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Hellenic League Match Report

26 December


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Brimscombe & Thrupp 4 Tuffley Rovers 3 (away view)

Not for the first time this season – either against their Boxing Day opponents or more generally – Tuffley Rovers left themselves with a mountain to climb, as a calamitous opening 30 minutes at The Meadow meant Mark Pritchett’s team returned home without the points that might have ensured the festive spirit lived just a little longer in the minds of the travelling support. Instead, Rovers’ fans would have gone home wondering what might have been, had Rovers defended a little more resolutely in the opening period, or taken a gilt edged chance to make it 4-4. Anyone who cast their mind back to the start of the season, when the reverse fixture took place on a late August Bank Holiday, will have remembered a Rovers recovery that saw them come back from 3-1 down, with five minutes remaining, to rescue a point against Sam Prior’s side, but few would have imagined an encounter on this holiday that would prove to be arguably more thrilling.

Rovers came into the game without a game in fifteen days and off the back of a 4-4 draw at Malvern Town, whereas Brimscombe & Thrupp – who had endured a tough start to this season, having finished 2nd in 2018/19 – were on a run of three consecutive victories and five games unbreaten, with their last outing, on five days previously, seeing them record an excellent 2-0 win away at Lydney Town. With their regular keeper, Ashley Gale, absent the hosts were forced into their only change, with Rob Sims filling in, whilst Rovers welcomed back Macaulay Herbert and Jack Beardsell, who had both missed the cup tie at Malvern, but were without Player/Manager Pritchett, who was suspended.
Whether it was an extension of Christmas spirit, the absence of Pritchett, or just poor defending, Rovers were punished less than four minutes into the game, as they gave Brimscombe the opportunity to take a quick free-kick, which Jack Smith took advantage of to roll the ball past Luke Merchant, from 12 yards, whilst the visiting defence were still looking to organise themselves.

brimscombe v tuffley 26 December 2019What followed, in the next ten minutes, was a period of relative control from the visitors, and both Tyreece Briscoe and Beardsell had efforts on goal; the first firing over Sims’ bar and the second drawing a good stop from the keeper. That proved to be the calm before the storm and within seconds of Beardsell’s effort, Rovers fell further behind. James Campbell was given far too much space out wide on the Brimscombe left but when he cut back inside and passed the ball into the Rovers area it looked like Ben Prictor had correctly anticipated the danger. However, the experienced full-back, who is normally so unflappable, inexplicably miscontrolled when he might have instantly cleared, and the ball went straight into the path of Johan Flo, who didn’t waste the opportunity to make it 2-0 after 18 minutes.

Within sixty seconds, it was 3-0 as Ed Major, who had been the most notable outlet for the hosts whenever they had attacked, was afforded far too much room on the right and his cross allowed Campbell to stroke the ball beyond Merchant and seemingly take the game away from Rovers within 20 minutes of the start. That Flo didn’t make it 4-0 seven minutes later owed much to an excellent tackle from Isaac Lawrence, before Merchant kept out a second effort as the ball went loose. Almost immediately, Rovers reduced the arrears as Prictor’s free-kick was exquisitely delivered into the path of Jack Rhodes, who left Sims rooted to the spot with a classic diving header that had power and direction as it rocketed into the top corner of the net. With 28 minutes gone and memories of their early season comeback still relatively fresh in the mind, there was probably hope that Rovers could recover from a disastrous twenty-minute spell, but that quickly changed.

On the stroke of 30 minutes Merchant was drawn into making a sensational save, as he denied Smith a second goal, with the Rovers keeper reacting brilliantly to turn the ball around the post with the Brimscombe marksman only 8 yards from goal. From the resultant corner Flo got a touch to the corner that did enough to take it through a crowded area and restore the hosts’ three goal lead. Major had another chance to extend the lead, but his cross/shot fizzed across the Rovers goal and out of play, before there was another twist in the story after 38 minutes. The move started with Merchant launching a huge clearance downfield. Which diminutive striker Warren Mann pulled down superbly and into the path of the on-rushing Dominik Kent, who showed great composure before stroking the ball beyond Sims, to make it 4-2. Rovers then finished the half on the attack but without further scoring and the game was well poised for the second period.

