Saunders: Battling point shows the progress Tiverton Town have made
YET another strike from the in-form Joe Bushin and a stubborn rearguard action ensured Tiverton Town left Cirencester Town with a point on Saturday.
Bushin's 32nd-minute strike gave the Yellows a deserved lead against their hosts, only for them to concede an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Cirencester grew in stature as the second half progressed, and it needed some heroic displays from the Tivvy defence, coupled with fine goalkeeping from Chris Wright, to keep them in the game.
Manager Mark Saunders admitted his side were perhaps lucky to head home with a point, but feels such battling displays are indicative of the progress the team has made.
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"Considering the way we played, I am delighted with a point," he said. "The draw on Saturday and the draw against Mangotsfield (2-2) last week were the sort of games we would have lost last season, especially coming from behind twice against Mangotsfield.
"We certainly did not do enough to win the game. Did we do enough to deserve a draw? I'm not so sure, but that is more because of the high standards we have set ourselves at the start of the season.
"It took us half an hour before we managed to string our first set of passes together and from that we managed to create a chance, but that was not good enough really. We have not played all that well but it is still a point away from home."
Harry Nodwell enjoyed a productive return to the starting XI as he was an industrious midfield presence in place of Kevin Hill.
And, after a shaky opening, the Yellows began to stamp their authority on proceedings.
Paul Kendall hit the post after a goalmouth scramble following a teasing delivery from David Steele. Nodwell then fired over, before Josh Concanen started to make his presence felt on the right with a number of surging runs and dangerous crosses.
And it was from one such delivery that Bushin managed to add to his already-impressive goal tally.
The full-back swung in a 32nd-minute cross and, although Bushin saw his first effort blocked, he displayed the predatory instincts that saw him bag two at Mangotsfield Town as he followed up and smashed home the rebound.
But Saunders' men were unable to capitalise, and the hosts roared back into contention.
Shane Bumphrey broke down the right wing and delivered an intelligent ball across the edge of the box for Ellis Dunton to control and fire home, leaving Wright with no chance.
After half-time, the hosts grew in confidence. Nodwell did manage a cross for Bushin but, even with the striker in superb form, it represented too much for him to angle his header on target from a difficult position.
But Cirencester began creating chances of their own, only to be let down by the profligacy of a number of players.
Jamie Reid could only guide a clear header wide, before Wright denied Wells after Concanen had surrendered possession cheaply for Tivvy.
Gardner then lost the ball in an even more threatening position, but again Wright saved the day as he did well to deny Sam Collier when through on goal.
As the game entered its final stages, it was all hands to the pump for Tivvy as the hosts threw everything at the visitors.
Crosses into the box were the order of the day, but Gardner and Kendall stood firm and repelled all that was thrown at them.
Substitute Jules Emati-Emati then had Tivvy's best chance of the half as he found himself through on goal following Andy Taylor's pass, but the striker was unable to beat Cirencester goalkeeper Lee Clatworthy in goal.
Bushin then went close again with minutes left on the clock as he slid in to convert Taylor's centre, but he could only divert the ball wide.
A whopping eight minutes of injury time were needed, and it was deep into that period that Tiverton were lucky to escape with a point after Collier sent a header high and wide from six yards with the goal gaping.
Tiverton face a trip to North Leigh next, and it is a match Saunders is not taking lightly.
"North Leigh is going to be one hell of a test. They are a big, strong side so we are going to have to match them if we want to get something out of it," he said.
"We got battered by them the last time and they have lost their last few games, so they will be keen to put that right.
"But we knew this was going to be a tough month but we have managed to take points still and that is a good thing."