No doubting Thomas here
Despite missing five regular starters and a host of other players the first team still did enough to see off sixth placed Hanworth Villa on Saturday, thanks to a stunning hat-trick by Malachi Thomas.
It was a slow start to the game, with both sides struggling to cope with a difficult swirling wind, and it wasn't until seven minutes in that we saw the first real chance. Craig Nelson swung in a corner, debutant Jamil Okai challenged the defence, and from the loose ball Asa Rixon fired over.
We continued to press, with deliveries from Rory Lewis and Matt Tanton stretching the Villa backline, but from one quick break Lewis and Aaron Bogle got in a tangle, with Lewis forced into bringing down the lively Soulleymane Traore. From the delivery by Jack Mills, Bogle and Levi King challenged with the ball going out for a Villa throw.
Ten minutes in, and a tremendous challenge by Bogle prevented Traore from fashioning a chance from a ball in by Mills, and we were struggling to keep hold of the ball. Villa really should have opened the scoring on 13 minutes, when a long ball found Cyril Ocansey in a footrace with Owen Davies, with the forward cutting back rather than shooting and allowing Tanton to make the recovery challenge.
Villa were on top at the stage, and a wicked swerving corner by King forced Michael Eacott into an excellent clearance as the visitors looked to open the scoring, and this started a spell of three corners, all of which were successfully defended.
Jermaine Queensborough fired an effort goalwards on 17 minutes which was comfortable for Eacott, before we finally managed to force a bit of pressure ourselves, and Rixon fired an effort wide from the edge of the area.
Thomas fashioned our first real chance midway through the half, when he cut inside Eduard Ngoy, and fired low to Alex Partridge's right, but the keeper got down well to save. We were now the side dominating and neat link up by Nelson and Tanton ended with a scramble in the area, and as the ball dropped down Nelson hooked an effort over the bar.
Thomas forced a comfortable save out of Partridge, after a Bogle free kick had only been half cleared, and on 32 minutes after Queensborough had hauled down Okai, Thomas curled a free kick just over the bar.
Villa almost caught us out with ten minutes to the break when a quick free kick by Mills found King who in turn found Traore but his final delivery was poor and the chance went begging.
Tanton fired an effort into the side netting on 36 minutes, before Thomas fired Rovers into the lead five minutes from the break. Good work by Matt Auletta saw his play in Okai, who in turn poked the ball to Thomas; he beat Ngoy and fired low passed Partridge and the two retreating Villa defenders to give us a half time lead.
We almost increased our lead a minute into the second half, when Auletta and Okai linked up on the right, and from the cross Nelson was just unable to turn the ball home.
We continued to hold the upper hand, and good work on the left by Tanton and Matt Farrell forced a throw and from this a curling effort by Farrell bought an excellent save away to his left by Partridge.
The visitors though were still well in the game and on eight minutes a great break down the right by Traore and Ocansey forced Lewis into a timely interception in our area. Villa then made their first change with Ngoy being replaced by Keegan Werrett.
Villa went close on 56 minutes when pressure down the left by Chris Ogunlana saw Bogle just get a toe on a backpass to Eacott who managed to clear, from the follow up cross, King knocked the ball down to Ocansey, who lifted over Eacott, but we were able to hook the ball clear.
Back at the other end and a surging run by Tanton saw him play in Okai, but he was denied by an excellent challenge by Villa skipper Adam Baigent.
We increased our lead on the hour. Nelson won the ball midway inside the Villa half and found Farrell, he in turn released Lewis and his cross, via a slight deflection, reached Thomas who fired low beyond Patridge for 2-0.
The game settled for a bit, with little action to worry either keeper. Villa replaced Traore with Harold Sanchez on 67 minutes and we could have increased our lead a minute later. Great pressure by Okai forced Partridge into a rushed clearance, and from the loose ball Auletta put an effort well wide of the target.
Twenty minutes from time and Baigent went into the book for a foul on Okai, after the forward had rolled him on the edge of the area. From the free kick, Thomas effort was deflected high, played back in by Okai and Thomas fired wide.
Villa pulled themselves back into the game on 72 minutes, when a low drive by Mills was half-saved by Eacott, and the loose ball fired home by King. We almost restored a two goal advantage when a Bogle free kick was headed back across goal by Rixon, with Okai unable to get the finishing touch.
Villa broke quickly, and a Davies challenge gave the visitors a free kick in a dangerous position, but the effort was off target.
We made our first change with just over ten minutes remaining, replacing debutant Okai with Marvin Roberts, back in the fold for the first time since April 2012. We continued to push but were nearly caught out on 80 minutes when we dithered at a corner and Villa broke quickly and again we were grateful to a well timed interception by Lewis.
Roberts headed wide on 81 minutes, and at the other end King saw a shot drift just wide. We restored our two goal advantage with five minutes remaining. A ball out of defence found Thomas on the left, he burst down the left, held off the challenge of Baigent and fired below Partridge for 3-1.
Darren Salmon replaced Auletta and Nelson with 17 year old Mason Seagroatt and another youngster in debutant Gus Lukuni. We nearly made it 4-1 in injury time when Roberts nipped in between Baigent and Partridge but saw his header strike the post.
Full time came with us picking up a hard fought 3-1 win.