Match Report: A Bridge too far

* Apologies for delay in posting – being away I didn’t have login details on the phone

A feisty 10 man second half performance not enough to win a point against Uxbridge

Today we welcome Uxbridge to our first home game, and their opening game of the season. After our previous four encounters we have yet to score against this side; lost three and drawn one. Let’s hope this is turned around today and proves to be a benchmark of where we are. With this upbeat and competitive side, coming off the back of a very impressive performance against Met Police, it could just be so.

The line-up was largely unchanged from that game, with Ben Holden slotting into the left-back position for the unavailable Matt Tanton, and a start for debutant Jordan Wilson. Siao Blackwood, Charlie Martin, Gabriel Odunaike, Louie Erotokritos Staussi and a second new signing Thomas Jones on the bench.

An early corner from Courtney Swaby after a defensive error by Uxbridge raises expectations, as we all know what Swaby can do in dead-ball situations, but the keeper Loris Marcimain claims. From the keeper’s throw, a good interception by Ben Holden plays in Nabeel Ghannam resulting in a free-kick to Rovers. Swaby again takes, but his effort is headed away by the Uxbridge defence.

It took just 6 minutes for Uxbridge to knock Rovers back on their heels, with a break on the right Brad Pagliaroli crosses into our penalty area, finding Lewis Cole whose great strike is well saved by James Dillon. Rovers play out from the back, Antonio Simeone playing across field to Swaby, who moves the ball on to Bertie Lloyd, his pass to Max Oldham didn’t quite cut it, and Oldham is dispossessed. The loose ball leaving the tall no9 Bernard Mensah Jr in space just outside the penalty area, with time to pick his spot past Dillon. It was a signal for Rovers to shape up, pay attention and play like they know they can.

Rovers continued to soak up pressure from Uxbridge, as they find their rhythm and try to get back on the front foot. After a Dillon drop-kick to Aaron Jenkins in the far left corner, Jenkins plays back to Swaby, whose pass into the box gives Conan Torpey a chance, but he’s bundled down under pressure from Uxbridge. A big shout for a penalty, but the Ref wasn’t convinced.

Another free kick to Rovers from some distance out, Swaby delivering high into the box, but only half cleared by Marcimain to Simeone, his shot hitting the side netting. On 16mins a superb interchange between Jenkins, Swaby, Oldham and Ghannam, results in a Swaby through ball leaving Jenkins clean on goal. Jenkins makes no mistake from there, and levels the score. A great team effort, and a fine finish.

With both sides trying to gain control of the game, and after a period of free-kicks and challenges, testing the Ref’s patience, Lewis Cole gets a caution for dissent. From a Swaby free kick out wide on the right, Uxbridge catch Rovers on the break via their no7 Pagliaroli, Ghannam gives chase and puts the ball out for a throw-in. Both sides now creating chances but no change to the score.

On 26mins a great ball over the top from Lloyd, sets Ghannam off into box on the right, but his shot from an acute angle is gathered by Marcimain. From the keepers’ distribution Uxbridge win a throw-in on the left which is launched into our penalty area, headed on by no10 Dean Morgan Plues, culminating in an audacious half scissor kick from Pagliaroli, narrowly clearing the bar.

From a quick throw from Simeone to Dillon, then on to Lloyd, who floats a long ball over to Holden. His clever first touch gives him space to cut inside, and pass through the middle to Torpey, winning a free kick in the process. Swaby takes, but is headed out by the Uxbridge defence. From the corner headed attempts on goal from Torpey and Danny Divine were defended frantically, but recycled twice by Jordan Wilson with strong headers back into the danger zone. A good passage of play from the Rovers.

Late on in the half, which by now was over 48 minutes, a clash in the box required treatment for Shaun Preddie, which was the trigger for a game-changing incident . Be it a moment of madness or frustration – a rush of blood – red mist, probably all of these things, then descended on young Torpey. Whilst on the ground, and Uxbridge preparing for a throw-in, Torpey rolled over and caught the back of the throwers leg. The Ref had no choice, and brandished a red card. After 53 minutes of the first half played. Rovers go into the break with 10 men.

Early in the second half, a long throw from Holden puts the Uxbridge back line under pressure, heading away, but only back to Holden who heads deeper into the box. Again not cleared, and Holden lobs over the defence to the far post, which is eventually dealt with. Uxbridge then move forward with pace, creating a chance for Plues to shoot, but straight to Dillon.

Our chances were becoming few and far between, as Uxbridge commanded the majority of possession, having the extra man. In the 60th minute, Rovers’ resolve was finally broken. A break on the Uxbridge right hand side produces a cross to the left, where Plues jinxed into the box, passing to Alex Whitham, who scored from close range.

Just after our first substitution, Charlie Martin on for Oldham, a quick throw from Divine gives Wilson the chance to wriggle through the Uxbridge defence and provide a through ball to Charlie Martin inside the box. The clumsy two-man challenge on Martin looked for all the world a penalty, but the appeal was not given. The chances were still there.

A corner to Rovers, gave Swaby another chance to work his magic and provide a telling cross. This he did, picking out Divine whose header was narrowly over the bar.

In the last 6 minutes there was a succession of yellow cards, for Josh Andrew, Kensley Maloney, Anuar Ceesay on his first touch since coming on for kicking the ball away, Swaby for Rovers and Shuan Preddie. Some indication of the effort to protect their lead, and the desire for Rovers to claw one back.

Just before the final whistle, if our “parade” wasn’t wet enough, the heavens opened and the rain washed away any hope of a point. Disappointing result against a side where we should and could have been better, but with only 10 men for 45 minutes, it could have been much worse. Rovers did make a fist of it and showed incredible resilience throughout the second half, but unfortunately today, this didn’t translate into points.