As players from both teams scurried to the ground with half an hour left, pre-match routines were lost and with the referee prompting a punctual 6:30 kick-off, the idea of player and team development seemed a distant ambition, writes Nick Miles..

Willand attacked the orange and black stripes of Cullompton, who defended the Cricket Club End. There was also an end-of-season feel about the early exchanges as sloppiness nearly gave Cully two glorious chances.

From the touchline it was difficult to tell but the players on both sides were having difficulty with a surprisingly soft pitch given the time of year but then this pitch had been under water for weeks. It meant that divots were easily created and so a passing game was difficult. Willand soon got in control though and found joy down the hosts right flank.

On 16′, a Dan Hayfield corner was semi-cleared to the end of the box but the next ball in was delightfully struck on the run into the far corner by Reece Kingdom. Jordan Armstrong was unlucky to have his breakaway shot saved by the keepers legs minutes later and despite trying to double their tally, it was just 1-0 at half time.

In the second half and two goals in as many minutes put the game beyond doubt. First Armstrong wriggled through and finished with aplomb from wide left and then Dan Hayfield collected the ball and went on a mazy run which end with him nutmegging the ‘keeper for 3-0/

Cas Aplin finished the scoring on 84 minutes when JJ Vittles’ excellent run to the goal-line on the right saw him square a perfectly weighted pass for Cas to bundle in.

Cullompton offered very little aside from long range set-pieces and towards the end, the tackles became a little reckless. Strangely, a late one on Tarj Jones went unpunished, yet he had to leave the field of play with a nasty gash on his ankle.

Devon County Youth League
Sunday 27th April 2014
Tiverton Town 3 Willand Rovers 2 (HT 2-0) Vittles 2

These are the sorts of games that everyone wants to play in or watch. Tivvy crowned earlier in the week as county champions kicked off down a fair gradient on a pitch which frankly was touch and go as to whether it was match fit. There were patches of very wet turf and deep but soft divots all over – had there been any of the forecast rain in the previous 3 hours, I doubt the game wold have kicked-off. But all those present were pleased it did as it was increasingly compelling.

Willand were without 2 regulars and Dan Hayfield started from the bench such was his ankle injury from his debut with Exeter City the day before. Ash Matthews resorted to his specialist centreback role that saw him get 20′ with the 1st XI in the Western League yesterday.

Tiverton’s 2 late arrivals joined the fray after 5′ by which time the rest of their side had seized the initiative and already had a shot tipped over by the excellent Jez Cross. Willand could not get into the game. They were either underhitting passes or taking too long in possession. Alex Wright was in late with a challenge which the match official thought worthy of a booking on 8 minutes.

After 14′. Tiverton were ahead with a simple tap in after good work down the Willand right.

Still Willand would not wake up. Tiverton were rampant on the right flank and when they weren’t running the ball from the halfway line, they were hitting long cross-field balls over the heads of the fullbacks.

It was 2-0 after 30′ and the signs were ominous, although the visiting central defenders were now playing well.

Just before the break though, Willand had 3 chances, one of which JJ Vittles will wonder how he missed (when he directed a free header straight at the home keeper.

Into the second half, and suddenly, it was 3-0 as a mistake lost Willand possession and a failure to clear gifted the hosts left winger with a fine finish into the far corner.

Then the bad side of football. Jordan Armstrong collected the ball on the right and ran at the left back, who shepherded him to the touchline. The referee from 30m away deemed it a foul by Armstrong while the Willand striker argued he had been fouled first. He had a point. The referee heard Armstrong say something and beckoned the player over. The boy should have shut-up although the official didn’t help by goading him. He had been warned though. Perhaps he should have moved as far away as possible but 3 seconds after play had restarted, he went in for a header and was penalised for a foul. His resultant outburst was just what the referee had been waiting for and when he called the player over, Armstrong was very upset and confronted the referee. There was no way back now.

There is no excuse for what he is alleged to have done and I loathe dissent and violent conduct at every level. I do also believe that the official didn’t cover himself in glory either – goading a player like that at any level makes uncomfortable viewing. Nevertheless, the player very definitely was in the wrong and he will have to wait for the FA’s decision.

So, 40′ left, 3-nil down and now with just 10 men, Willand would be up against it.

Tiverton kept playing for a fourth but Willand’s fine defence was in control. Dan Hayfield came in for Cas Aplin, who had worked very hard and shortly after, Harry Lovegrove replaced Sam Warren (who now realises footballers are fitter than rugby boys!).

Suddenly though, Willand’s football was coming through. Crimmins and Hayfield were linking up well in midfield and Kingdom and Vittles (now on his own up front) were driving forward. Vittles came close when his shot hit the bar.

Then he scored. Matthews played a ball away to Hayfield who curled with the outside of his boot a pass right into the path of Timmy Miles. His far post cross was met on the run by JJ. 1-3.

Then Vittles was in again and this time the keeper save d brilliantly, Then Harry Lovegrove went close. Willand were buzzing and needed another.

They got it, when JJ received another good ball from Crimmins, and he buried the ball into the far post.

Tiverton were hanging on as Lovegrove, Vittles, Hayfield and Miles all went close for the equaliser.

It’s a shame the team took until the last half an hour to shift up a gear and show how well they can play (and hopefully the game will be remembered more for this than the sending off).

2-3. Willand are frustrating and then so inspirational. They do have time though………………….