Match Report: Bad day at the office

Rovers bow out of the FA Trophy to an impressive Badshot Lea

Today’s FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round game is hosted by Badshot Lea, at the Operatix Community Ground, Wrecclesham. A well appointed arena with a great playing surface, though not a great deal had changed since our last encounter here, back in October 2020. Rovers ran out 2-4 winners that day in a Combined Counties League fixture, but the season would have no conclusion due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The Rovers’ line-up today, with Antonio Simeone not available, has Ben Holden dropping into central defence alongside Bertie Lloyd, with Isy Nzelo and Matt Tanton as right and left back, and James Dillon in goal. The midfield and flanks comprising of Jordan Wilson, Courtney Swaby, Nabeel Ghannam and Charlie Martin, with Gabriel Odunaike and Aaron Jenkins up front. The bench sees the return of Danny Divine and Max Oldham, joining Siao Blackwood, Ashley Sheppard and Conan Torpey.

Before anyone had got comfortable in their seats, Badshot were a goal to the good. In the third minute, after conceding a corner, Steven Sylla takes the uncontested delivery on the 6yd box for the easiest of tap-ins. Did time stand still for Rovers’ at that point?

Rovers fight back will a good throw-in from Isy Nzelo to Gabriel Odunaike, who fends off a heavy challenge from the Badshot defence, turns and feeds his pass to Charlie Martin. Martin’s shot is deflected out for a corner. Courtney Swaby delivers on cue, Bertie Lloyd heading back across goal, but keeper Harry Cawdron claims.

After a great piece of foot work from Aaron Jenkins as he approaches the Badshot 18yd box, one on one with Cawdron, the keeper denies the chance, and his distribution sets up Sylla, who plays out wide to Lamin Ceesay, his left foot strike demanding a great save by James Dillon. Soon after, Dillon was again called into action, after a nice turn by Reece Robins he opens up and passes wide to the left finding Anuar Ceesay. A.Ceesay’s cross-come-shot catches Dillon out but he was quick to get a hand to it down to his right, somehow scooping it over the bar. Lloyd defends the corner in typical fashion.

In response, Rovers look for chances. A quick free-kick from Lloyd finds Odunaike, holding the ball up and setting up Swaby for a trademark run. Swaby uses the width well, passing to Jenkins who presses forward and pushes the ball to the incoming Odunaike, who just puts his shot wide.

From the goal-kick, Badshot’s Kojo Kyei is set free on their left, crossing to the edge of our penalty area, but Ben Holden heads clear. Nabeel Ghannam sweeps the ball into the path of Odunaike who is now has only the keeper to beat, but Cawdron gets a hand on it. Swaby is there to pick up the loose ball and shoots from outside the penalty area, Cawdron tipping it out. Swaby drills the corner hard toward the penalty spot, where Nzelo executes as good a header as your likely to see, finding the lower right hand corner. Back on equal terms.

Jordan Wilson picked up a caution for a late challenge mid-way through the fist half, just as the game was levelling up. A succession of Badshot corners then put Rovers under pressure. Reece Robins takes quickly to Kai Allsopp, who gives straight back, Robins cross finding Sylla. His header looked nailed on, but Dillon steered it past the post.

On 28mins, as Rovers soak up the pressure from Badshot, a poorly struck backpass from Matt Tanton puts Dillon under pressure, the 50:50 challenge with Sylla sees the tall no9 go down in the box. Sylla then duly dispatches the penalty, restoring Badshot’s lead. A minute later a telling cross from Baback Dehgani is headed over by L.Ceesay. Could have been three.

In 34th minute from a break on the left, Anuar Ceesay’s cross finds Sylla with a great opportunity to increase their lead, but for a world class save from Dillon. At the other end, a poor piece of defending by Badshot gives Ghannam the opportunity to steal, and run into the penalty area. As he cued up to shoot there was definite contact by a defender, but he stayed on his feet, his shot disappointingly blocked out.

With half-time looming Holden again clears our lines, with a great ball to Swaby who tries to jinx his way through the Badshot defence, laying off to Charlie Martin. His cross gets through to Odunaike, but the ball didn’t fall kindly and his shot went wide.