Ten minutes into the second half, it looked like the festival of goals was set to continue unabated, with Mann again pivotal, as held up Prictor’s free-kick, then played the ball to Joe Shutt, who produced a stunning low strike beyond Sims and into the bottom corner of the net. With the score at 4-3, the game was now beautifully poised. Sims then made a great stop to keep out an effort from Beardsell, before the game fell into a lull, in terms of goal scoring opportunities, with Major’s 68th minute effort over the bar the closest either side came to scoring, with cautions now more regular than goals in a game that was well contested but highly competitive. Niall Priday replaced Rhodes on 72 minutes and almost immediately played a significant role in the game, as he burst onto Beardsell’s pass. As he advanced on goal, he went down under pressure from Ashley Caldwell and the referee awarded a penalty. Somewhat surprisingly, it was Briscoe who stepped up to take the penalty and although it was well struck it failed to hit the mark, cannoning back off the crossbar and eventually away to safety. Brimscombe’s players celebrated as though the game was safe and although there was plenty of time left at that stage, it proved to be correct, as chances became fewer and the wind appeared to be taken out of the visiting side’s sails.

Ben Deakin had one last chance for the hosts, but his shot went narrowly wide, and a thrilling game ended with the slimmest of margins in their favour, on an afternoon when Rovers were to regret providing quite so many gifts to a side who moved to within five points of Pritchett’s side, with a game in hand.

Lydney Town 2  Westfields 2 (away view)

Westfields travelled to Lydney Town for the uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division Boxing Day derby against Lydney Town who are led by former Westfields favourite Richard Kear.  

Kear, the player/manager at Lydney, led the attack and only took 12 minutes to put his side ahead when he got free of his marker and coolly slotted home a left-foot drive to give the Foresters a 1-0 lead.  

Westfields came back strongly and Aidan Thomas twice flashed balls across the Lydney 6 yard box which Westfields failed to get on the end of and then Thomas flashed a shot wide of the upright as Westfields came back strongly before the break. 

After the break Westfields brought on 2 substitutes Dan Stoneman and Baidoo King and both substitutes made an immediate impact into the game when on the hour Stoneman got free on the left hand side, cut inside and his fierce low drive went in off the far post to put Westfields level. 

Stoneman almost then put Westfields into the lead when his shot from 6 yards went into the arms of the home keeper before the Foresters took the lead when hesitancy in the Westfields defence between goalkeeper Joe Gorman and Ollie Butler allowed Frankie Johnson to tap home a simple goal from 6 yards. 

This seemed to give the Foresters a big lift and twice Ryan Green and Kane Kahaki had to clear dangerous crosses before Westfields drew level in the 80th minute with a deserved equaliser when a fine cross from Stoneman was met at the near post by his fellow substitute Baidoo King who beat the home keeper from 6 yards with a clinical finish. 

Both teams went flat out to gain a winner in the dying minutes but both defences remained firm in the heavy conditions. 

Westfields maintained their lead at the top of the league with this precious point and now on Saturday they travel to another high-flying club Shrivenham away, kick-off 3pm. 

Westfields maintained their lead at the top of the league with this precious point and now on Saturday they travel to another high-flying club Shrivenham away, kick-off 3pm. 

Windsor 2 Virginia Water 0 (away view)

The hosts Windsor came out on top in a match dominated by the appalling weather conditions. Windsor had the better of the first half, with the elements in their favour, and forced Matt into a good double save early on, apart from that the defence mostly did well, and kept WFC at bay.

We (Virginia Water) gifted Windsor their first goal on the half hour, when from a routine cross, one of our CB’s miss timed his header, allowing their striker a close range shot which was slotted home. At the other end, Lorenzo (lenny) Di Felice, went narrowly wide with a long range left foot pile drive.
Finn saw his goal bound header, somehow bounce over the bar from six yards, then Lenny had a cross shot deflected in for the equaliser, only to be denied by Jake Baker’s arm.

At 1-0 down VWFC were in a good position (with a strong wind and rain at their backs), and totally dominated the second half.Chance after chance came and went, and was certainly one of those days. Jake volleyed over from close range, their keeper saved well from Lenny, then again from a Josh Hill free kick, and bravely diving at Josh Dillon’s feet from the rebound.Josh D then saw his shot deflected over from close range.

We had numerous corners that we failed to capitalise on, from a combination of poor finishing or poor deliveries. Another great chance (from a corner) fell to Jack Simmons, but with the goal gaping, saw his shot slice agonisingly wide. On 75 minutes, from the only threat of the second half, we were caught sleeping at the back from a long ball, and Adam Mills was penalised (and saw Red) from a tug on their striker’s shirt, duly converted from the resulting penalty – their only shot of the half.

It would be easy to say VWFC more than deserved at least a point, but if we make these mistakes and miss this many chances, you don’t deserve anything, but am pleased with the effort and all the chances we are creating.