Rovers capitulate giving away a one goal lead to an ascending Southall side
Another difficult fixture, this time against Southall, who are currently enjoying a good run of form winning 3 out of 5 games in the League so far this season, most impressively beating Marlow at home 4-1, but they have yet to win on the road. The head-to-head stats between these two teams reveal that Rovers have never lost to Southall in the Isthmian or Combined Counties Leagues in their history, one game finishing an astounding 5-5 draw.
The starting 11 today is much the same as the one losing out to Leatherhead in the week, the only change Nabeel Ghannam starts in place of Aaron Jenkins. Joining AJ on the bench are Issy Nzelo, Mack Reilly, new signing Anthony Ogbanufe, and Daryl Coleman returning from injury. Siao Blackwood and Charlie Martin are unavailable.
With some supporters coming from as far away as Dubai to watch the game, Rovers get off to a brisk start with early pressure on Southall’s defence. The home side looked set to make amends for their defeat to Leatherhead earlier in the week, with confident combination passing from the start. The opening passage of play sees Jordan Wilson pushing a ball out wide to Matt Tanton, who lays off to Courtney Swaby, immediately bringing in Max Oldham out wide on the left, his pass inside finding Ben Holden, but his shot is just over the bar.
In a second wave from a James Dillon drop kick, Gabriel Odunaike holds the ball up well, and plays out left to Oldham, his great ball into the area finds Nabeel Ghannam with a clear chance, but Southall’s imposing right back Kevin Diomande muscles our no10 off the ball.
On 12mins, Southall’s first real chance is crafted by their tricky no7 Jaden Thompson-Brissett, weaving his way out to their right, his cross is headed away by Tanton, and the left back also blocks Luke Heneghan’s follow up shot.
Good distribution again from Dillon aiming for Odunaike at about 25yds earns a free-kick, for a push in the back. From the Swaby kick, Bertie Lloyd’s header is cleared away. The resulting throw, Tanton sends Oldham down the left, whose cross is cleared away for a corner. Swaby’s “come head me” delivery from the corner kick is met by Danny Divine who heads down, but the ball bounces frustratingly over cross-bar. The number of unchallenged chances were increasing, but as yet no end product.
A poor backpass by Diomande forced keeper Michael Edegbe to kick out for a corner. Swaby floats his delivery but closer this time, Edegbe punching away. Ryan Hope sweeps up, but only as far as Divine, whose neat back heel gives Ghannam room to float the ball over to Lloyd. His header back across the box, Swaby brings down, turns his man but his shot blocked by former SCR U18 Dimitris Savva. Rovers still having majority of possession and chances during this spell – any possession Southall have does not result in pressure for Dillon.
On the half hour mark, Southall break from a good clearance from Abdul Nurein, Thompson-Brissett surging into the box to shouts of offside, but his shot was straight at Dillon.
The half proceeded in similar vein, with Rovers dominating, and Southall having little in reply, though the line up of Jaden Thompson-Brissett, William Montague, Anthony O’Connor, Luke Heneghan and Frankie Taylor appeared to be increasingly threatening.
On 35mins Wilson makes a crucial tackle on Montague in the box, the away support screaming for a penalty, but the tackle was better than that, with the referee not even acknowledging that there may have been any infringement.
A minute later Tanton guides a pass from the left to Odunaike with his back to goal, disguising his pass, our striker slips the ball into the path of Ghannam who strokes past the keeper into the bottom right hand corner. 1-0 and not before time. It was coming – just took a while.
The wake-up call for Southall sees the away team stepping up a gear. A corner won on their right is headed out by Lloyd, but Heneghan smashes the free ball from distance, Tanton blocks and Holden sweeps up the pieces.
In reply, great skills from Oldham in the middle of the park create space for the pass to Divine bursting down the right flank. Divine delivers an enticing chip into the box, and Odunaike was so close with the header. The last action of the half saw a Swaby corner almost headed home by Antonio Simeone.
The second half started at a far more even tempo, with both sides having equal share of the game, but Southall growing in confidence on the ball. I guess the half time notes had been ripped up, and they felt they needed to go and get a result, rather than have a result come to them.
An early free kick, given away by Tanton, is taken by Heneghan and gets through to Thompson-Brissett, but Swaby forces the ball out for a throw. Taylor takes, but Ghannam clears out to Odunaike. With just Nurein to beat he passes wide for Oldham, but just the wrong side of Diomande, who was able to intercept.
A handball given away by Southhall’s Hope provides Swaby with another set piece. His free kick into a packed penalty area is headed out, Tanton pings a crossfield pass to Divine on the right. Divine’s cross isn’t dealt with by Diomande, Ghannam tries the lob, but over the bar. On the counter Thompson-Brissett again finds space on their left, and crosses out of the reach of Dillon to O’Connor with half the goal to place his header, but thankfully for Rovers, it sailed wide.
On 55mins Southall make their first change, Harvey Jay Harry coming on in place of Montague, and from his introduction looked dangerous and effective. The Rovers’ defence were still not phased, and were able to deal with the increase in pressure.
Ten minutes later, a bad pass out from the back from Southall, lets Odunaike in and Taylor has no choice but to take him down, earning himself a caution, and Rovers a free kick at 25yds. Swaby floats the ball in for Simeone for a great header, but was judged offside.
After a Southall attack broke down, Dillon rolls out to Simeone, who sends his pass long for Odunaike putting pressure on their left back, but he was able to scramble the ball out for a corner. Swaby takes giving Lloyd a point blank header – only a great one handed save from Edegbe keeping it out. Harvey Jay Harry catches us on the break, charging down the right wing, thankfully Wilson clears. Rovers asking themselves – why are we not 2 up?
At 70minutes the upper hand was clearly swinging in favour of Southall, as Darreon Mark is brought on for Heneghan and Joshua Green for Taylor. The pressure was mounting, with Southall’s pace men trying to find an opening.
Rovers’ introduce fresh legs at 77mins, debutant Anthony Ogbanufe replacing Ghannam, who had covered most of the pitch by this time, hoping to quell the pace of the Southall wide men.
A double save from Dillon on 84mins just prior to our second substitutions, kept us in the game. Nurein denied twice, the first attempt parried by Dillon, the second smothered. Aaron Jenkins then replaced Oldham and Daryl Coleman replaced Holden.
Things were looking more and more ragged for Rovers, with 5mins of normal time remaining, Southall win a corner, which is delivered low and hard, but O’Connor could only head the ball over. Rovers’ were looking at the clock by now.
With only 2 or 3 of the 7 added minutes left, the Southall substitute Joshua Green floats a ball into our box, O’Connor heads out back to Green, who pushes it straight back into the path of O’Connor, sliding the past Dillon for their equaliser. With Rovers’ still in shock, almost from the restart, the ball is chipped over to Harvey Jay Harry out wide, who cuts back with a pass into the penalty area where Darreon Mark slams the ball past Dillon for the winner.
So, Rovers swallow a mugful of their own medicine (remember Guernsey?) and ship two goals in added time, throwing away 3 points and extending their losing streak. Within days, Rovers face South Park, and will need to pick themselves up, regroup, and start playing like we know they can.