Rovers progressed into the third round of the Surrey Senior Cup, courtesy of a hard fought but ultimately deserved win away at Ashford Town (Middx).
Sam Morgan rang the changes with Ashley Sheppard, Noah Africa, Charlie Martin, Lindell Stewart and Ben Holden all coming into the starting line up. Matt Feeney-Hill, Conan Torpey and Aaron Jenkins dropped to the bench, with both Tariq Straker and Daryl Coleman unavailable.
A lively start saw Ashford force an early corner, before both Martin with a header from a Courtney Swaby cross and Stewart with a blocked shot, went close for Rovers. A scramble in the middle of the park on eight minutes eventually led to the ball reaching Ashfords Ahkeem Belford, but his tame effort was comfortable for James Dillon.
The hosts were forced into an early change, with Ben Holder making way for Adam Poynter. Ashford upped the ante, but were unable to force any clear cut openings, and on 20 minutes only a timely interception by Alex Stingelin prevented Nabeel Ghannam from picking out Martin.
Martin should have opened the scoring for Rovers on 22 minutes, but his point blank effort was somehow stopped by Ashford’s debutant keeper Harry Cant.
Nathan Rogers whipped in a dangerous free kick from the right, which Antonio Simeone did superbly to divert away from the on-rushing Qasim Khan. Back at the other end and Africa drifted beyond a couple of defenders before seeing his shot blocked by Aaron Goode. A minute later and a long kick by Cant was flicked on by Jerry Frimpong, but Khan could only fire his effort over the crossbar.
Just after the half hour and neat link up between Holden and Ghannam found Stewart on the left, but his effort was narrowly wide of the right hand post. Ashford should have taken the lead ten minutes from the break, firstly Frimpong almost capitalised on a Bert Lloyd slip, but Simeone was on hand to clear, almost immediately the recycled ball looped over Simeone and Frimpong’s shot from point blank range was brilliantly saved by Dillon with Lloyd completing the clearance.
Rogers went into the book on 36 minutes for a poor challenge on Africa. Poynter saw a low cross shot saved by Dillon, before Rovers struck on the stroke of half time. A foul on Ghannam on the Rovers right saw Swaby with a free kick six yards from the dead ball line. The high free kick evaded everyone and nestled in the far corner for 1-0.
Khan found his way into the book early in the second half following a late challenge on Ghannam and Rovers increased their lead on 53 minutes. Holden’s long throw was beyond Martin, flicked on by Stewart into Ghannam’s path and he calmly slotted under the keeper for 2-0. The giant Lloyd took a blow to the throat on the hour, with the home bench laughably claiming he ducked his head – he’s 8 ft tall, the boot would have cleared a normal sized man!
Sheppard, Rylan John and Ghannam linked up neatly but the low cross evaded everyone and back at the other end a deflected shot by Rogers bought a good save out of Dillon.
The impressive John then found Martin and his low cross was turned behind from a corner, with Lloyds powerful header just clearing the bar.
With just over 15 to go we introduced Isy Nzelo and Feeney-Hill for Swaby and Holden. Almost immediately Rogers saw his shot deflected, Dillon failed to gather and in the scramble Lloyd blocked on the line. Feeney-Hill then found his way into the book for a mistimed challenge.
Rovers made another change with just under ten to go, with Stewart and Ghannam making way for Jenkins and debutant Harrison Abu.
Scoring was completed on 86 minutes, and it was a goal crafted in the u18’s. Man of the match Africa fed Feeney-Hill, he drifted beyond two played and pplayed a delightfully weighted ball into Jenkins path, and he calmly converted for 3-0.
Martin saw an effort well saved on 89 minutes, and found his way into the book for kicking the ball away a minute late. Full time came with Rovers into the 3rd round.