Match report: Northwood grab two points

A penalty in the last minute of added time dash Rovers hopes for a win

This afternoon Rovers welcome Northwood to Church Road, in a vital Isthmian League South Central survival game. Our record against The Wood is not great, being smashed 5-1 on the last two recent encounters, both home and away, and not having beaten them since October 2021. Let’s hope the record swings in our favour today.

A much changed line-up and formation on show for this game due to injury and unavailability. Louie Erotokritos Staussi makes his first-team debut start as keeper, stepping in for Sam Roberts on Sutton Utd duties. As a back three Oscar Williams, Bertie Lloyd and Antonio Simeone. Wing backs Tariq Straker and Lindell Stewart. In midfield Ben Holden, debutant Tyrese Osborne, Max Oldham and Ashley Sheppard, with Aaron Jenkins as striker. On the bench Noah Africa and Ollie Twum are joined by two further debutants Jayden Smith and Ronaldo Ashman.

Within the first couple of minutes our young keeper is called into action. After a good strike from Dan Williams flies just wide of the post, Adam Laaref’s low drive from inside the box required a great save from Louie Erotokritos Staussi; a real confidence booster, and Northwood clearly showing they’re here to take the game to Rovers.

As Rovers’ game began to settle, from a Max Oldham cross, Bertie Lloyd had a shot blocked picking up the loose ball in the Northwood penalty area, and from the corner his powerful header is just over the bar. From the goal kick, Ashley Sheppard gives away a free kick for a foul on Teddy Stacey. Taken early, the cross headed out for a throw to Northwood. From Luke Tingey’s long delivery, Lucas Sinclair heads over under pressure from Lloyd.

After 10 minutes, Northwood’s Carl Stewart pushes the ball through to Laaref, who plays down the line to D.Williams, setting up Kofi Anokye-Boadi for a cross into the box, which keeper Staussi claims at the feet of Lucas Sinclair.

A foul on Ben Holden in the middle of the park gives Antonio Simeone the chance to put pressure on the Northwood defence. His kick is nicely headed down by Lloyd, but cleared out as far as Oldham. Taking it down the right wing, Oldham’s cross is held by keeper Andrew McCorkell. From his long kick, D.Williams slips the ball through to Laaref, whose first time strike crashes against the post.

Holden is again fouled in midfield, Simeone taking quickly for Oldham on the right. Turning inside, the ball eludes him and is cleared on Northwoods left, setting Laaref on a run with Sheppard on his tail. On the edge of the box Sheppard neatly wins the ball and clears, averting the threat. From a Northwood throw, arrow-like from Tingey, Lloyd heads out for a corner. Deago Dunbar-Bonnie’s delivery on the right is well headed clear by Holden, and picked up by Oldham. Playing a good give and go with Aaron Jenkins, Oldham’s resulting shot wasn’t quite on target.

A clearance by Lloyd into the path of A.Jenkins gives our striker space to run at the Northwood defence, but he’s dragged back Harry Gallagher, earning a caution. From the kick Sheppard unleashes a great strike drawing a good save from McCorkell, diving to his right. Only minutes later the caution tally is evened up, Tyrese Osbourne picking up a yellow for kicking the ball away, after a foul is given against Holden.

In the 25th minute Northwood lose possession in midfield courtesy of a Holden challenge. Holden puts the ball wide for A.Jenkins, who slides a terrific through ball for Oldham. Taking a step or two, from 20 yards Oldham shoots clattering the left post, McCorkell turning to claim the rebound. Best chance of the game and so close to opening the scoring for Rovers.

With chances going to either side, the momentum is kept in balance by Northwood. Anokye-Boadi making progress down the right hand side puts in a decent cross, which Sheppard intercepts, Simeone clearing to touch. The throw is quickly taken, Stacey finding Anokye-Boadi on the edge of the box, who in turn sends Sam Jenkins down the right flank, his cross nicely taken by Staussi.

