Match report: Curfews edge it on penalties

Chertsey’s second half performance force the game to penalties and ends Rovers’ cup run

An evening fixture at Alwyn’s Lane to face Chertsey Town in the 3rd round of the Surrey County Cup; always a daunting contest. Having said that, Rovers have only conceded a single goal against The Curfews in their last two visits here, and even that was in the 7th minute of added time.

A slightly changed line-up to the draw with Northwood on Saturday, Rovers electing to start with Noah Africa, Charlie Martin, Jayden Smith and Mal Thomas. Joining them, Louie Erotokritos Staussi in goal; Bertie Lloyd, Antonio Simeone, Tariq Straker and Ben Holden in defence; with Tyrese Osbourne and Ashley Sheppard making up the rest of midfield. On the bench, Ronaldo Ashman, Max Oldham, Lindell Stewart and Aaron Jenkins.

The game kicks off to a brisk and enterprising start, with Rovers playing direct and with authority. In the opening minutes, from an Antonio Simeone ball over the top, Chertsey’s Rueben Collins is immediately put under pressure by Mal Thomas, the centre back choosing to pass back to Paul McCarthy. The keeper’s clearance is well blocked by Jayden Smith, the ricochet bobbling just past the outside of the left post.

In the 7th minute, Noah Africa intercepts Chertsey’s defence playing out from the back and slips the ball wide to Smith. The cross, driven into the penalty area, is met with a first time strike by Charlie Martin, which powers into the net. A great goal and a great start for Rovers.

From the restart, Rovers win possession, Africa pushing the ball through the centre to Thomas, who sends it wide on the right to Tyrese Osbourne. From the cross, Africa’s shot is blocked and Chertsey break with Gareth Chendlik on their right. The cross, deep into the Rovers penalty area is headed over.

The half continues with Rovers asking all the questions, and Chertsey relying on the break. A good free kick from Simeone forces a corner on our left, which Thomas takes to the far post. Bertie Lloyd gets a foot to it, winning a throw. Ben Holden delivers to Lloyd, his header to Simeone just out of reach. McCarthy throws out quickly for Reece Robins who plays down the line to Conor Lee, the cross again headed over. From the goal kick, Simeone pushes through to Osbourne, who carries the ball some distance before releasing wide to Smith, the keeper palming his shot away.

After solid battling and a powerful run through midfield, Ashley Sheppard passes down our right side, Martin’s shot just clearing the crossbar. From the goal-kick, Simeone gives away a foul on Luke Robertson for the slightest push. Lee takes, but the effort is again squandered.

Just before the half hour, a ball over the top from Chertsey’s defence falls into the path of Oliver McCoy just over the halfway line sprinting goalward, the Rovers back-line looking to the Linesman for a flag, which never came. McCoy slides the ball past Louie Staussi to bring the score level.

A disappointing way to concede, but Rovers were right back on it. A good ball from Sheppard to Osbourne is played down the line to Smith. Turning his man, his cross deflects out for a corner. Thomas takes to the far post, but Collins heads clear

The hard work and patience pays off in the 39th minute. Winning the ball in midfield Sheppard passes down the line to Thomas who picks out Tariq Straker on the left. Turning his man, he passes inside to Africa just outside the penalty area who puts his laces through a terrific strike. McCarthy spills his save, and Martin is quick to slot home for Rovers’ and his second.

A couple of minutes later, after a foul is played on by the Referee, a blistering strike from Africa had McCarthy at full stretch, but the Chertsey keeper was just able to get enough on it to parry it away. From the poor clearance Africa is fouled on the edge of the box. Sheppard steps up to take, but McCarthy punches clear, Holden firing the follow-up over the bar.

As the half drew to a close, Rovers had shots at goal from Smith, Simeone and Martin, which were all close. Safe to say that Rovers owned the first half.

Chertsey get the second half underway, and Martin immediately pinches the pocket of Chad Goulter, putting the ball wide for Smith, but his cross is cut out giving Rovers a throw on the left. Straker takes quickly, Thomas holding the ball up for a pass to Osbourne who wins another throw deep on the left. Holden’s delivery finds Osbourne in the box, his header finding it’s way back to Holden, whose cross is narrowly over the bar.

After the initial scare, Chertsey start to play with far more composure than was evident in the first half. Robins carved out a chance, but blasted the ball over the bar. From another Chertsey attack, Lloyd and Simeone get the ball clear, but McCoy picks up the loose ball, pushing through to Chendlik who in turn finds Louis Degand. After a terrific strike, Staussi pushes Degand’s shot over the bar. From the corner Collins heads just wide of the post.

On the hour, Chertsey win a corner after a long spell dominating possession. The delivery was to the near post which Martin clears for a throw. Taken quickly, Robins crosses into the box, Staussi punching out and Martin sweeping it upfield. The Referee brings the play back, spotting an infringement on Robertson, giving Chertsey a free-kick at 35yds. The hosts introduce their first substitution at this point, Wayne Ridgley replacing Goulter. The free kick is driven hard and low round the wall by Lee, Staussi getting down nicely to push it round the post. Their corner is headed out by Lloyd, Sheppard winning the loose ball in midfield. After a quick exchange with Holden, Sheppard pings a pass over to the left finding Osbourne in space. His cross into the box is not dealt with by either side, Smith picking it up the right. Smith’s cross fizzing across the open goalmouth was begging for a touch, but Thomas couldn’t get his foot to it – that was the moment when Rovers should have increased their lead.

Picking up an injury, Rovers are forced to substitute Africa for Max Oldham. After the excellent contribution Africa had made for the first 68 minutes, very disappointing for the young midfielder to be carried from the pitch by his teammates. Further Chertsey substitutions, Gianluca Botti and Mason Welch-Turner replacing Chendlik and Degand.

Another nailed on opportunity for Rovers. After Staussi had saved a great shot from Robertson, Holden clears upfield finding Osbourne. Losing out to Collins, Sheppard wins the ball back and passes down the line. Osbourne’s cross was just inches past the post, but should have been turned in.

On 75 minutes, Rovers make a double substitution, Lindell Stewart and Aaron Jenkins replacing Martin and Thomas, and a final substitution for Chertsey, Shaun McAuley replacing Robertson.

From a good long ball into the Rovers box from Shaun McAuley, Lloyd has no option to put it out for a corner. Toby Little’s delivery was low and hard across a packed six yard area, but somehow Liam Flanighan gets a foot to it, unchallenged and crashes the ball home. With Chertsey now taking the upper hand, it’s going to be a tough final 10 minutes.

Chertsey now throw everything they have at Rovers, to avoid the game going to penalties. A wicked cross from Little across our 6yd box is met with a fierce header by Gianluca Botti, which just clears the crossbar. Another drive across the penalty area sees McCoy shoot wide of the upright. After a Lloyd free-kick finds Osbourne, the shot from Max Oldham is cleared, and Chertsey break, Botti one-on-one with Staussi, but the Rovers keeper is first to the ball and hoofs it away. The Referee finally brings the one-way traffic to a halt, and we can all take a breath before the inevitable.

And so on to penalties, the hosts having the huge advantage of support in large numbers behind the goal. Dead silence for every Chertsey spot kick, and raucous jeering, even physically shaking the net, during ours. Each penalty kick for both sides was on target and well taken; Chertsey saving two, Rovers one, Chertsey therefore taking the honours. On a personal level, I for one was proud to be a Commoner tonight. The way the visiting support behaved toward their hosts; the overall team performance; the new players settling in; but most of all the conduct and quality of our young players – both in rites of passage and coming of age.