Just before the break Swaby, who was clearly frustrated by the decisions going against us, was taken aside by the Ref for a chat, with Tanton in attendance. Nothing given, but a warning nonetheless. As the half came to a close, during the break, Rovers will need to settle and find another gear.

3 minutes from the restart, great work from Badshot’s Kai Allsopp, driving 25yds down the right, his low cross into the penalty area is met by Tanton, who turns and fires the ball point-blank into Holden, L.Ceesay slotting the loose ball over Dillon. Nothing either of the two Rovers defenders could do – just unfortunate. Badshot restore their two goal lead. After 53 minutes Rovers make the first of two double substitutions. Danny Divine replacing Nzelo, and Ashley Sheppard replacing Ghannam.

A long throw from Tanton finds Odunaike, who shields the ball well, turns and slides a pass through to Swaby. Swaby’s shot is pushed away by the Badshot keeper, and their defender checks it back to Cawdron – for all the world looking like a back-pass but nothing given. Wishful thinking maybe.

Badshot’s Nick Medcraft then finds himself facing Dillon and chips the ball over the keeper. Dillon may have just got a touch to take the sting out of it, but Lloyd was on hand to sweep up and clear.
The second Rovers double substitution on 66mins sees Conan Torpey replacing Jenkins and Max Oldham replacing Martin. The impact was an immediate threat to Badshot, with Swaby twisting and turning their defence, pushing the ball out wide to Max Oldham. Oldham’s cross was pin-point to Conan Torpey, but the header was just wide.

Around the hour mark, our defence was given a hard job to contain Badshot’s pressure. Tanton blocks an absolute screamer of a shot from L.Ceesay, and then Sylla on the follow-up. Rovers then create a chance for Wilson, after a good move from Torpey putting Wilson within shooting distance, but a deflection puts the ball out for a corner. Badshot then get back on the break from the corner kick, Sylla, both Ceesay’s and Dehgani, 4 against 3, but Tanton heads the danger clear.

On 67mins Sylla lays the ball out to L.Ceesay, whose shot hits the cross bar, Sylla latches onto the rebound, but his shot is blocked. Another close call. Three minutes later, a great ball from Holden out to Danny Divine on the right, wins a corner, which Divine takes quickly finding Oldham on the edge of box. Oldham’s floats his cross to Torpey, who heads past the keeper, 3-2.

Short-lived though, on 75mins A.Ceesay works himself some space out on their left, cuts into the edge of the 18yd box and whips in a shot into the bottom right corner. Restoring the deficit 4-2. Dillon picked up a caution, as he felt there was an infringement in the build-up, and expressed it so with more passion than the Ref felt appropriate.

Badshot then make their first substitution, Billy Oram replacing Reece Robins, on 77mins. Shortly followed by Rovers final change Siao Blackwood replacing Wilson. Good play from Odunaike playing Torpey through into the box, but his shot is deflected out for a corner. Swaby takes to the near post, setting up a header for Holden, which just squeaks over.

At 80mins it was clear that Rovers were becoming rattled, and frustrations running high. The normally ever-smiling Swaby was cautioned for reacting to a challenge he was alleged to have made, and would need to put this behind him. After two minutes a great quick long throw from Tanton on the left puts Odunaike in space on the 18yd box, his shot parried by the keeper, Oldham on the follow-up slots home. 4-3. We’re still in this.

Good work from Divine on the right wins a corner late on, which Swaby takes, delivering into a sea of yellow. Divine and Torpey both get headers in as the ball is pushed back out, but the keeper saves. Was that our last chance? Badshot’s final substitutions on 82mins sees Tane Caubo replace A.Ceesay and Rock Moses replace Allsopp. Almost immediately brought into the action Oram feeds a great through ball for Tane Caubo, but Dillon denies with a good save.

With Rovers’ clearly distracted by a commotion ongoing in the stands and not focussed on what was happening on the pitch, Sylla again pops out of nowhere into the penalty area and pushes the ball under Dillon for his hattrick, and Badshot’s fifth. That sealed it for the Baggies. To add insult to injury Swaby then got a second yellow, along with his marching orders, following a challenge executed in frustration rather than malice. Game over.