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Sham Pain

Pitching In Southern League, Premier Division South

Walton & Hersham 2 (Hicks 52, Owusu 84)

Tiverton Town 0

Saturday, February 17 . Elmbridge Xcel Sports Hub


ALTHOUGH this result is a setback for the Yellows, the circumstances leading up to this game made things difficult for the players and management team. Captain Jamie Richards sat out the first of a two-game suspension; fellow defender Jack Veale was injured; and Bristol Rovers loanees Jerry Lawrence and Charlie White were recalled by their parent club at short notice.


Joe Parker did make his return to the side, which is a real positive. However, Matt Britton had to drop in alongside Josh Jones and Dylan Jones played as a full-back. There was also a place amongst the match-day squad for Under-18 defender Sam Gleeson as a depleted Yellows took to the field.


From the first whistle, it was Walton & Hersham who quickly settled into their passing game and they dominated the early stages. Nana Owusu’s swerving free-kick had goalkeeper Zak Baker momentarily guessing, but he cradled the ball to prevent Swans’ players following up.


Then, in the 14th minute, a flowing move with neat interchanges that typified the hosts’ style of play saw Owusu advance into the box. His attempt on goal, however, found the side netting.


Gradually Tiverton grew into the game and had a good period following that tough first 15 minutes. Wrestling back the initiative, Josh Jones had perhaps their most clear-cut chance from a set-piece, but he was unable to plant his header either side of Tyla Dickinson in the Walton & Hersham goal.

Further half-chances came and went for the in-form Jack Rice, flashing wide of Dickinson’s post and then an effort lacking power that was easily gathered.


Tivvy’s opponents continued to impress in possession and pressed and probed for an opener of their own. Almost capitalising on an error in the Yellows’ defensive ranks. Eddie Simon played in Stan Flaherty, although, fortunately, with the goal at his mercy, he missed the target.


A Javan Wright carry down the touchline was almost productive until a timely intervention headed him off at the pass and the sides went in for half-time refreshments goalless, Tiverton having had slightly the better of things against skilful and dangerous opposition.


That was as good as it got for the Yellows as the Swans’ quickly moved into the ascendancy in the second half and outplayed Tivvy for most of it. After conceding a series of corners and free-kicks in a frantic opening five minutes after the break, Town saw Owusu rattle the crossbar with a stinging driven shot from fully 35 yards out, firing an early warning.


Then, with Tivvy pegged back, Simon found Hicks in the congested visitors’ box and he scrambled the ball home to give the hosts the lead.


Chances then came and went for the home side, Baker’s handling once again impressive in foiling them on a few occasions. 

Flaherty again found himself in the clear and again missed, although this time by a very small margin. Two Swans’ ‘goals’ were ruled out for offside and River Allen’s snap shot, which was travelling, was crucially blocked in the host’s six-yard box.


That Allen attempt aside, Tivvy were second best in the second 45 minutes as Parker received little or no service in the final third.


Walton & Hersham’s Arsen Ujkajwas the next player to find himself in on goal and, thankfully for the Yellows, he also shot wide. Owusu, though, did extend the lead with the clock ticking down, rebounding in Eddie Simon’s shot in the 84th minute.


There was no hint at a way back at that point, with a torrent of second-half attacks placing a hardworking, but ineffective, makeshift Tivvy firmly on the back foot. In possession, the home side are arguably as good as anyone in the division and this was always going to be a tall order. 

As the final whistle blew, the players’ awareness of their situation has become a little more evident. Last season, survival for one club in this division was 38 points. It is obvious to say that that will not be nearly enough come the end of April.


Weather pending, Tiverton are back in action on Tuesday evening at home to relegation rivals Dorchester. It is vital that supporters become the 12th man for that game and the ones that follow at Ladysmead against Gosport, on Saturday, and Winchester, the Tuesday after.


In these three consecutive home games, Tivvy will need to prosper, as results - positive or negative - will shape the rest of their campaign.


Chins up and looking forward!


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