Match report: Rovers take The High Road

Rovers respond to going a goal down at Chipstead with a Champagne Charlie Hattrick!

Our away fixture this Saturday brings us to the The High Road, to face Chipstead in a crucial match for both sides. Chipstead sit two places and three points above Rovers in the league, but have played one more game. A win for them would widen the gap with the teams below, and leave them in a good stead for challenging the teams above. For Rovers a win would see us swap places with Chipstead, and have a game in hand over three clubs immediately below us. All to play for.

The squad today is light in numbers, due to the last minute unavailability of Conan Torpey and Courtney Swaby. In goal James Dillon. Back four Tariq Straker, Isy Nzelo, Antonio Simeone and Bertie Lloyd. Midfield/Forwards; Daryl Coleman, Matthew Feeney-Hill, Ashley Sheppard, Nabeel Ghannam, Aaron Jenkins and Charlie Martin. On the bench Maxwell Oldham, Ben Holden, Noah Africa and Rylan John.

The opening period was a pretty even affair, with both sides keen to take an early lead. A good move by Arlie Desanges and Bradley Wilson on the Chipstead right makes space for a telling cross into the Rovers’ box. The half clearance fell to Daniel Pappoe, but his shot is just wide of the left hand post.

A foul on Aaron Jenkins outside the Chipstead box gives Nabeel Ghannam the chance put the hosts under pressure, his kick headed back across goal by Bertie Lloyd, but just out of Jenkins’ reach. Chipstead then catch Rovers on the break, with Alfie Young and Chad Goulter making ground on the right, and only a fine tackle by Charlie Martin defuses the threat. Chipstead’s Wilson then got away again down the right wing, crossing low into the box to Dan Berry. From his pass Goulter had a clear chance, but his shot was wide of the post.

In the 20th minute, with Chipstead looking more and more threatening down the right hand side, Berry picks the ball up outside our penalty area and weaves his way through the Rovers defence, slotting home past James Dillon, just inside the left hand post. Not the start Rovers were looking for, but a just reward for the hosts.

Danny Dudley is dispossessed by Jenkins, but is brought down in the act giving Rovers a free kick 30yds out. Ghannam floats his kick over the top to the left, Lloyd heading back out to the edge of the box, but Jenkins couldn’t connect. A neat through ball from Ghannam then puts Jenkins in space on the left with Matt Feeney-Hill in support. The exchange between Feeney-Hill and Jenkins provides Rovers’ clearest opportunity, but with his back to goal Jenkins can’t get his shot away.

On the half hour, Martin wins a corner after a harsh tackle from Pappoe, which Ghannam takes short to Tariq Straker. Straker delivers a great ball across the box finding Antonio Simeone, but his header, looking for Lloyd, is cut out by keeper Harrison Firth. Five minutes on, a great ball from Daryl Coleman finds Jenkins on the left whose shot is fumbled by Firth, the loose ball snapped up by Martin who taps in to level the score.

Towards the end of the half, a great ball from Ashley Sheppard gives Ghannam room to wind up a shot, but is blocked by the Chipstead defence. Sheppard is then replaced by Ben Holden, due to an injury sustained in earlier challenge. Holden immediately involved in the action, shoots from distance, Jenkins picking up the deflection, but his follow-up shot is blocked. Holden and Jenkins again combine, Holden feeding a great ball to Jenkins, who slips the ball into the bottom right corner, but was given offside.

A goal each at half time is probably a fair reflection of the game on the balance of play, but Chipstead’s Young nearly gave the hosts the lead just before halftime, after a smart give and go with Berry, his shot shaving the paint off the outside of the left post.

The second half started with Rovers winning a corner, which was well defended in a very crowded 6yard box. This was quickly followed up by a cross ball from Straker finding Isy Nzelo on the right, his shot whistling over the bar. Continuing with early pressure, a Simeone free kick is headed up by Jenkins, as the ball drops his shot is narrowly wide of the post.

Just short of the hour, a Ghannam free kick sees Lloyd connect well, but his header just clears the bar. From the long goal kick, Simeone passes back to Dillon who launches a massive ball over the midfield, Martin chases from his own half and is one-on-one with Firth rushing out. A single bounce and a deft touch from Martin steers the ball over the keeper to give Rovers the lead.

A succession of long throws from Holden puts pressure on Chipstead, but they break and are thwarted by Coleman, getting a yellow for his challenge. The free kick floated into box is deflected out for a corner, which is struck low and hard. Lloyd smashes it clear for Jenkins who beats Jaden Edwards on the left channel. On the edge of the box Jenkins’ cross deflects off the defenders knee onto his hand giving a penalty to Rovers. Just unlucky. With his hattrick in sight Martin steps up to take and sends Firth left, slotting the ball right for Rovers’ third.

On 75 minutes Chipstead make changes to try and reduce the deficit, Jack Leahy replacing Alfie Young, Danyaal Iqbal replacing Desanges and Martin Sontan replacing Goulter. The changes have an effect, with Chipstead now playing with 3 up front. Jaden Edwards crosses low from the right, but Jack Leahy put his shot just wide. Wilson then crosses deep to Danyaal Iqbal at the far post, but his effort was blocked off the line by Lloyd.

Rovers’ make their changes, Max Oldham replacing Martin and Noah Africa replacing the injured Coleman. The fresh legs of Oldham combine well with Feeney-Hill and they win a corner which Ghannam takes. The cross is headed back out to Ghannam, who has two shots blocked by the Chipstead defence.

In the closing minute, Tariq gives away a free kick around 30yds out. Wilson pings the ball left, which Simeone looked to have dealt with, but the challenge from Iqbal somehow resulted in a penalty for Chipstead. I can only imagine it was a claim for hand ball, judging from the prolonged protests from our centre back. The referee was not swayed and Martin Sontan pulled on back for Chipstead from the spot.

So, for the second league game on the spin Rovers come from a goal down to take all three points. Not part of the game plan no doubt, but the team have showed great spirit in not letting a small knock-back affect their overall performance. An important win, as teams above us seem to have stalled, making the three points all the more valuable.