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23 January 2018

Bluefin Sport Supplementary Cup
Cirencester Town Development 7 Tuffley Rovers 3 (away view)

Cirencester Town’s Development Squad produced an emphatic demonstration of quality finishing to end Tuffley Rovers’ participation in this season’s Hellenic League Supplementary Cup competition, on Tuesday evening.

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Rovers came into the game off the back of a 2-0 league win over Abingdon United 10 days earlier and their manager, Mark Pritchett, had been in confident mood, as his side looked for progress in a competition they had finished Runners-up in the previous season. Any confidence proved misplaced, as Rovers were humbled by a side who took advantage of the 3G surface, to play a fast-paced, high energy game. Rovers added Ashley Davies, who had returned from a spell with Southern League side Shortwood United, was on the bench, and there was a first start for Harry Walker, who had been absent since the end of August with a broken leg.

Within seconds of the game starting, Town’s Dan Roberts produced a rasping shot, from 20 yards, that beat Rovers’ Dave Evans but cannoned away off the far post, but he was not to be denied two minutes later, when he produced another excellent strike from 25 yards that whistled past the Tuffley keeper and into the net. Sam Walsh almost extended the lead on 8 minutes, but his downward header bounced up and over Evans’ bar from Roberts’ cross. Like his teammate, however, Walsh’s profligacy was fleeting and he capitalised on some uncertain Rovers defending, moments later, to drive the ball home from 8 yards on 12 minutes.

Rovers started to get a foot-hold in the game but weren’t troubling the opposition defence, with Liam Wright’s shot easily held by Dan Gough, and things went from bad to worse on 22 minutes, as Connor Hibbs collected a pass over the top of a statuesque Rovers backline and held off a desperate challenge from Joel White, before poking the ball past Evans from 10 yards.

With a mountain to climb, Pritchett reshuffled his side, moving Brett James into a more central role and the former Gloucester City youngster made sure this paid immediate dividends, cutting in from the left and firing an unstoppable shot beyond Gough and into the top corner of Gough’s goal. The optimism which accompanied James’ goal was short-lived, as Kieran Squires held off from making a challenge, allowing Reigan Cook too much time and space, before the Cirencester youngster lashed a stunning 20-yard effort beyond Evans, to make it 4-1. It might have been worse moments later, had Sam Hill not denied Roberts and Walsh with two excellent defensive block tackles.

That proved to be the last scare of the half and Pritchett’s side went into the interval with their hopes for progress in the competition hanging by a thread.

In response to a desperately poor first half performance, Pritchett introduced Davies and Courtney Hamilton, for Hill and striker Ashley Bird, at the interval, and it very nearly had the desired effect, just five minutes into the second period. After a crisp passing move, involving Shayne Bradley, Warren Mann and Liam Wright, the ball found its way to Davies, whose well struck effort went through the legs of James and beyond the despairing dive of Gough, but the goal was ruled out, as the officials determined that James’ step-over made him an active participant and ruled out the goal, as he was in an offside position.

Erratic defending was proving Rovers’ Achilles heel and Joel White had to produce another excellent last-ditch tackle to deny another Town attack, but it proved in vain, as substitute Max Lloyd found himself in space to net the hosts’ fifth goal of the evening, with a strike beyond Evans from close in.

With twenty minutes remaining, the game was finally over as a contest, as Dan Gudger’s perseverance saw him evade two challenges, before firing the ball beyond a helpless Evans, to make it 6-1. Rovers showed an improved determination in the period immediately following Town’s sixth goal and Wright’s free-kick, from 22 yards, had Gough beaten, only to bounce back off the crossbar.

That moment of brief optimism was swiftly quelled, though, as Walsh netted again, to make it 7-1, although James produced another moment of individualism and netted another excellent effort, to make it 7-2 with 10 minutes to go. Walker had a shot, from 30 yards, that flew narrowly over, before a final consolation effort arrived, in slightly odd circumstances, when Gough spilled Mann’s cross and saw the ball cannon in, for an own goal, to make it 7-3 in the dying moments of the game.

When the whistle sounded, just a few moments later, Pritchett’s side saw the end to this season’s cup ambitions, whilst Cirencester Town Development were left to reflect on an impressive display that augurs well for their future.

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