By Jon Tanton

Rovers take the game to Merstham and 3 points in a tough survival battle

Another Saturday, another crucial survival fixture, this time against fellow relegation candidates, Mertham. A real six-pointer in every sense.

A few squad changes since out last trip out, Antonio Simeone, Bertie Lloyd, Max Oldham and Ryan Stedman-Hoyte all start, while Danny Divine Is not available, Marcus Marku suspended, Liam Holden starts on the bench, and Zaid Ouaret Sorr misses out

Early exchanges in the game were cagey and cautious, both sides conscious of any error that may give advantage to the opposition. On 10mins, playing out from defence Matt Tanton passes up the line to Tyler, who sets off in typical style on the left, his cut inside finding Conan Torpey, who flicks on to Nabeel Ghannam, but his shot was off-target. Moments later, Ghannam intercepts a midfield Merstham pass, wriggles past two players, the referee playing on for a possible trip. Ghannam then lays off to Torpey whose shot was on target, but deflected from a Merstram head safely in to the arms of keeper Filip Chalupniczak.

A well worked short corner from Merstham’s Jordan Wilson, combining with Reece Deakin, gave Wilson room to shoot, but James Dillon was quick to block, giving Merstham a second chance. From the corner Bertie Lloyd headed forward finding Torpey, who won a free kick from a push just inside the opposition’s half. Courney Swaby’s free kick put Merstham on the back foot Aaron Goode heading out for a corner, which didn’t amount to anything.

On 34mins a very late challenge by Deakin on Tanton earned him a caution.

Just prior to half time, a long ball from Ghannam sailed over the Merstham defence, dropping nicely for Cox, who guided his shot just inside the right post, out of Chalupniczak’s reach. It had taken a while coming, but Rovers’ go into the break one goal to the good. A great time to score.

2 minutes into the second half a long ball by Antonio Simeone into the path of Torpey forced the defender to concede a throw-in. From the throw Tanton picked out Torpey in the Merstham penalty area, who shielded the ball with his back to goal, inviting a push from behind, which duly game – penalty to rovers. Torpey stepped up and placed his kick low to the keeper’s right, no mistake.

On 52mins Ghannam picked up a needless yellow card, having been giving the Merstham defence all sorts of problems. Wilson soon followed for a foul on Ghannam, and it was clear that the temperature was rising. Deakin later dragged Ghannam back, but Ghannam’s response was unwise, as he picked up a second yellow. Rovers down to 10 again with half an hour to go.

Another yellow on 61min this time for Dillon, for alleged timewasting. A flurry of substitutions for both sides, saw Daniel Uzor and Gabriel Odunaike replace Torpey and Swaby, and for Merstham Adam Adam replace Masikini. Immediate respose from Merstham, with Aaron Goode pinging a long ball from a deep right position, across the pitch to Adam Adam on the left of the Rovers penalty area. His shot was goalbound, but the ever reliable Dillon was there, diving to his left to palm away .

A great through ball from Uzor to the right, gave Oldham opportunity to run at the Merstham defence, but his shot was blocked out for a corner. Oldham then stepped up for the corner, finding Lloyd at the far post, but his header was way too high.

With the time running down only a series of spectacular saves from Dillon kept the score at 2-0 to the home side, as playing with 9 outfield players was beginning to tell. On 84mins further substitutions saw Deakin replaced by Mario Quiassaca, and our own Oldham by Tom Unsworth.

A final charge from a Rovers’ clearance saw Cox on his way on the left, outpacing his defender for speed, even at this stage of the game, stops, checks back and crosses to Unsworth, whose shot was just wide of the left post.

In the final minutes Quiassaca receives a red card, leaving he and the 142 onlookers bewildered, struggling to find a reason.

A worthy and important win in the end, and again finishing with only 10. Our next game will see us without Ghannam and Marku. Can your nerves handle it?