Match Report: Maxwell’s Silver Hammer

A Max Oldham penalty was enough to take all three points against Ascot

This afternoon’s fixture is our home game against Ascot United, having drawn away early in the season, in a thrilling encounter. Ascot will be looking to improve on their current run of form, losing twice to Hartley Wintley in the League, and only narrowly winning away to Binfield. Although Rovers lost to Southall last week, they will be buoyed by their performance, and will expect to put in an equal shift today.

Rovers’ starting line-up includes debutants Oscar Williams and, for the second time, Malachi Thomas. With Bertie Lloyd unavailable, Oscar Williams comes in to join Antonio Simeone in central defence, with Ben Holden and Matt Tanton on either side, and Sam Roberts in goal. Midfield comprises of Daryl Coleman, Ashley Sheppard, Max Oldham, Ollie Twum and Malachi Thomas, with Aaron Jenkins up front. On the bench, Tariq Straker, Matt Feeney-Hill, Lindell Stewart, Isy Nzelo and Charlie Martin.

With both sides determined for a win, the game starts at pace, with action at each end early on. A foul on Daryl Coleman gives Rovers a free kick, that Antonio Simeone takes, pinging the ball out wide to Malachi Thomas. Pressing down the left flank Thomas forces a throw to Rovers that Coleman delivers deep into the Ascot box. Oscar Williams heads on across the goalmouth, Aaron Jenkins and Ollie Twum combine, Jenkins almost getting a clean strike, but deflected out for a corner. Max Oldham’s delivery is headed away, sitting up nicely for Ash Sheppard, but his shot from distance is just wide.

After another foul on Coleman, Ascot win a throw on their right. Chris Ellis launches his delivery into the Rovers penalty area, Ben Harris heading goalward, but was easy for Sam Roberts to collect. From Robert’s long kick, a handball gives Rovers a free-kick out on their right. Coleman sends his effort hard into the box, but is hooked away. With Taylor Morgan giving chase, putting Matt Tanton under pressure, our left-back heads safely back to Roberts.

Further Ascot pressure sees Ben Holden blocking a good strike, the ball spinning out for a throw. Simeone heads away the Ellis long throw, which would be continue to be a threat all game, Sheppard clearing away the loose ball. Roberts then punches clear a shot from Morgan, on the follow-up Sean McCormack’s close range volley is fired over the crossbar.

On 20mins, another throw from Ellis is headed out by Simeone, but only back to Ellis. His cross is blocked for a corner by Sheppard. McCormack’s delivery swings in dangerously, Coleman heading away, but McCormack is first to the ball. A neat one-two with Harry Grant, and McCormack crosses hard into the six yard box, Holden blocking and Jenkins hooking it away. Sustained pressure from Ascot, but all-round good defending from Rovers.

In reply, Coleman sends a ball over the top finding Twum in behind deep on the right. The tricky no11 wins a free kick out in the right corner, which Oldham takes. Jordan Ajanlekoko heads away, Thomas floating it back into the six yard box, but too close to keeper Mark Scott. Maintaining their spell of pressure, Tanton’s quick throw to Coleman is passed on to Holden, who slips the ball between two defenders, but just on the wrong side for Jenkins. Just before the half hour, a great effort by Coleman is volleyed just over the bar from distance, after a Holden throw-in is headed out by an Ascot defender.

In the 35th minute, Ascot keeper Scott makes an error, gifting the ball to Jenkins. Combining with Twum and pressing forward into the box, Harry Tucker brings Twum down and a penalty given. Oldham takes up the mantle with a well executed spot-kick, sending the keeper the wrong way and placing bottom right. A great penalty under pressure, and probably a deserved lead on balance.

On the run in to 45 minutes Rovers keep the pressure up, with Simeone, Tanton and Thomas combining well on the left, delivering balls into the box, but just not finding that final touch. Had some of those chances paid off, the scoreline would tell a whole different story.

Just before half-time, Usman Lalustani on Ascot’s left whips in a brilliant cross, which is headed clear by Coleman. As Twum collects the loose ball, he is subject to an appalling challenge from Harris, who was lucky to get away with just a caution. At the whistle, Rovers’ go into the break with a one goal advantage, but still a lot to do.

Isy Nzelo starts the second half for Rovers, in place of Coleman, as clearly the injuries he sustained in the first half were causing him some discomfort. In a hurry to make up the deficit, Ascot start the more lively of the two sides, winning a corner early on. The delivery is punched clear by Roberts, keeping the arial threat at bay, as he did so well in the first half.

Ellis kept knocking on the door with long throws into the box, but again, strong in defence, Rovers were having none of it. Simeone heads out to Sheppard, and his long ball splits the Ascot defence, setting off Twum on the right, his cross cut out by Scott.

Leading up to the hour Scott was kept busy dealing with crosses from Thomas and again Twum in quick succession. Getting into their stride Rovers step up a gear, Twum breaking on the left, crossing inside to Holden, his pass switching wings to Thomas, the cross from the right headed by Twum, but Scott had it covered. A long free kick from Simeone finds Williams in the penalty area, his header also doesn’t test Scott enough.

A great ball from Nzelo is threaded between two Ascot players, finding Sheppard who bursts through midfield to the edge of the box. With a hint of contact from their defence, his shot is just off target, but a great effort under pressure. Scott again is called into action in the 65th minute, with a terrific save from a Jenkins shot, after a fine passage of play combining with Oldham, Twum and Holden. A minute later, this time stopping a shot from Thomas, having been put through by Oldham.

On a counter, Lalustani puts a great cross into Rovers penalty area, Roberts just getting a hand to it, but Simeone heading it clear off the line. From the corner, Roberts punches clear, and Oldham breaks with an end-to-end run, slips the ball through to Jenkins, who goes down in the box. Big shout for a penalty but not given.

On 70 minutes, Ascot make a triple substitution with the hope of finding a breakthrough, George Lock replacing Tucker, Harry Laflin replacing Harris and Oliver Harris replacing Morgan. Rovers sit back a little at this point, letting Ascot come at them, while they adjusted to the substitutions.

Ten minutes on and two of the substitutes, Harris and Laflin, link up well after a huge clearance from Jordan Ajanlekoko. Laflin’s hooked shot from Harris’ header was driven just wide of the right post. Moments later Ajanlekoko is brought down just outside Rovers’ box, giving the visitor’s a real chance to square the game. The free kick is slammed into the wall, Roberts dropping on the deflection.

Playing out of defence, George Lock on the right plays back to his keeper, who passes crossfield to Ellis. The long ball from him finds Lock running on, but great defending from Tanton puts the ball out for a corner. McCormack’s delivery finds Ellis unmarked in the box and his header finds the net, but the effort was ruled out for an infringement in the build-up. Just before normal time is up Charlie Martin is brought on for Thomas.

With 5 minutes added time, Ascot try to pile on the pressure, while Rovers look to run down the clock. Roberts is cautioned, for taking his time with a goal-kick, Twum and Oldham winning a series of throw-ins deep in the Ascot half. Rovers could have added a second late on, with a good ball from Williams to Charlie Martin, who played inside to Jenkins, then down the line to Oldham, but no-one was following up his cross into the box. The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Rovers, and was greeted with frustration for Ascot.

The game didn’t quite live up to the panache of the away fixture, it wasn’t pretty, but a worthy win and a very important three points.