A feisty and entertaining game, with each player from both teams contributing to the deciding penalty shootout.
A much changed side took to the field for Rovers, with only Kevin Diomande and Jephte Tanga starting from Saturday’s line-up. Courtney Swaby, Dan Purdue, Tobe Uzor and Matt Tanton joined them, with debuts for both Tyrese Sutherland and a first start for Franklin Nzeh. Also starting were George Baker, Aaron Hunt and Club legend Liam Holden. The bench comprised of John Erne, Luke Guest, George Owusu and Aboulaye Coulibaly from the U23s and first team skipper Rhamer Garrett-Douglas.
The game got underway with both sides keen to make an early mark. The pace was fast considering the amount of rain there had been earlier in the day – all credit to the Abbey Rangers ground staff for ensuring the surface was playable and in very good condition.
Rovers survived a scare early on. Following an Abbey corner, the ball was alleged to have crossed our goal-line, with huge appeal from the Abbey forwards. The linesman waved this away, as the keeper holding the ball at arm’s length was able to prevent the goal.
From this point on, the goals came thick and fast, with four in seven minutes. On the 5th minute a great strike from Tyrese Sutherland took a slight deflection past the Abbey keeper Sam Gray for 1-0 and a minute later, a trademark floating pass from Matt Tanton, down the left flank, found Tanga in space, and he deftly crossed the ball to the incoming George Baker, for what turned out to be a straightforward tap-in, but a nicely worked goal nonetheless. Rovers now 2-0 up.
Eleven minutes in, and Abbey were back in the game. An Abbey corner was headed onto the bar, falling to ex SCR man Daryl Cooper-Smith who crashed the ball home from an acute angle, for 2-1. From the restart, Tanton takes the ball out wide and plays in Sutherland, he crossed to the ever sharp Jephte Tanga, who calmly slid the ball past the keeper for 3-1.
Possession given away on our right side by Jephte Tanga resulting in a foul to Abbey Rangers. The free kick was floated into the box, and flicked on by an Abbey centre back, by safely gathered by Dan Purdue. Both teams were now playing good entertaining football. Courtney Swaby broke free and wriggled past a number of players pushing the ball through the gap for Jephte Tanga, but was given offside. A decent cross from Kevin Diomande across the face of the goal went begging.
Back at the other end, Kevin Diomande lost possession in our penalty area, and it saw Cooper-Smith side-stepping him and slotting it home. He doesn’t miss from there! 3-2 Rovers and game on. The next few minutes saw Abbey applying more pressure, with shots from Charlie Postance, which Purdue was equal to, and a number of successive corners that were also well defended.
Rovers increased their lead on 35 minutes with Tobe Uzor planting home a back post header from a corner for 4-2. Diomande picked up a yellow card for timewasting, shortly after and just before the break Tanton blocked a close range shot on the goal-line, the ball rebounding back to the same player who then hit the post with the followup. Between Tanton and Purdue the ball was smothered, but not without a physically charged reaction from the opposition. The referee saw no infringement and the game restarted after a short consultation with the linesman.
Half time came with us 4-2 ahead.
After the excitment of the first half the second was naturally a little less action packed. It started with increasing pressure from Abbey Rangers, but thankfully no end product, just a few crosses flashing across the face of our goal.
We made wholesale changes on and around the hour mark, with Diomande, Aaron Hunt, Baker and Tanga all making way, with Rhamar Garrett-Douglas, Abz Coulibaly, Luke Guest and John Erne coming on (the latter two for the debuts).
On 69 minutes it was game on, as a penalty was awarded to Abbey for the slightest of infringements, up steps Cooper-Smith who slots the ball to the keeper’s left for his and Abbey’s third. We repsonded positively and from a free kick 35 yards out on the right, Courtney Swaby lofted the ball in, the Abbey keeper equal to it, punching it clear allowing Abbey to charge forward. Abbey were now keeping more possession, with shots from distance from Hendry and a Hendry free-kick just outside the Rovers penalty area, hitting the outside of our left post. Further assaults on our goal were somehow defended, but recycled quickly by Abbey keeping up the pressure. Nerves were fraying in the crowd, there can’t be long to go now!
We made our final change in stoppage time with Sutherland making way for George Owusu, but with seconds left Jae Kelly latched onto to miscued clearance from Tanton at the edge of the penalty area, and drove the ball past Purdue to bring the score level. From the restart Rovers had two chances to retake the lead – both not taken, as Owusu was denied by Gray and full time came with the scores level at 4-4.
So to the penalty shootout, with Abbey going first
AR – 1-0 – Ross Murdoch converts the opening kick
SCR – 1-0 – Tobe Uzor skies his effort over the bar
AR – 2-0 – Luke Duncan puts Abbey 2-0 up
SCR – 2-1 – it’s the skipper who puts us back in the tie, as Rhamar Garrett-Douglas scores
AR – 2-1 – Mike Coppinger sees his penalty saved by Purdue…but wait…the big man was off his line and it’s retaken
AR – 3-1 – this time Coppinger converts despite Purdue getting hands on the ball
SCR – 3-2 – Courtney Swaby brings us back into the shoot out
AR – 3-2 – Ex-SCR man Rob Hendry is denied by a great Purdue save
SCR – 3-3 – the pressure is on but Abz Coulibaly fires home
AR – 4-3 – George Rowley fires home to put Abbey within touching distance
SCR – 4-4 – but skipper for the day Liam Holden holds his nerve to take us to sudden death
Sudden death and the pressure will be on the youngsters playing catch up
AR – 5-4 – a huge run up, but the deadly Daryl Cooper-Smith give Abbey the lead
SCR – 5-5 – Luke Guest doesn’t even bother with putting the ball on the spot, just leaves it where it was placed and crashes it home
AR – 6-5 – Jae Kelly converts to restore the hosts lead
SCR – 6-6 – Franklin Nzeh on his first start brings us level again
AR – 6-6 – agony for Abbey as George Chandler see Purdue save his effort.
SCR – 6-6 – chance to win it for Rovers but Matt Tanton skies the ball over the bar
AR – 7-6 – Abbey skipper Tommy O’Neil restores the hosts advantage
SCR – 7-7 – pressure on U23’s debutant John Erne but he fires home the spot kick of the night
AR – 8-7 – Michael McLaughlin scores to heap pressure on another SCR youngster
SCR – 8-8 – late substitute Owusu fires into the bottom corner just out of reach of Gray
AR – 8-8 – goalkeeper Gray puts his spot kick over the bar and it leaves Rovers one kick away…again
SCR – 9-8 – Dan Purdue holds his nerve to send Rovers into the quarter final
Huge thank you to Jon Tanton for putting together this report.