Tiverton Town 2-2 Merthyr Town
By Simon Ellis
Yellows battle back from two down again
Just four points now separate the Yellows from Gosport Borough in twentieth place in the standings and the issues are obvious. Missing three key players all at once is a massive blow for any team, especially when they all form the normally assured defensive line. The latest outing proved to be the same said scenario as at Hendon previously and for the second time in seven days the Yellows were forced to battle back from two down to earn a point, as the visitors seemed to be on track to repeat the dosage of the five-one win handed out on a cold November evening in South Wales after scoring twice through Ian Traylor inside twenty-five minutes but to their credit the Yellows dug in and Max Smallcombe reduced the arrears five minutes before the break with his first league goal before Stewart Yetton headed home to complete the comeback just after the hour.
Michael Landricombe, who was awarded Player of the Month for December prior to kick-off, was again drafted in at centre half, in the absence of the usual backline members of Price (unwell), Mammola (ankle) and Gardner (wrist), alongside new signing Dan Ball who had joined on a one-month loan from Bath City on only the previous day as again the Yellows found themselves short on numbers and Merthyr, to their credit, were quickly on top as well as putting the unfamiliar defensive partnership to the test.
Ian Traylor, who bagged himself a hattrick in the reverse fixture, was again chief tormentor for Tivvy early on and duly opened the scoring after just six minutes as he received a through ball that cut the Yellows backline open, before rounding Armstrong and tapping in to the unguarded net for a dream start for the visitors and there was barely time to draw breath before he narrowly fired over from the edge of the area. Quite how Traylor doubled the advantage on twenty-three minutes I`m not entirely sure but he did just that as the early Merthyr pressure, plenty of it too, was duly rewarded and the feeling of here we go again was evident amongst home supporters.
Ball, making his debut headed a Levi Landricombe cross wide, Landricombe himself slipped at the vital moment as he shaped to hit a Tom Bath knock down and Lewis Webb in the Merthyr goal saved a Stewart Yetton header as the Yellows looked to repair the early damage and eventually, five minutes before the break they did just that. An excellent passing move from back to front was eventually worked to Max Smallcombe on the edge of the area and he curled a beauty in to the corner past the despairing dive of Webb and only a brave block prevented Levi Landricombe producing a near carbon copy of the Smallcombe strike on the stroke of half time.
Tom Bath almost drew the sides level with less than sixty-seconds of the second half played, Webb with another save before Armstrong foiled Traylor for the first time in the second half at the other end and then Ball denied him with an outstretched leg. Stewart Yetton, who scored his first goal in his second spell at the club when he opened the scoring in the three-one win at Frome Town recently, bagged his second and the equaliser just after the hour mark. Steve Colwell kept a cross alive on the left byline and lofted the ball back in to the area where Yetton headed in, although Webb will have been disappointed to allow the ball to squirm under his body. Another superb Armstrong save at the other end from you know who kept the sides level as the visitors pushed for a winner, which they almost pinched in the final minutes as a curling shot hit the inside of Armstrongs far post before rolling, agonisingly, across the goal line before being hacked away to safety and so a share of the spoils for both sides.
Tiverton: Liam Armstrong, Josh Key, Isaac Furness (Harrison Davis 82), Max Smallcombe, Michael Landricombe, Dan Ball, Tom Bath, Steve Colwell, Stewart Yetton (Scott Rogers 89), Levi Landricombe, Callum Hall.
Goals: Max Smallcombe 40, Stewart Yetton 61