On the half hour, Northwood lose possession outside the penalty area, Osbourne seizing the chance to turn his man, his shot deflected out for a corner to Rovers. Oldham delivers in customary style, but Oscar Williams’ header is just wide. From the goal-kick, Gallagher passes through to Deago Dunbar-Bonnie on the left, carving out a great near post strike, which Staussi palms away. Further pressure from The Wood sees a long clearance from Gallagher to Sinclair going one on one with Staussi, but the Rovers’ keeper denies the striker and is first to it.

With 5 minutes of the first half remaining, a Holden long throw is headed goalwards by Lloyd, but is cleared, allowing Northwood to break, Laaref charging through the centre of the park. His pass into the corner is crossed into the box by D.Williams, but intercepted by Sheppard. O.Williams clears out to Lindell Stewart, who turns his man forcing a definite trip, but went undetected by the Referee.

In the final moments of the half the young Rovers keeper is called upon twice to deny Northwood, once from a free kick in the left corner, punching clear, the second pushing an S.Jenkins free kick wide. Goalless at the break, and probably a fair reflection of the game so far, though with both sides hitting the woodwork it could have gone either way.

The second half gets underway, Rovers winning a free-kick almost immediately. Simeone’s delivery is again spot on for Lloyd to head across the box, but just out of reach for Stewart. Four minutes in Northwood break the deadlock, though perhaps somewhat fortuitously. Sinclair holds the ball up well, and passes down the right side to Stacey. The cross (shot?) from Stacey sails over the Rovers’ keeper and lands just inside the far post. One nil down and typical of Rovers recent luck.

Not letting their heads drop, Rovers up their game looking for a response, Tariq Straker putting a great ball into the box for Stewart, who turns and shoots, but too easy for McCorkell. In the 55th minute Jenkins picks up a caution for tapping the Northwood keeper on the foot, whilst going for a 50/50 ball. Jenkins is replaced by debutant Jayden Smith shortly after.

Rovers’ opportunity to pull back level came on the hour. With Rovers breaking into the Northwood half, Jayden Smith, having only been on the pitch for 2 minutes, squares to the edge of the penalty area for Osborne, whose deft touch slips the ball between the defence for Stewart to run onto. Ignoring the claim for offside, and dropping a shoulder to round McCorkell, Stewart calmly slots home for the equaliser.

A corner for Northwood provided a clear opportunity to regain the lead. After Sinclair had sent D.Williams down the right flank, Lloyd clears the cross over the bar. S.Jenkins takes the corner which Saussi palms away, but only as far as Anokye-Boadi who hooks the ball over the bar. Close call.

Substitutions for both sides on 80 minutes, Archie James replacing C.Stewart for Northwood, and Twum replacing Tariq Straker for Rovers. From a first touch Ollie Twum’s pass to Stewart sends out an early warning, shooting just wide.

After 2 minutes, a Simeone free-kick from 40yds out is perfect for Lloyd on the right of the 6yd box. Lloyds powerful header across the face of goal is destined for Stewart on the left post, but the interception of Anokye-Boadi rushing back inadvertently guides the ball past McCorkell for an own goal, giving Rovers the lead.

Rovers now had the upper hand and tried to slow the game down. A good ball from Holden to Twum in the left corner gave the opportunity to tread water for a bit, winning a throw, Northwood taking the opportunity for a substitution, Harry McKenna replacing Dunbar-Bonnie. The visitors win the ball back from the short throw and increase their urgency to press into the Rovers half.

Five minutes of added time, and a late substitution for Northwood, Harry McCorkell replacing S.Jenkins, proving to be a pivotal moment. With the home support praying for the whistle, disaster struck. As Rovers break into the Northwood half, and a foul on Stewart is not given, a through ball by Harry McCorkell to Sinclair in the 18yd box sees the forward slip past Staussi, the keepers outstretched arm bringing him down for a penalty. Nothing he could have done to prevent it. Gallagher steps up to take placing the ball to the right and levelling the score, dashing Rovers hope for a win.

On reflection, a draw would have probably been a fair result from the first half performance, but in the second half we could and should have taken 3 points. Going into the lead with less than 10 minutes of normal time left should have sealed it, but a lack of game management and 6 added minutes were our undoing. Not quite the result either team were looking for, but a point is a point.