Match Report: Rovers in Photo Finish at Ascot

A late equaliser from Rovers at Ascot shares the points

Rovers have not played against Ascot in their recent history, if memory serves, and it is likely to be a tough encounter, Ascot beating Guernsey 4-0 in August, Rovers just squeaking a 2-1 win against them very late in the game. Be assured we will need to have our wits about us today, certainly more so than in our poor showing against Badshot Lea last weekend.

Our squad for the afternoon comprises of James Dillon between the posts, Danny Divine and Matt Tanton as right and left back, Bertie Lloyd and Antonio Simeone centre backs. In midfield, Ben Holden, Jordan Wilson, Max Oldham and Nabeel Ghannam. Forwards, Conan Torpey and Gabriel Odunaike, with Siao Blackwood, Isy Nzelo, Aaron Jenkins, Charlie Martin and Louie Erotokritos Staussi on the bench. Courtney Swaby is absent, currently on a one game suspension.

This is certainly my first visit to Ascot’s ground, and a fine looking stadium it looks too. With great facilities and a welcoming atmosphere, located within a stone’s throw of the 7th furlong of the historic racecourse, which is host to the world famous race meeting Royal Ascot, first held in 1768. But that’s all by the by. We’re here for 3 points, and the chance to maintain a foothold in the top-half of the table.

From early on, Rovers soak up some pressure from Ascot’s front line, with Harry Grant, Brendan Matthew and Usman Lalustani all looking quick and menacing, but good defending from Bertie Lloyd, Antonio Simeone and Ben Holden keep the danger away.

With seven minutes gone, a corner to Rovers, after a great exchange between Conan Torpey and Max Oldham, giving us our first chance of the game. Nabeel Ghannam swings the ball into a crowded six yard area, but is headed clear allowing Ascot to break down their left hand side, a first time strike by Matthew was well blocked by Holden.

A Matt Tanton long throw finds Jordan Wilson charging toward the Ascot penalty area, but his first time strike on the half volley sails over the bar. Holden then has his opportunity for a long throw, Torpey heads inside the 18yd box, but was easy for keeper Hugo Sobte. A third throw in quick succession, Tanton now finding Gabriel Odunaike on the edge of the box, who holds the ball up well and cues up Oldham, but his shot is deflected out for a corner. Ghannam takes, swinging the ball over to the far right hand post, Simeone in space produces a powerful header, but Sobte puts up a strong hand and miraculously saves what would otherwise be a trademark goal.

Rovers were definitely in the ascendency leading up to the half hour. Danny Divine wins a great challenge, pinning Ascot back in their half, motoring forward passes inside to Odunaike, who finds Ghannam wide on the right. Taking the ball out toward the right corner Ghannam turns past Jordan Ajanlekoko and crosses to Torpey, but his shot goes over the bar.

Then, from what looked like a foul on Torpey deep in Ascot’s half, Harry Tucker wins the challenge and set off Lalustani, breaking past Lloyd and passing out wide to Grant, who cuts back and curls his shot past James Dillon. One nil to Ascot, slightly against the run of play, but Rovers were not converting their chances.

After the goal Ascot had their tails up, and only good defending by Rovers prevented Ascot from increasing their lead. Just before half time, the Ascot no10 Matthew carved out a great chance firing his shot on the right onto the inside of the left hand post, only to see it skim across goal, and go out. Both Dillon and Wilson then picked up cautions, as Dillon felt Ascot were preventing him taking the resulting goal-kick.

Rovers go into the break a goal down, with a few chances under their belt, and I’m sure they felt they should be better off than that.

The second half kicked off with Rovers probing for an equaliser. Great work by Divine and Oldham combining on the right, executing a perfect give and go, but the was no-one there to latch on to Divine’s cross. From a free kick on our left Ghannam drives the ball into the Ascot penalty area, Odunaike gets a good touch as he turns, but the keeper clears away setting Matthew off, with Tanton in pursuit. Tanton was able to match Matthew for pace, and his sliding tackle denied Matthew a chance to go one on one with Dillon.

From Dillons distribution, Divine moves the ball quickly up-field, finding Ghannam who sets himself up for a cracking shot from distance, but Sobte was equal to it and palmed the shot away. On 57mins Rovers make changes Siao Blackwood replacing Wilson, and for Ascot Daniel Bailey replacing Tucker.

After a Ghannam corner directed toward Simeone, Lloyd stoops to head back Simeone’s glancing header, but the keeper palms away. From the break out of the Ascot box, Divine is cautioned for bringing down Sean McCormack. Their free kick is chested down by Siao Blackwood in the middle of the park, who controls the ball well, and pushes out to Holden. Holden looks for Oldham who sets off Divine on the right, but his cross is punched clear by Sobte.

On 69mins Joshua Edwards is cautioned for kicking the ball away after committing a foul. Dillon takes the kick, from just inside his own half, floating the ball into Ascot’s penalty area, Ghannam traps, turns, but his shot wasn’t enough to trouble Sobte. Two minutes later, another free kick to Rovers, taken by Ghannam, is floated to the far right post, where Lloyd heads back into the path of Torpey. Torpey’s strike was not going to be stopped by Sobte, and Rover’s claw one back. All square.

That would be the last that Torpey would take part in the game, as he was shortly replaced by Aaron Jenkins, but how important his contribution was.

In the 77th minute a great exchange between Oldham and Odunaike opens a window for Ghannam to shoot from distance. His drive was swinging away from Sobte and on target, but the outstretched Sobte just got his fingertips to it, to push it round the post. An excellent chance, an excellent shot and an equally excellent save.

Ascot then make further changes, with George Lock replacing Oliver Lahtinen-Kalsi and Jay Welch replacing Samuel Bello-Balogun. With 5minutes added time both sides still look for chances to take 3 points. For Rovers, great distribution from Dillon to Odunaike, who has time to turn and slide the ball into the path of Ghannam, who skips round his defender, his shot beating the keeper, but harmlessly trickles past the post. For Ascot, just before full time, a dangerous long throw is headed away by Lloyd, but only as far as McCormack on the edge of the box, his shot whistling a foot or so over the bar.

So at the final whistle, a much improved performance from Rovers, against a talented and organised Ascot side, but all things considered, a point apiece was probably a fair outcome.