Devon County FA Cup Sunday November 2nd 2014 Tiverton Town u18s 1 Willand Rovers u18s 2 HT (0-1) OG, Sam Rawlings As soon as this draw was made the players from both clubs were buzzing. Both teams are capable of good football although heavy overnight rain and the occasional shower made the surface quite soft – and this is a big pitch. The stakes were quite high too. A County FA Cup match and the last time both sides would meet – most of them have been playing each other since they were under 8s! The banterwagon was noisy on the way up the M5 (this one had an Aux socket!!) and when it pulled into Ladysmead the atmosphere was building  nicely. The pitch looked lush as the first spectators began to arrive, while the Willand players did their warm-up routine in their smart black T shirts. The game got under way with Willand attacking the Market Carpets End and early exchanges were promising on the left wing as Jake Tillett began to link with Tarji Jones (who is looking better and better with each game). Sam Johnson was also starting his first game up front for the White Ravens and his strong running and good close control made life difficult for the Tiverton rearguard. After 11 minutes, the visitors were ahead. Jordan Bastin had played in Johnson down the left who shrugged off his defender before putting a low ball across the 6 yard area. A lunging Tiverton defender got their first but merely directed the ball past the goalkeeper at his near post. Tiverton hadn’t really come forward yet but their approached down Willand’s right and left (especially) were stifled by Jack Rawlings and the excellent Alex Wright. In the middle, Jordan Major and captain Ashley Matthews were largely dealing with the threat posed by Willand old-boys, Nick Merriam and Caspian Aplin. While Willand were busy creating openings and chances from open-play, Tiverton were dependant on set-pieces from freekicks and corners, which were either off target or dealt with by the defenders. Nevertheless, Tiverton were starting to wake up. At the other end, a flashing drive from right to left by Johnson went narrowly wide, while the effervescent Reece Kingdom came close when 1v1 with Digger who loomed large in the Tiverton goal. he was well placed minutes later when Jones could only direct  his header at him from 7 yards. Willand might have settled had they taken any one of their chances but at the break it was only 0-1. So, how important is the halftime talk? I don’t remember anything being said about letting the hosts in for an equaliser after 25 seconds….. After Willand possession was lost on the halfway line, Tiverton shipped the ball wide left and an error let in their winger who crossed towards the penalty spot. First to arrive was Matthews whose connection completely wrong footed Jez Cross and the ball rolled over the line. The next 10 minutes looked as though the tide had turned with Tiverton looking for a second goal. Gallant defending, tough, well-timed tackling and wayward shooting ensured the home side didn’t really threaten the Willand goal as Willand worked hard to get back into the game. Nathan Antat, who’d been feeling ill at right midfield, was replaced after 55′. Jones, who just seen his latest shot go wide of the keepers right upright, moved to right midfield and Sam Rawlings came on to partner Johnson up top. Rawlings would give energy and pace. Five minutes later, Joe Vittles came on to replace Johnson, who’d really put a shift in. Tiverton still possessed a threat but they never looked like getting beyond the Willand rearguard again, whereas the Ravens were doing it regularly. Jake Tillett’s trickery, pace and directness got him into the area on a number of occasions and his flashing drive was narrowly wide of the far post. Sam Rawlings’ willingness to get beyond his defender meant the Bastin and Jones frequently fed the ball down the channel which he was quick to latch onto. The next goal would be vital now and Willand would have to make the most of their better possession. They did. Having moved the ball to the edge of the area, Rawlings tried his luck and groans (because the ball was going straight to the ‘keepers hands) turned to delight as he fumbled it over his head and the ball dropped agonisingly over the line. Five minutes plus time added on to go. Willand wouldn’t let it go now and they celebrated another well earned and deserved win. A cracking good cup game for the spectators (a large proportion of which were Willand’s). All the players put in a great effort today and played some very good football on the way to a memorable win and a passage through to the next round.