Better second half secures win
The First team picked up an important three points on Monday night when goals from Malachi Thomas, Asa Rixon-Nicholls and Owen Davies gave them a 3-0 win over Abbey Rangers.
It was a pretty poor opening to the game, with both sides giving the ball away far too easily, however we opened the scoring on 11 minutes. Good work by Daryl Cooper-Smith and Matt Tanton forced a corner on the left which was swung in by Craig Nelson, and only half cleared by Abbey keeper Liam Stone, and fired home through a crowd by Malachi Thomas.
We should have increased our lead a minute later, when Cooper-Smith superbly turned James Shannon but opted to shoot rather than square the ball, Abbey broke quickly and Owen Davies hauled down Tyler Hayles just outside our area, but fortunately the free kick by Aaron Parfitt was straight into the wall.
Hayles did well on the quarter hour, drifting passed four defenders before setting up Bradley Thomas who shot wide of the left hand post. We were struggling to find a way through the well organised Abbey defence, and they should have levelled after a neat moved involving five or six players, and ending with a cross that Bradley Sweeney headed wide of the left hand post.
Danny Fernandez did well to shut down Stone midway through the half, getting a half block on his clearance, but despite Thomas and Cooper-Smith hunting possession, Abbey were able to clear.
We did go close on 27 minutes, when Thomas got away on the right, but could only drag his effort wide of the right hand post. Abbey's Thomas fired a ball forward, which was half cleared by Aaron Bogle, but Elliott Firth could only fire his effort over the crossbar.
On 36 minutes a decent ball by Fernandez into the Abbey area was well defended before anyone could apply a finishing touch, and from their break Vitor Monteiro beat a couple before firing high over the bar.
Thomas did well on 37 minutes, played the ball into the area, Matt Farrell flicked on and Stone did well to hold Cooper-Smiths skiddy effort, as Fernandez hunted the mistake.
Cooper-Smith then curled an effort over after intercepting a poor pass from Abbey's Tom Bentley. Tanton fouled Hayles just outside our area as time ran out in the half, but from the deadball Hayles fired well wide, and half time came with us holding a 1-0 lead.
We started brightly in the second half, and after Fernandez had forced Shannon into a mistake, he was only able to fire an effort wide of the Abbey post. We continued to probe, and good play involving Fernandez, Farrell and Craig Nelson ended with a dangerous cross by Tommy Smith being met by both Asa Rixon-Nicholls and Bentley, with the ball flicking off Bentley for a corner and leaving Rixon-Nicholls with a broken nose.
Abbey made their first change with Perry Oseitupu replacing Alex Hendrie on 50 minutes. We should have increased our lead on 52 minutes, having broken a spell of Abbey pressure, Rixon-Nicholls played in Thomas and his low cross was turned wide by Cooper-Smith.
Abbey continued to put us under pressure, and Michael Eacott had to be sharply off his line to clear ahead of Sweeney.
We started to dominate the game, with Rixon-Nicholls and Nelson taking control of the midfield, and Farrell was just unable to latch onto a Smith cross and the ball drifted out for a goal-kick. Thomas then did well on the right squared to Farrell who beat Bentley but fired wide of the left hand post.
Cooper-Smith headed a Fernandez free kick wide on 62 minutes. Abbey then replaced B.Thomas with Chad Goulter. Smith flicked a Fernandez corner wide, before we increased our lead with just over twenty minutes remaining.
Rovers forced a succession of corners, with the final one only being half cleared and picked up by Farrell wide on the left, his clipped ball into the area was powerfully headed home by Rixon-Nicholls for 2-0.
Abbey started to push more people forward and a foul deep in our half led to yellow cards for both Smith, and Fernandez, one for the foul and the other for the reaction. We cleared the free kick, and made our first change a minute later with Fernandez making way for Marvin Roberts.
Thomas and Cooper-Smith almost fashioned a chance when they put both Bentley and Michael Hill under pressure but were unable to link up. Farrell found his way into the book for a foul on 84 minutes and was almost immediately replaced by Joe Mead.
Monteiro fired wide from distance in the 85th minute and at the other end a Cooper-Smith cross was volleyed wide by Rixon-Nicholls.
Thomas was replaced by Gus Lukuni after 87 minutes. In the last minute victory was secured. A foul on Lukuni on the right led to a free kick by Nelson being powerfully headed home by Davies, for 3-0.