Tuffley Rovers 1 Lydney Town 0
Due to wretched weather and a run of away matches, Rovers had been unable to play a home first team match at their Glevum Park ground for over a calendar month. Visitors Lydney Town had also had a number of postponements to deal with but had at least managed to play a league match on the Saturday before Christmas when Brimscombe & Thrupp had left the Lydney Recreation Ground with all three points thanks to a 2-0 victory. Tuffley had lost at Brimscombe on Boxing Day, while Lydney had drawn with League-leaders Westfields, so both today’s teams would be keen to get their league results back on a winning track again from this encounter on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year.
Lydney, heavily beaten on their previous visit to Tuffley in February, produced a valiant and disciplined display which nearly earned them another festive point to add to the one they had taken off League-leader Westfields on Boxing Day, but in the end they were undone by a late goal from one of the Tuffley substitutes, Lewis Bainbridge, who squeezed an intricate shot past Town goalkeeper Richard Thomas in the 87th minute to spark much jubilation from the Rovers players, who had performed well enough at Brimscombe on Boxing Day but had returned to Gloucester without any reward for their efforts in Stroud.
The pitch passed a morning inspection but some areas of the southern goalmouth had needed sanding; and the floodlights were on from the start on a cold, cloudy but dry afternoon. The contest was as fierce as you would expect from two locations only twenty miles apart within the same county; and referee Neal Templey was a busy man as he cautioned several players as well as speaking strongly to others for offences for which he did not show a yellow card. Alex Avenell replaced Luke Merchant in goal for Rovers and he had to be alert to catch an early cross from the left by Logan Bowkett, but Rovers were soon creating things at the other end of the pitch with Dominik Kent setting up Jack Beardsell, who shot narrowly wide of Thomas’s right-hand post. A left-footed corner from Ben Prictor on the right caused Thomas major concern as it drifted just underneath the crossbar but the ‘keeper was able to palm the ball away for another corner on the other side.
Lydney’s Frankie Johnson forced a corner on the left and Tom Handley’s low cross fizzed across the Rovers’ six-yard box past a number of players from both teams before drifting harmlessly out for a goal-kick. Another Handley corner, this time from the right, was juggled by Avenell before he managed to grab the ball safely. Tuffley’s last line of defence was also bemused by a ball which was rolling slowly towards him when it hit a bump in the sanded part of his box and bounced awkwardly but he was able to readjust and collect the ball before it could go past him. The same thing also happened at the same end to Richard Thomas in the second half. The closing third of the first period became quite tetchy. Jack Beardsell received a yellow card for a lunging challenge in the centre-circle before Ross Gabriel went into the book for pulling back Macaulay Herbert. Between these incidents Rovers nearly took the lead when a sumptuous pass from Warren Mann looked to be reaching Kent before Thomas reacted quickly to grab the ball off the toes of the challenging Rovers midfielder. Just before the half-time whistle sounded, Johnson was cautioned for a foul on Prictor.
Lydney should have taken the lead within five minutes of the resumption of play. Richard Kear robbed the ball off Tyreece Briscoe and sent Gabriel racing clear of the home defenders but with only Avenell to beat the visiting centre-forward shot wildly wide and was immediately furious with himself for missing such a golden chance.
There was something badly amiss with Rovers’ passing game today. Too many crossfield passes, mostly from right to left, missed their targets by big distances and were easily picked off by Lydney’s covering defenders. This might have been something that was spoken about during the half-time break because it wasn’t so prevalent in the second half.
Mr Templey had reason to speak sternly with Lydney’s Finnan Hamblett and shortly afterwards did the same with Kear in the presence of his captain, Jordi Sheen, but no cards were shown for either of the indiscretions which had been committed. Hamblett was, however, not so fortunate the next time he transgressed and became the third visiting player to go ‘into the book’, although Miles Ferguson soon made the yellow card count 3-2 in Lydney’s favour when he was cautioned for a foul near the touchline. As the second half wore on, it looked more and more as if one goal would settle this Gloucestershire derby. Both managers made changes in an effort to bring about the breakthrough. For Tuffley Lewis Bainbridge came on for the energetic Joe Shutt and he was soon followed by Antoine Thompson replacing Jack Beardsell. Lydney responded by bringing on Harry Williams for Richard Kear. When Johnson was sent clear in much the way Gabriel had been earlier Avenell raced off his line and brilliantly conceded a corner but saved a goal.
