A DAVID Steele-inspired Tiverton Town underlined their play-off aspirations with an emphatic victory over visiting Winchester City on Saturday.
Joe Bushin and Michael Nardiello added to the midfielder's opener to put the gloss on what was a dominant display from the Yellows against a stubborn but ultimately limited Winchester outfit.
The victory – Tivvy's second 3-0 triumph in five days following Tuesday's superb win at Merthyr Town – was made all the more impressive as the first half somehow ended goalless, despite the Yellows' domination and the number of clear chances they created. Assistant manager Hedley Steele – who accompanied the side for last night's match away to Mangotsfield United – praised his players for showing the patience to grind down a determined opposition.
"It is pleasing to get another 3-0 win off the back of the Merthyr win," said the former Tiverton defender. "We started off really well and, to be fair, we should have been 3-0 up in the first 10 minutes.
"We missed three good chances and we said it was important after Tuesday to come here and go for the throat from the start.
"We are pleased we did that but not pleased that we did not stick the ball in the back of the net.
"The longer that went on, you could see their plan was to get as many bodies behind the ball as they could, slow it down, tough it out, frustrate us and generally try and take the sting out of the game.
"To some extent, that worked for the first period. Getting them in at half-time was all about getting that frustration out of their system.
"We asked the lads to up the tempo just a little bit. It takes two teams to inject tempo into a game and make the game flow with tempo and determination and we were the ones who had to force it."
Adhering to the adage of not altering a winning line-up, Mark Saunders again partnered Bushin alongside recent signing Dave Pearse up front, and the new man was a whisker away from opening his Yellows account as he looked to latch on to Russell Jee's centre after three minutes.
David Steele did manage to connect with Alex Faux's cross a minute later, but he could only put his header over from close range while on the stretch.
Bushin then saw a header of his own brilliantly saved by the impressive Rory Anderson in the visiting goal.
Too many times this season Tivvy have failed to make early supremacy count only to then fall behind, and Chris Wright had to be alert to keep out Adam Roberts' shot from outside the box.
Helped by the industrious Steele and energetic Pearse – who seldom gave Winchester's defence a moment of peace on the ball – Tivvy continued to fashion chances which they should have converted.
Lewis Tasker's crisply-struck effort was tipped over by Anderson, who then excelled himself by pushing Steele's left-footed curler around the post.
The first half gradually petered out, with a loud appeal for handball in the box the visitors' most noteworthy foray forward.
For all Tivvy's wastefulness in front of goal in the first half, it took just three minutes of the second for them to break the deadlock.
Faux beat his man on the left before whipping in a devilish ball which Steele flung himself at and glanced home from six yards.
The goal was the very least the Yellows deserved, but they allowed their concentration to wane for several minutes after the restart and were lucky to see Michael Charles' effort fizz over the bar as the hosts were caught napping.
Nardiello replaced a tiring Pearse, and he announced his arrival by stinging the keeper's palms with a long-range drive seconds later.
And with just over 20 minutes left on the clock, Tiverton grabbed their second. Jee's optimistic pass fell kindly for Bushin, who had time to look up and assess his options before lashing the ball home from inside the box.
Substitute Josh Searle then hit both posts after he seized on a defensive mix-up as Tivvy looked to turn a convincing win into a rout.
And it was the winger who put the lively Nardiello clean through with three minutes of normal time remaining, with the striker making no mistake with a cool finish to round off an excellent performance with the third.
"Fans sometimes turn up with the expectation on us to win but obviously when teams turn up here they know they are going to have a tough game so they put bodies behind the ball," explained Hedley Steele.
"We have to tough them out, be patient and wait until we get the breakthrough, and that happened against Winchester.
"They were quite content to slow the game down and make it difficult on a heavy pitch and, with bodies behind the ball, they were difficult to break down.
"But we put more pace into the game and got the vital breakthrough just after half-time."
And the assistant manager saved the last word for striker Bushin, who has now bagged 10 goals in all competitions, including six in Tivvy's last six matches.
"We really needed to get Joe Bushin into a decent run of form," he continued. "When you have Bushin in goal-scoring form you know he will bang them in.
"Early doors he could not buy a goal but now you can see that, when he is in good form, he will bang them in for fun."