Match Report: Rovers secure safety thanks to Nzelo strike

Rovers clinched the 3 points they so needed late in the second half, in a much improved performance against Badshot Lea

After a disappointing trip out to Ascot in the week. losing 2-0 to Binfield, Rovers are on the road again for a late afternoon fixture against Badshot Lea. The Baggies will finish the season comfortably in the top half of the table, so a win for them would help get them close to top 6. For Rovers, 3 points would guarantee Step 4 football next season.

Rovers’ line up has some changes since their midweek game, Sam Roberts in goal, defenders Gideon Acheampong, Antonio Simeone, Oscar Williams and Isy Nzelo. Midfield, Daryl Coleman, Ben Holden, Noah Africa, Max Oldham and Jayden Smith, with Samuel Marks up front. On the bench, Conan Torpey, Lindell Stewart, Aaron Jenkins, Ashley Sheppard and Louie Erotokritos Staussi.

After respectful applause to mark the passing of League President Richard Rosser, the Rovers kick-off. In the opening minutes a poor back-pass from the Badshot midfield is pounced on by Jayden Smith, who passes back to Ben Holden. Holden’s return pass down the line is just too strong for Smith to reach, but a clear indication of intent.

On 10mins, Holden picks the ball up in midfield, plays out wide to Max Oldham on the left, who steps-over past his defender, and drills a cross in. Sam Marks gets a foot to it, but it’s directed straight at keeper, Harry Cawdron. Again, Rovers take the initiative in midfield, Noah Africa pinching the ball from a Badshot build-up, passing through the middle to Marks. From the pass from Marks Isy Nzelo’s cross is good, but Cawdron claims. From the keepers, distribution a good ball into the box from Callum Wiltshire, is met by Cameron Lewis-Brown, but his shot is blocked by Holden.

Ten minutes later, Baback Dehghani gets past Gideon Acheampong and plays down the line to Tristan Goodridge. The cross met by Lamin Ceesay but keeper Sam Roberts gets a strong hand to it, turning it round the post for a corner. Cameron Rohart-Brown takes finding Dehghani, but Acheampong makes amends, blocking his shot. From the loose ball Rovers break, but great defending from Kane Fitzgerald sees him win the ball and turn it round, Badshot now with Rohart-Brown and Dehghani linking well on the left. Dehghani’s cross is met by Kareem Akinnibi, but Roberts does well to save at close range.

From a Holden throw on the left, a shot from Oldham rebounds away from the Badshot penalty area, setting Joshua Keeya and Ceesay on a run. The pass to Goodridge should have provided a clear-cut opportunity, but Nzelo’s last-ditch tackle dashed the home crowd’s hopes. Marcel Campbell then replaced Goodridge, for an early Badshot substitution.

On the half hour, Rovers should have gone a goal up. From a Williams clearance, Oldham chases down George Hedley, gets a deflection advantage and is one on one with the Badshot keeper, with Marks in support. Unselfishly, Oldham plays Marks in, but he has to check back onto his left foot, his shot drawing a great save from Cawdron. From the resulting corner, Coleman finds the far post with Cawdron flapping. Marks lays it back to Nzelo, his strike defected out for a corner on the right. From the corner, Kareem Akinnibi breaks with Lamin Ceesay in attendance, but Williams stops their progress.

After 36mins, Africa wins a challenge in midfield and puts Oldham through, again with just the keeper to beat, but his first touch is too heavy and Cawdron was able to brush the ball away. Shortly after, Williams is cautioned for a challenge in midfield. As the first half played out, another chance fell to Rovers. A long free kick from Roberts is headed out for a throw on our right. From Holden’s delivery, the ball is scrambled away for a corner, Coleman’s take swings in nicely to the back post, Williams almost getting a head to it. Had he done, no-one would have stopped it.

Level at half-time, both teams having opportunities to take the lead, but Rovers’ will be frustrated that they didn’t make theirs count.

After an early speculative shot from Akinnibi gets the second half underway, Smith does well to win a throw near the corner flag, from Roberts’ goal-kick. Holden’s throw is headed on by Williams, but Badshot clear. Oldham picks up the loose ball and delivers a lovely cross into the box, Marks turns and shoots, winning a corner. A good spell of pressure from Rovers. Coleman’s take is punched away by Cawdron, but only as far as Africa who plays Oldham down the line. Beating two, Oldham’s cross is blocked.

It’s not all one-way traffic, though. Ten minutes into the half Joshua Keeya plays a lovely through ball for Campbell, but was flagged offside. Then again from Cawdron’s drop-kick, headed on by Rohart-Brown to Dehghani, the through ball for Campbell was also judged offside. Two close calls.

On the hour, Campbell gets a shot away under pressure from the Rovers defence, winning a corner from Roberts’ save. The corner is well struck, but Roberts was first to it in the box. Ashley Sheppard then replaced Holden who sustained an injury earlier in the half.

In the 72nd minute, Rohart-Brown bursts down the Badshot left, whipping in a cross that meets the head of George Hedley, whistling just past the post. Minutes later, Campbell finds Akinnibi on the left who turns and curls a shot from distance, rattling the right hand post. Rovers again riding their luck.

Just before 80mins, Rovers win a throw on our right side. Simeone, in the box, glances Coleman’s delivery over his shoulder, Marks getting down to head the ball up onto the crossbar. Nzelo made sure he was first to the rebound, slamming the ball into the roof of the net. Rovers’ 1-0 up with 10mins left to play. Already the world is a better place!

Keeping the tempo up and in more control, Rovers look to increase their lead. A great ball from Coleman dinked into the corner from distance is brilliantly kept in by Africa. He somehow turns and crosses into the box, from what looked an impossible angle, finding the head of Oldham, and drawing a great save from Cawdron.

After a challenge between Coleman and Dehghani in the middle of the park, a rush of blood to the head sees the Badshot winger slap Coleman. There’s only one outcome to that, Dehghani gets a straight red, and probably with it Badshot’s chances for an equaliser.

The final whistle is greeted with huge relief from the visitors as their destiny for next season is now certain. On to Chertsey next week, already champions, but it would make a statement to remain unbeaten against them this season.