Niall Priday was Rovers’ final substitute when he came on for Warren Mann, who had, as always, worked hard against taller opponents. There continued to be numerous petty fouls for which the conditions could not be blamed; Handley was cautioned for tripping Kent and Prictor also went into the book for an unnecessary foul. Lyndey brought on George Jelley for Johnson but then, just as the match looked like ending in a fairly fiery goal-less draw, Rovers struck. Priday was involved as the ball was played across the Lydney penalty-area from right to left. Bainbridge chased after the ball and, even though it looked as if there were enough defenders around to clear the danger, the substitute improvised brilliantly to steer the loose ball away from Thomas and into the corner of the net.
So, a big three points for Rovers, who jumped above Lydney into 10th place in the table on the same number of points but with a game in hand on their rivals from the other side of the river Severn. For the Foresters, there was only the bitter taste of losing to a late goal just two days after being only ten minutes away from ending the unbeaten record of Hereford’s runaway leaders Westfields.
Royal Wootton Bassett Town 4 Brimscombe & Thrupp 2 (away view)
The Lilywhites looked to make it a 100% record in December when they visited Royal Wootton Bassett.
It was a fast paced start to the game with Adam Thomas being called into action less than two minutes in. Sam Prior’s men dealt with the resulting corner well and immediately went on the break, James Campbell’s hammered effort was dealt with by the Bassett goalkeeper before he was quickly called upon again to deal with Jack Smith’s effort with the loose ball. ‘Brimmy’ piled on the pressure, Edd Major saw his effort was saved well. The home side broke and although the original shot hit the crossbar, Francis was there to slot home the rebound. ‘Brimmy’ desperately searched for the equaliser, James Campbell seeing his headed effort causing the Bassett ‘keeper no problems. They finally got it when Major whipped in a superb cross for Campbell to head into the bottom corner. It was all Brimscombe for a while after with the Whites nearly getting two in as many minutes when Jack Smith lifted the ball over his defender and volleyed at goal before Campbell shot just wide of the target.
Soon after the restart ‘Brimmy’ were close to snatching the lead, Jamie Bremner fizzed a shot just over the bar from 35 yards out. The hosts broke away and got their second despite the best efforts of the defence. Dave Woodfield and Ollie Pitt came on in place of Major and Johan Flo. Bremner put the ball on the toe of the on rushing Jonty Welch who just missed the target. The leveller came thanks to Jamie Bremner who was at the back post to tap it home. Things soon started to go wrong for the Gloucestershire side when the hosts were awarded a penalty and Welch was given his marching orders. Bassett slotted home from the spot despite Thomas diving the correct way. Things got a little heated and Bassett were soon also down to 10 men after a quick flash of the red card to a defender from the Referee. Heads dropped as Bassett quickly made it four!
Division One East
Marlow United 1 Woodley United 3 (away view)
Woodley United ended 2019 with a third consecutive win and back to back league victories and in doing so recorded the double over sixth place Marlow United in what was Woodley’s best performance of the season.
The first half was played at a frantic pace and a combination of missed Woodley chances and an outstanding goalkeeping performance by the visitors’ Craig McCreeth could have so easily seen more than the three goals scored. Woodley started with tempo with Max Laschok having the first chance in the opening minute and then giving United the lead in the second minute when he made a good run and cut inside a defender to place the ball inside Marlow’s Matt Cannings right hand post.
Two minutes later McCreeth was called upon to make the first of many saves which were to prove vital to giving Woodley a half time lead. As the half progressed when McCreeth was beaten both Luke Axton-Hall and Pele Hagger made telling blocks to deny the hosts from scoring. The hosts conceded and number of fouls in their half which saw Gareth Ainsworth’s free kicks into their penalty area a constant threat and scrambled clear. Laschok attempted a spectacular overhead kick while Harry Hawkins fired wide from twenty yards.
As the first half progressed Marlow enjoyed more possession and put pressure on Woodley’s defence but in turn the hosts were susceptible to speedy counter attacks. Lamin Ceesay saw Cannings block a shot with his feet before Ceesay pass set Ben Anderson free to extend the lead in the thirty sixth minute. The same player could have scored again five minutes later when through on goal but a combination of a bobbly pitch that required him taking an extra touch gave Cannings time to narrow the angle and block the shot.
