on the left. He engineered himself an excellent angle for a cross that was met by an exquisite glancing header from Harry Williams to swiftly restore parity between the teams.
Tiverton in the 62nd minute then had a good opportunity to regain the lead when Hayfield took advantage of some hesitation in the Marine defence to cross to Watkins at the far post but he fired his close range effort just wide. After that chance the goal scoring opportunities reduced and both teams defended resolutely. That did not though mean the final quarter of the game was unentertaining. In fact it was incredibly tense as both sets of supporters knew that one lapse, freak deflection or moment of genius could either cost their team a draw, or if they were the benefactors, secure their side victory.
At the final whistle it would be hard to argue that a draw was not a fair result. This was an entertaining match that was a credit to the effort, skills and endeavour of both teams. It was also a match that was enhanced by sensible officiating. Referee Burley made his own decisions without bowing to influence. He also kept his cards in his pockets – instead managing the game with calm authority. All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
The following came to mind:
- The hosts played some good football. Their front two of Wright and Koszela were a constant threat. Dawson in their midfield looked a very assured player with the ball at his feet and keeper Williams made some excellent saves when called upon.
- For Marine the defence were at times put under some intense pressure. Martin Horsell made some excellent saves and also was impressive in his management of crosses. The back four also stood firm. Matt Coupe and Mat Liddiard competed well aerially. and refused to give ground. They really were rock solid in their defending. Lewis Hall also put in an assured performance at left back. This was a tough test for Louis Spalding as for much of the second half their tallest striker went wide on the left and his part of the field was targeted aerially. Louis, in partnership with Matt Coupe, handled this pressure well. For a still young player, also only just back after injury, this was a tough challenge that he withstood well.
- This was a tough game for the midfield. Tiverton’s effective pressing and closing made it difficult for Marine to impose their passing football in the way they do when at their most fluent. This was though, to my mind, more down to the effectiveness and energy of the opposition than Marine’s deficiencies. What though the midfield did do was compete doggedly. Pleasingly the midfield showed they had the character and drive to match the opponents pressing and closing in a midfield slugfest. This was a game where Marine’s midfield showed the obduracy to battle it out and, for me, that is a positive in its own right. Marine matched their midfield tackle for tackle and tracked them run for run. There are days when against good teams you have to graft for a result and they did that well. Jamie Edge particularly showed his mettle in this match – when team mates are under pressure he is always dropping into a space to receive the ball from them. In a battle those players with the confidence and technical ability to take the ball under pressure and in tight spaces are invaluable.
- Up front Marine always looked a threat. Against a side strong in the air Chris Zebroski offered an excellent physical presence that gave their back four plenty to think about. There was also signs of some really good link play between Zack Kotwica and Harry Williams. The latter’s goal was an excellent header executed to perfection. Three goals in two games is an impressive return.
- Once again credit to the Marine substitutes – coming off the bench into a match of this intensity cannot be easy. However, all three did this well.
- Credit to the management. Against a side with the aerial presence of Tiverton the selection of Matt Coupe at centre back and Chris Zebroski up front gave the hosts a different type of challenge to that they might have been expecting. With an excellent squad in-situ Marine now have the capacity to use their squad depth to come up with the best balanced eleven to compete with a specific opponent. Even with a series of injuries the bench was a strong one.
In the middle of the first half the camaraderie of non league football came to the fore. A Marine supporter stood behind the goal was unfortunately struck by the ball. Credit to the Tiverton keeper who delayed the restart to ensure people were aware of the incident; to the Marine physio who left his pitch side duties to check the injury; to the female Tiverton Town steward who was attentive and supportive; and to the young Tiverton supporter who asked if the supporter was alright and even, later, offered him one of his Haribo sweets! The companionship of non-league football at its very best.
NB – If interested do take a look at the excellent gallery of match day photographs that can be accessed at: