Rovers five alive
By Gary Brigden
A stunning last half hour saw Sutton Common Rovers pick up all three points in a hard-fought contest with Hanworth Villa on Saturday.
Darren Salmon recalled nine players who had missed the midweek cup win over FC Deportivo Galicia, and the side eventually overcame a much changed and improving young Hanworth Villa side.
It was a fairly quiet start to the game, with both sides happy to keep possession without really threatening the opposition goal, before we had the first real chance of the game on 13 minutes when a delightful ball by man of the match Ollie Twum found Aidan Brown, unfortunately Brown's touch was poor and Villa keeper Terry Buss was out to smother the danger.
Two minutes later, and after a foul just outside the Villa area, Nes Bellikli curled an effort round the wall, bringing an excellent save out of Buss, and the on-rushing Callum MacLean was unable to turn the loose ball home.
Midway through the half, and Rovers suffered a blow when keeper Craig Bradshaw went down injured after an clearance, and was replaced by Ollie Ellaway.
Villa were gradually growing into the game, and were looking to get the ball down and play at every opportunity, with the impressive Jack O'Connor at the heart of everything good they did. On 31 minutes, Ellaway was forced into a decent save away to his right from the lively Alfi White, who had impressed throughout with his movement, with Guy Baskerville completing the clearance.
Almost immediately Rovers took the lead. Picking up the ball in the middle of the Villa half, Phil Page spread the ball wide to Twum, he took his shot early beating the flying Buss away to his right.
It should have been 2-0 a minute later when Bellikli beat the offside trap, drew Buss, squared to Brown who somehow fired wide with of an empty net. Villa like Rovers were forced into an early substitution when Kelvin Kouadio was replaced by Pierre Morin.
Villa were gifted a chance on 42 minutes to level the scores after we gave away possession, but White saw his shot from distance blocked by Rovers defender Ryan Green. Half time came with Rovers 1-0 to the good.
A minute into the second half and the visitors were level, neat play in the middle of the Rovers half saw the ball reaching substitute Andre Scarlett, and as Ellaway advanced the Villa forward poked the ball into the back of the net for 1-1.
Brown had another chance to get on the scoresheet but a poor first touch allowed Buss out to make the save. It was though the visitors who were having the better of the exchanges in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Rovers were having to be on their toes whenever centre-back Bernard Tanner sprayed another accurate crossfield ball.
Just shy of the hour mark, and the mis-firing Brown was replaced by Marlon Pinder. Rovers went close on the hour when a low driven cross by Malachi Robinson just evaded both Page and Maclean. Rovers were cut open on 65 minutes, after a good ball from the right found Scott Walker but his drive, under pressure from Guy Baskerville, went just wide of the left hand post.
Rovers finally retook the lead on 70 minutes, when neat play by Page and Bellikli ended with the ball at Twum's feet, he bobbled through a couple of challenges, and as the ball reached Pinder he fired low beyond Buss for 2-1.
Three minutes later and Bellikli drifted passed a couple of defenders, squared to Page who thundered the ball beyond Buss for 3-1. The excellent Tanner put an effort just wide on 83 minutes, as the visitors pushed to get themselves back into the game, but Rovers effectively sealed the win on 88 minutes Pinder latched onto a Twum cross, and although Buss saved the first effort, Pinder bundled the ball beyond him and into the net for 4-1.
There was still time for a controversial end to the game. The flying Twum went down in the area after a challenge by Tanner, in all honestly a collision rather than a foul or a dive, and a spot kick was awarded. In the ensuing argument, a Villa player saw red for something he said to the official, and Pinder stepped up to fire home the spot kick for his first senior hat-trick.
All in all an excellent win for Rovers, Villa are a much improved side on the earlier side we played and play an excellent, attractive brand of football, and will not be in the position they are in for much longer.