Pitching In Southern League, Premier Division South
Tuesday, December 26, 2023
Plymouth Parkway 1 (Wright 90 +7)
Tiverton Town 1 (Richards 41)
TO come away from this game feeling disappointed shows the strides that Tiverton have made recently and also that the bar of performance and result has become higher than earlier in the season.
The Devon Derby game in September saw us outplayed until Parkway were reduced, firstly to ten men and then to nine. This Christmas meeting was a totally different affair as Tiverton more than matched Parkway. A well supported away day, with the supporters' minibus giving Town a voice behind the goal that surely was appreciated by the team and the players on the park who definitely did not let the travelling army of fans down.
River Allen and Jamie Richards significantly returned to the team, although Matt Britton aggravated a strain and was not fit enough to be considered. Carlo Garside started as Jerry Lawrence dropped to the bench.
The hosts – on a four-game winning run, including a trouncing of table-toppers Chesham – were a formidable proposition. On top of this, in recent history, Bolitho Park has not been the happiest of hunting grounds: two defeats against Truro and last season's 4-2 to loss to Parkway are all tales of woe.
The team quickly set about their task. Jack Rice went close early on, but could not angle his shot to the corners of Adam Parkes’ goal and his effort was dealt with by their young goalkeeper. Parkway forced a string of corners after this: however, the well-drilled Tiverton rearguard did not buckle when tested by some inviting balls in.
Then, on 11 minutes, Niall Thompson had a big chance when he was played through, but Parkes was able to get his hand down to his attempt and perhaps it was too central to take the goalkeeper out of the equation. The next passage of play saw both sides attack with intent as they looked to stamp their authority on the game, although this period did not see any chances of note for either side.
With the typical aggression of a derby game evident, chances were at a minimum. In the 37th minute, Parkway skipper Ryan Lane was withdrawn after he pulled a muscle. Four minutes later, Tiverton players remained up from an attacking set-piece. The Purples - as we were on the day - recycled the ball and when it arrived at the feet of River Allen, he delivered a magical pass with the outside of his boot on to the head of the onrushing Jamie Richards, whose glancing connection was expertly placed out of Parkes’ reach. Cue celebrations with the visiting supporters.
Predictably, there was a response from the hosts but Toby Downs’ header at the end of normal time in the first half, a presentable opportunity, went over the crossbar. Tivvy led at the break and were worth their advantage.
Leigh Robinson and Ben Gerring had been disappointed by their team’s slow start in the Beaconsfield game and the way they had started the first half against Parkway suggested a reminder was voiced in the dressing room beforehand. The fired-up players began the second period on the front foot and were the dominant force in the opening ten minutes.
With Allen and Garside often the architects for some bright flowing football, Thompson’s pace always a threat, and Bailey Kempster’s boundless energy, tenacity and sense of adventure proving an excellent outlet on our left, we were in the ascendancy.
Parkway then got a foothold in the game as the pendulum swung and chances for Callum Hall and Jack Crago, although missing the target, kept us on our guard. Tivvy continued to look dangerous on the break but the same two Parkway players both went close again - Hall’s shot ricocheted off of a Tiverton player and behind for a corner and Crago’s effort flashed wide.
Mitch Beardmore replaced Javan Wright, who had put a real shift in on another heavy pitch, and the impressive Garside made way for Lawrence.The home side continued to press and then Matt Wright came on to add to their firepower.
Zak Baker’s handling was exemplary on the afternoon and some excellent interventions and good positioning were reassuring to a fairly miserly backline. Josh Jones and Richards were strong centrally and were joined by Gerring in the latter stages of the game, as the inspirational Allen finally was substituted - at the second attempt, as our preoccupied coach was so wrapped up in the game that he had forgotten to put his shin pads in. Allen applauded the appreciative travelling fans twice - the second occasion felt like an encore.
A few half-chances for our hosts came and went as we moved into eight minutes of added time. Parkway threw the kitchen sink at their visitors, who thought they had prevailed until, with a minute left, Wright, assisted by their ’keeper Parkes - up for a corner - equalised. It was a flashing header from Wright, so often the pantomime villain for Taunton against the Yellows and the euphoria of Saturday’s last-ditch leveller had been replaced by the disappointment of being in a reverse situation.
Despite this, it was a performance to be proud of from the Yellows, who will be going all out on New Year’s Day to win against a Dorchester side who have been drawn into the relegation battle.
Pictures by Viv Curtis, Official Club Photographer