Another defeat drops Rovers down to 14th, with most teams around them having games in hand
Our visitors today are Westfield FC, against whom we have a long history of games in both the Combined Counties and Isthmian Leagues. Rovers’ have not beaten Westfield whilst in our current league, the most recent result a 2-2 draw. Westfield have won their last 4 games, including a 3-1 win against League title favourites Leatherhead, so will be riding high in confidence and expectation.
The starting line-up for Rovers has a different feel, with notable absentees, Antonio Simeone, Siao Blackwood and Charlie Martin. The defence includes James Dillon, Isy Nzelo, Matt Tanton, Bertie Lloyd and Ben Holden. Daryl Coleman makes his first start since his injury, in place of Jordan Wilson, with Nabeel Ghannam, Courtney Swaby, Aaron Jenkins and Anthony Ogbanufe in midfield, and striker Gabriel Odunaike. Joining Jordan on the bench are Danny Divine, Maxwell Oldham, Mack Reilly and Thomas Jones.
Within two minutes of the start, Westfield create an opening. A high ball over Isy Nzelo on their right, gives Theo White the chance to cross, Ben Holden heading out for a corner. From the cross James Dillon punches clear, but is impeded by a clash with Jacob Breckon. In reply, a long throw by Matt Tanton finds Aaron Jenkins, and, linking up with Gabriel Odunaike, splits the defence but one or other strayed offside.
Bertie Lloyd and Holden seemed in command in the Rovers back line, seeing off Westfields approach play, and settling the side. A good piece of play involving Nabeel Ghannam and Odunaike, sets Ghannam off on the right, his cross headed out by Westfield, From the corner Courtney Swaby’s cross almost finds Lloyd, but was unable to get a head on it.
After 10 minutes Lloyd was forced to put the ball out for a throw, opting for safety. Manolis Gogonas takes, and Lloyd heads back out but only as far as Andrew Crossley. From his cross Holden heads clear, but the ball lofted back. Nzelo header didn’t clear far enough, allowing Alfie Huckle to score with a well struck volley, curling past Dillon inside his left post
From the restart, Rovers win a throw, deep in Westfields half in the right hand corner. Holden takes, but the keeper Sonny Wheeler punches away. Another throw, this time on the left from Tanton, Daryl Coleman does well finding some space in midfield, but is impeded in the process. From the free kick, Ghannam can only strike the wall, setting White off down the line. His progress was halted by Holden, but it seems just too easy for Westfield to catch Rovers on the break.
A good Westfield ball across the park finds White, who cuts inside and lays off to Crossley . His shot is blocked by Lloyd, and Mayowa Adaje’s shot from the rebound, just skims past the post. From the goal kick, Jenkins has a run on the left cutting back and passing to Tanton. The cross found the right area, but no-one was there to latch on to it.
In the 22nd minute, Westfield again break, delivering a cross from Adaje that Lloyd heads over to the opposite wing. White is first to the loose ball and passes across the area to Breckon, who doesn’t miss with an easy side-footed shot. Two nil with no sign of a reply.
The next 20 minutes saw little of the normal creativity you expect from this Rovers side, but much more from the back four, heading clear, interceptions, hard tackles, staving off continued Westfield threat. Breckon received a caution for a harsh tackle on Tanton, and likewise Coleman picked up a yellow for a tackle on Breckon.
Dillon kept the score at two nil, after a great save from Adaje. Having received the ball from Breckon out wide, Adaje’s shot was on target and hard, but Dillon was able to get a hand to it, and push it out to safety. Holden picks up the loose ball and sets Jenkins off on our left, drawing a bad challenge from Archy Taylor, picking up a caution. Swaby’s free kick is headed clear by Quincy Rowe, allowing Jake Baxter to break. His pass to Adaje sets the no11 up for a shot but Dillon gathers, rolling the ball out to Swaby who covers a lot of ground, before the ball is put out for a Rovers throw. Holden steps up to take, but Lloyd was unable to steer the delivery goalward, in virtually the last kick of the half.
The second half picked up very much where the first ended, with Westfield bossing the majority of the play, with Rovers showing just a shade more creativity. Mack Reilly started the half in place of Odunaike as lone striker.
An early corner for Westfield on their right is taken by Crossley, and sails over the penalty area to White. His cross back across the box is swept out by Swaby, for a throw. Gogonas takes finding the foot of Breckon, whose shot is palmed away by Dillon. Rowe picks up the loose ball, stabbing it goalward, but Holden clears off the line.
On 53mins Nzelo gives away a free kick, which Rowe floats into corner. Nzelo heads out to Coleman who sets off Jenkins on a rare Rovers break. His crossfield pass finds Anthony Ogbanufe, who crosses but keeper Wheeler claims. Rovers seem to lift for a period, winning corners and throw-ins, but nothing really happening in the final 15yds. A good interception by Coleman finds Jenkins out on the left, how puts in a great cross, forcing Wheeler out of his area to head away. The scramble to clear Westfields lines result in a corner to Rovers. Swaby takes, and it took a strong punch from Wheeler to clear the danger.
Tanton picking up the ball on the left, cuts inside, beating his man and plays out to Reilly, but his cross is cut out by Wheeler. On the break from the Wheeler throw, Tanton then intercepts the pass to Adaje, breaking down the attack. Just before the hour, Maxwell Oldham is brought on in place of Ogbanufe, and for Westfield, Caleb Wright replaced Breckon.
Minutes later Ghannam hunts down a lost cause, nicking the ball off a defender, plays in Oldham but his shot was blocked. A great tackle by Nzelo in the middle of the park, gives him room spin out to Coleman. His pass to Oldham was challenged by Adaje, who kept possession, but was the taken out by Nzelo, earning our right back a caution.
On 75mins from a Holden long throw, Lloyd heads out to the edge of the penalty area, reaching Oldham. His shot is blocked and the rebound sets of a Westfield break, Adaje sending a high cross-field ball to Crossley. Dillon intercepts with a header, then punches the attempted lob out for a corner. Crossley takes this short to Alfie Huckle, but Nzelo blocks the cross, the ball going out for a throw-in. Gogonas dispatches the throw which is headed out, but only as far as Adaje, whose shot finds the net for Westfields third.
Ringing the changes Jordan Wilson is brought on for Jenkins, and with the clock ticking down, Rovers will need to find a miracle or two if they are to get anything from this game. Swaby and Ghannam trading passes on the left play down the line to Reilly, his shot deflected for a corner, Swaby’s delivery is headed out but picked up smartly by Jordan Wilson, who lobs over the Westfield defence toward Lloyd, but was flagged offside.
Westfield then make their substitutions, Kanye Moyo replacing Adaje, who had done his damage for the day, and Junior (Edmundo) Da Cruz replacing Gogonas. The visitors then have a spell of corners that were not dealt with convincingly by Rovers, but thankfully the desperate defending was enough. Tanton takes a quick throw on the left down the line to Reilly, who plays it inside to Ghannam. Our no10 sweeps the ball out right to Oldham, checking the ball back to Nzelo and running on to the return pass, Oldham’s shot was straight at Wheeler.
In the final moments of the game, an Nzelo tackle finds Wilson, who flicks the ball on to Oldham. The short backpass sets up Ghannam’s shot which Wheeler turns out for a corner. Swaby swings the corner toward the penalty spot, its defended back out to Swaby, but the keeper saves his shot.
Too little too late. Rovers sink to their fourth straight defeat, not having won a game in their last six, with clubs above and below with games in hand.