Pitching In Southern League Premier Division South
The Simplyhealth City Ground. Tuesday, January 30
Winchester City 2 (Wright 67, Nolan 81)
Tiverton Town 1 (Parker 14)
DESPITE the fanfares that met Saturday's inspiring victory against Poole, momentum was lost on a Hampshire evening that promised another success. Ultimately, though, it was Winchester who called the tune.
Leigh Robinson made three changes to our weekend line up, Dylan Jones, Charlie White and River Allen starting as Josh Jones, Aamir Daniels and the injured Javan Wright made way.
Both sides were jockeying for position with the game four minutes old, when a vociferous appeal with some aggressive industrial language thrown in for good measure, directed at the referee from a couple of Winchester players resulted in both being warned about their future conduct in the match.
Then, three minutes later, a fluent passage of attacking play from the Yellows ended with a Matt Britton attempt not troubling Luke Cairney in the Citizens’ goal.
Neither side had asserted their control on the game and our hosts were the next to try their luck. A terrific, long cross field ball was neatly controlled by winger Trevor Caborn out wide. He drifted inside and past a few challenges before firing over.
Good movement and pressing from us early on forced Winchester into some last-ditch defending as Joe Parker and Jack Rice moved into dangerous areas, with Carlo Garside and Allen playing some inviting passes through to the front men. Allen got some good shape on a shot that went to Cairney’s right, but the keeper made a decent save.
Then the razor-sharp Parker was the first to react as the Citizens failed to clear their lines and dispatched his chance beyond their ’keeper. Taking an early lead was, of course, a positive thing and it was also inevitable that the home side would want to have their say, too. Zak Baker had to palm away a powerful long-range effort from the hosts and Rice weaved in and out of defenders, but he could not quite get enough purchase on his shot as Winchester players put pressure on the ball.
The home side often turned attack into defence with the tactic of long diagonal balls from defence or deep midfield positions out to advanced wing positions and the Yellows never really came to terms with this. The Citizens were spending more time in our final third, although we looked a little more threatening going forward. With Parker moving intelligently into areas of concern for the hosts and Garside and Allen often looking to link up with probing passes, we often threatened as we broke.
An undisputed penalty was then awarded to Winchester, but some superb agility and a strong hand from Baker saw him dive to his left and pull off a great stop. This kept our noses in front and Allen then drove another shot to Cairney’s left and an impressive save from him meant we were not able to extend our lead.
As the first half closed, it almost opened up for the Citizens, when a ball through, centrally, was a whisker away from striker Tommy Wright being in on goal.
When the half-time whistle blew, it would be a fair assessment to say that there was little in this game. However, we were definitely not as convincing as we were on Saturday and it was the hosts who had been more in our half of the pitch, than we had done down the other end. There had been moments of real quality from Tivvy, but it was also a scrappy encounter.
When the two sides returned after the break, it was Winchester who assumed the upper hand, heading wide of the Yellows’ goal and worryingly forcing themselves on too many occasions into the Tiverton box.
With the pressure escalating, we conceded a free-kick on the edge of our box. However, the taker’s delivery flashed wide of the upright.
At that stage we had been placed firmly on the backfoot. The Yellows did have brief respite when they played nicely through the team, and a searching ball from Allen brought Cairney out of his goal to desperately clear for a Yellows’ throw-in out by the corner flag.
For a short three-minute period, we enjoyed some good possession and forced further last-ditch defending from the Citizens’ backline, but back they came and it was unfortunately looking only a matter of time before Winchester equalised. Our influence on the game was becoming diminished and we were under a lot of pressure.
Leigh Robinson changed things as Alefe Santos, who had been on the periphery of things after the break, was replaced by Niall Thompson.
In the 67th minute, the Citizens’ pressure told as Wright had time and space to decisively fire past Baker and draw the home side level. Tiverton did react well to the host’s equalising and gained a corner and a free-kick in quick succession, although Cairney was not asked to make a save in a good spell for the visitors.
Thompson, accelerating past a defender and to the byline, crossed low and hard, but beyond three or four Tivvy runners, and Matt Britton lofted the ball over when it came back to him as we recycled the ball from a corner. Allen, with a bit of artistry, bent a wicked ball into the box, just evading onrushing Yellows’ players.
The game was very open, but it was not long before the home side scored what proved to be a crucial and deciding goal.
Winchester, often pinning us back with long raking balls out of defence to their tricky wide players, saw Pip Nolan give them the advantage in the 81st minute as he cooly lashed home from just inside our area.
Substitutions for the Yellows followed: Daniels and Ben Gerring joined proceedings with Allen and White being replaced. Dylan Jones’ cross agonisingly found the first defender when we had committed lots of players into the box and Rice’s free-kick flew over.
We were competitive in the first half, but faded in a second period, which mainly belonged to the Hampshire side, and when the game reached its conclusion there could be few complaints with the 2-1 scoreline.
There will be plenty of twists and turns in our battle for survival and although the team looked pretty dejected after this one, I am sure they will be determined to bounce back at Hendon.