Rovers hold high-flyers Chertsey Town to a gutsy well deserved draw
Today’s fixture is a long-awaited contest with top of the league high-flyers Chertsey Town. The Curfews have only lost once this season, away to Raynes Park Vale, and have won all their home game to date, sitting on top of the table. If the banter in the clubhouse before the game is anything to go by, the electronic scoreboard would struggle to keep up with Chertsey’s goal count. We shall see.
Our squad this afternoon, again looks further depleted. Courtney Swaby and Rylan John moving on to ply their trade with other clubs, and we wish them well in their future ventures. Max Oldham, Lindell Stewart, Ben Holden and Ashley Sheppard all return to the startling lineup, joining Oshane Brown, Tariq Straker, Daryl Colemen, Antonio Simeone, Bertie Lloyd, Nabeel Ghannam and Aaron Jenkins. On the bench, Noah Africa, Matt Feeney-Hill, Isy Nzelo, Charlie Martin and Louie Erotokritos Staussi. James Dillon, Matt Tanton and Conan Torpey all still absent through injury, but all hopefully soon to return.
In front of the largest attendance this season for Rovers, upwards of 650, the visitors kick the game off to a bristling start. In the first minute, Ashley Sheppard chests out a long throw from Ben Holden to Aaron Jenkins on the edge of the Chertsey box. As Jenkins cues up his shot, he is taken out by Gianluca Botti, about 20yds from goal. The free kick is whipped in by Antonio Simeone, but a yard over the bar.
At almost the exact same position, but at the other end, Sheppard gives away free-kick just outside the penalty area. A nicely rehearsed kick by Wayne Ridgley and Conor Lee, sees Lee’s shot go low to the Oshane Brown’s left, but a strong hand turns it round the post. Brown is called into action a minute or two later, when another free kick from Lee, out wide on the right but from an acute angle, is driven hard and low, but held well by the Rovers’ keeper.
On 8mins, good combination work from Holden, Jenkins and Lindell Stewart gives Nabeel Ghannam a great opportunity in front of goal. Slipping past his defender, Ghannam’s strike is on target, but too easy for Nicholas Jupp. Both sides now looking for openings in equal measure, but good defensive play from the Rovers back line, quashing any threat that Chertsey have.
A through ball from Ghannam finds Max Oldham wide on the right. Cutting inside, he’s brought down for a free-kick. Ghannam takes, but his good delivery is headed out by the Chertsey centre back. On the follow-up, another clumsy challenge on Oldham awards Rovers yet another free-kick. This time, Ghannam floats over Bertie Lloyd, but his challenge on the keeper was considered unfair by the Referee.
After a terrific stop by Brown, Oldham has space to break, playing a great through ball for Jenkins to run on to. The flag went up for offside, which was clear and obvious, but Jenkins put it in the net anyway. No harm in that.
Rovers kept up the pressure as and when the opportunities arose. Sheppard, with is back to goal, feeding out to Ghannam, trying to work an opening, out then to Jenkins, couldn’t get his shot away, Chertsey pinned back in their 18yd box, then on to Oldham, again no way through, but a great spell of play from the Rovers’ front men.
With Stewart and Holden on our right pressing Scott Rees, we win a throw. Holden goes long to the edge of the box, Ghannam’s ambitious overhead kick was worth the try but blocked, the appeal for a handball by a Chertsey defender not given.
Just before half time, a clash between Lee and Holden, gives Chertsey a free-kick on their left and Holden needing treatment. The last action of the game and Lloyd heads the free-kick away. Both sides go into the break having had their fair share of chances, but a lot to feel positive about for Rovers.
The second half started with much the same pace as the first. Now playing up the gentle slope at Alwyns Lane, Ghannam gets round the Chertsey wing back and wins a throw-in on the left deep in their half. Holden’s throw is headed away, but Coleman chips the loose ball toward Simeone, but just too high to get a decent header away.
A moments indecision in the middle of the park lets Oliver McCoy in with a chance to run at the Rovers defence. His ball out wide to the right finds Mason Welch-Turner, whose cross is headed away by Simeone. Again Welch-Turner steers the ball back into the danger zone, but Ghannam intercepts passing back to Holden, who smashes it clear.
In the 52nd minute, a mis-timed tackle from behind on Jenkins gives Rees a yellow card, and Rovers a free-kick 25yds out. Ghannam’s shot hits the wall, Coleman firing the rebound over the bar. 3mins on and a great ball from Oldham finds Jenkins with plenty of space. The pass down the line for Stewart to run onto was perfect, but the shot skimmed across the face of the goal.
Chertsey’s best chance of the game came just before their substitutions. A great deep cross from Wayne Ridgley on the left found McCoy with a golden opportunity. With Brown scrambling across goal, McCoy couldn’t get a toe on it and the chance went begging. On 57mins Louis Degand replaces McCoy.
Just after the hour, Rovers make their first substitution, Matthew Feeney-Hill replacing Stewart. The impact was immediate with Feeney-Hill passing through to Jenkins, who should really have returned the favour, but chose to shoot, his effort sailing over the bar. Ghannam then sets up Oldham who burns into the box on the right, takes the ball inside and gets a cracking shot away, but Jupp gets down to it.
From Jupp’s distribution Sam Omperon springs the offside trap, his cross blocked by a combination of Simeone and Sheppard. From their corner, Ghannam heads clear setting Oldham off on a run. Passing outside to Feeney-Hill, again his cross just eludes Jenkins. With the game getting close to the end – this could still go either way, but Rovers have had more chances.
After the Ref had added 6mins injury time, Ghannam is dispossessed by Omperon, who charges into the Rovers 18yd box. A great tackle from Coleman is greeted with a penalty appeal, but is waved away. Lloyd then clears the loose ball but is impeded winning a free-kick. Simeone takes quickly, far out to the right finding Feeney-Hill in space. Bringing it down with a great touch, his shot beats the keeper but just skims past the outside of the left post. If there was a chance for a winner, that was it.
In the final minute, a Chertsey free kick is awarded just outside the Rovers penalty area. Looking back to our last game here in the 96th minute, it couldn’t happen again could it? Thankfully not – last kick of the game was driven over the bar.
While the Chertsey squad must have felt they had dropped 2 points in this encounter (but still leaving the pitch to rapturous applause) Rovers can be content that this was a point won, with a great performance, and having terminated Chertsey’s run of home league wins. Should Chertsey feel hard done by? No, I don’t think so. Rovers matched them play for play, and were worthy of a point. Oh, and incidentally, even though it was goalless, it was a great game to watch, with good football on display from both sides.