Two minutes into stoppage time McCreeth made a double save but was eventually beaten in fourth addition minute when Liam Bushay broke free of the Woodley defence to beat the advancing McCreeth. Not to be deflated by the Marlow goal, Woodley started the second half in a positive manner with Laschok a threat up front with his pace and movement while Ceesay was dangerous on the left flank. It was these two that saw the decisive third goal scored in the fifth first minute when Laschok passed to Ceesay who rounded Cannings to score from close range.
This goal deflated Marlow who did not play with the same intensity in the second half as they did in the first allowing the visitors to have plenty of the ball and continue to create chances that saw Cannings deny Laschok and two minutes later a goal bound shot cleared of the Marlow goal line. From a Woodley view point McCreeth continued to deny the hosts as he was comfortable in dealing with attempts on his goal. Despite the six minutes of stoppage time Woodley finished the game deservedly with the three points and can look to 2020 with optimism.
Division One West
Cirencester Town Development 1 Cheltenham Saracens 5 (away view)
Saracen's match against Cirencester Town Development started perfectly for Cheltenham Saracens when Harlie Price scored within the first minute of the match. Jordan Bryan followed it up 27 minutes later with his first of the match.
Cirencester Town Development were threatening, but they couldn’t capitalise on any of the chances they created. Sarries defence held firm. Cirencester were forced into an early substitution after one of their players fell awkwardly after jumping for a header. He tried to soldier on, but his arm looked painful and swollen and he had to come off. It wasn’t looking good for them.
And things got worse when Jordan Bryan managed to tuck away his second of the match in the 43rd minute.
On a hat trick, he kept the pressure on Cirencester into stoppage time of the first half, and it paid off for him when he netted his 3rd in the 45+2nd minute. His first hat trick of the season, and hopefully not his last, it really was a stand out performance.
Things looked comfortable for us as we went in at halftime with a 4-0 lead. Just 7 minutes into the second half, Cirencester managed to get one back with a goal from their substitute Parsons. We had the chance to go 5-1 up moments later, when a particularly nasty challenge in the box saw us awarded a penalty. Adam Loveridge stepped up to take it, but Cirencester’s goalkeeper managed to pull off a brilliant save after guessing the right way to go. Loveridge was unlucky, he’d been working hard all game and created a few really good chances, but he never quite managed to beat the Keeper, despite his best efforts.
Sarries did eventually manage to regain their 4 goal lead in the 67th minute, when Ben Tunnicliff put us 5-1 up. With just over 20 minutes of the match left, it looked pretty comfortable for us. Late into the second half, Sam Mason was brought on and really upped the tempo with his sprints down the wing, but the score line remained 5-1 until the final whistle. After 13 matches this season, Sarries are 3rd in the table on 30 points, only missing out on second place by goal difference. Another great performance from Sarries, let’s hope this good spell carries on into the new year.
Division Two West
Shortwood United Development 0 Letcombe 3 (away view)
With a number of players missing over the festive season, Letcombe had 16 year-olds Alex Harrison and Callum Hendry on the bench. Letcombe had the perfect start as Josh Fowler raced away on the left in the second minute, and his low cross was side-footed into the net by James Wright. The visitors continued to dominate possession, and Fowler was unlucky to see a firm header rebound off the inside of the post. Letcombe increased their lead after 18 minutes, centre back Fraser Little heading home a Luke Polding free kick at the far post. Shortwood looked dangerous on the break, but a well organised Letcombe defence gave them few clear sights of goal. At the other end, home keeper Callum Scrivens made a number of important saves to prevent Letcombe increasing their lead.
The second period was much more even, and Levi Matthews had two chances to reduce the deficit for Shortwood, but one shot went high and the other effort was well held by keeper Danny Joyce. Callum Stockley-Phillips and Alex Harrison replaced Chris Whelehan and James Wright mid-way through the half, and Letcombe made the game safe with 15 minutes to play, Fowler using his pace to reach a through ball and chip it past the advancing Scrivens. Letcombe introduced Callum Hendry for his Hellenic league debut, and Fowler almost added a fourth as he cut in from the left, but his shot from a narrow angle hit the side netting.
Another pleasing team performance, with skipper Sam Mulvey and Luke Polding controling midfield. The back four of Jordan Smith, Fraser Little, Luke Mulvey and Chris Whelehan should also be praised for keeping another clean sheet for the third consecutive away game. A word of thanks to Shortwood United for their excellent hospitality. We are always made very welcome whenever we go there.
Letcombe entertain Highworth reserves next Saturday, 4th January, in a top of the table clash. Highworth have a 100% record from 7 games, whilst Letcombe have won 8 of their 9 matches.