Match report: Southall grind out a win

Southall capitalise on a moment’s lapse of concentration to take 3 points

Another clash with a top three side. Southall have been sharing top spot with Raynes Park Vale and Chertsey Town, almost on alternate weeks since the start of the season, though Raynes Park have slipped a little recently. In the Isthmian League, Rovers have only lost once against Southall in their previous three encounters, going down 2-1, after a goal lead at half time in October last year, and drawing both games last season.

Due to Oshane Brown sustaining an injury during the pre-match warm-up, 17 year old Sam Roberts makes his debut in goal today. Tariq Straker starts as left-back beside Antonio Simeone, Bertie Lloyd and Ben Holden, while Matt Tanton sits out his one-game suspension. In midfield, Daryl Coleman, Ashley Sheppard, Max Oldham, Ollie Twum and Aaron Jenkins, with Charlie Martin as striker. On the bench, Matt Feeney-Hill, Samuel Williams, Isy Nzelo and Noah Africa.

The trip down the M4 to the 1878 Stadium was a first for Rovers, if memory serves, but a return for Southall, having previously ground-shared with Burnham Football Club for their title winning season in 2017/2018. The game got off to a slow but thoughtful start, on an immaculate 3G pitch, which at least is a surface that Rovers are accustomed to. An early strike from Ben Holden is deflected out for a corner, which Daryl Coleman floats over to the far post finding Antonio Simeone, who heads just wide. Southall respond with a corner of their own, after Rovers had soaked up pressure from their centre forward Anthony O’Connor. Again, a far post effort, but Aaron Jenkins hooks it away to safety.

A late tackle by Coleman in the middle of park concedes a free-kick which Ryan Hope takes quickly, playing wide to Joshua Green. Turning defence into attack, Simeone robs Green, playing the ball inside to Ash Sheppard. Sheppard plays a great ball to Jenkins who combines a series of passes with Max Oldham and Ollie Twum, culminating in a great cross from Oldham, which Jenkins almost got a head to. From the distribution, keeper Charles Patmore finds Green, who feeds O’Connor, but his progress into the box is cut short by Simeone, his long ball into the Southall half is just too long for Charlie Martin

With the play switching one way to the other, it wouldn’t be obvious to an observer that there were 12 places between the two sides in the league, Rovers matching Southall’s advances and vice versa. In the middle of the park, Coleman is brought down, the foul not given, allowing Jaden Thompson-Brissett to burst into the box, but his effort is deflected out for a corner. From the kick, Ethan Kaiser’s header is just wide of the far post. A good throw from Holden into the Southall box is headed out by Jenkins to Oldham. who wins a corner on the right. From Coleman’s delivery to the far post, Simeone knocks in back into the box, the ball flicking up to Bertie Lloyd, but his stylised overhead kick didn’t fool Patmore.

From a Southall attack, Holden surges forward out of our penalty area, and plays the ball up the line for Jenkins. Cutting inside, Jenkins puts Oldham through, but the keeper was quick to react and first to it. His clearance reaches Jaden Thompson-Brissett, who works his way into the box, but his shot just curls round the right post. Up to the half hour and both teams having chances in equal amounts; Jenkins having a shot just wide from a quick free kick by Sheppard, Thompson-Brissett and O’Connor linking up with a shot saved by Sam Roberts. On 33mins, a great clearance from Holden to Jenkins, gives the winger room to break down the right. He passes inside and Oldham’s first touch get past Ethan Kaiser, but is brought down 40yds out, earning Kaiser a caution. Colemans free kick is lofted toward Lloyd, but just out of his reach.

With half time minutes away, Holden is cautioned for an over-zealous challenge, but nothing came of the free-kick. As the time ebbed away, neither side looked like they would falter, the score level and goalless at the whistle.

The restart sees Oldham win a free-kick on the halfway-line, after early pressure from Southall. A great delivery from Coleman picks out Lloyd, but his header is not on target. The long clearance from Kaiser finds William Montague, Roberts clears long over the top, but just too far for Martin to chase. Another chance for Montague is flicked across the Rovers’ box, and is headed out by Holden as far as Brendan Matthew, Sheppard muscling him off the ball and clearing.

Rovers continue to hold their own with good chances falling to Jenkins and Sheppard, Jenkins showing his strength to fend off two strong tackles and slipping the ball through to Sheppard, his shot just brushing the outside of the post. In defence, Simeone, Tariq Straker, Lloyd and Holden more than holding their own. A shot from Matthew is well saved by Roberts rebounding off his chest, Simeone clearing, and taking no chances. From a Southall corner, Montague tries the near post, but Straker heads away.

Just before the hour, Martin, who had been struggling with a knee injury, is replaced by Samuel Williams. Almost immediately, from a Holden long throw, which Lloyd flicks on, with probably his first touch Samuel Williams’ header is just tipped over bar. From Coleman’s corner, Simeone heads back from the far post, and Lloyd heads just over. Two good chances in quick succession, but as yet no end product. Oldham is then replaced by Matt Feeney-Hill.

From a Rovers’ goal-kick Lloyd heads on into the path of Matt Feeney-Hill, who slides a great ball through to Twum, but our recent signing couldn’t get his shot away. On 70mins Southall’s Matthew finds his way into the book for a tackle on Straker, and David Amate is replaced by Luke Heneghan.

In the 73rd minute, time seemed to stand still, as Rovers drop their guard. In a momentary lapse in concentration Rovers let Southall in, a great ball out to the right finding Thompson-Brissett and his perfect ball across the box was thumped home by Matthew. Roberts is further tested moments later as Matthew sets up Kensley Maloney, his shot gathered by the Rovers’ keeper. With 15mins left to play, Noah Africa is brought on for Coleman, after an accidental clash with the Referee, and for Southall Harvey Jay Harry replaces Matthew.

In the lead-up to full time Rovers keep up the pressure, with shots just wide from Holden; one from distance from Feeney-Hill and a strike by Simeone from a Sheppard free-kick, after a foul on Noah Africa. But two minutes before the ninety, Feeney-Hill latches on to a great through ball, and is one-on-one with keeper Patmore outside the box. There was definite contact as the Rover’s no8 went past him, causing him to stumble, but didn’t quite go down. Had the ref played the advantage, who knows? Could we have pulled level, with Feeney-Hill facing two defenders? As it was, the whistle was blown, and Patmore shown red. Striker O’Connor then donned the gloves and prepared himself for the free-kick, while Southall substitute Heneghan for Abdul Nurein. The pressure was on Simeone for the kick, but blasts over the bar against the inexperienced keeper.

In the final throes of the second half, a foul on Feeney-Hill gives Sheppard the chance to pressure the Southall defence, but Holden’s header from the cross is just wide of the post. With Southall running down the clock Straker is cautioned for a foul on O’Connor, perhaps too eager to get the ball back in play.

Rovers were not intimidated by this team and were able to play with confidence, stroking the ball around, not rushing and trying to be more clinical in front of goal. Not a bad performance, but as performances go, the referee and two officials were impeccable. Aside from not playing the advantage for the foul by the keeper (that’s just my opinion), I thought they had an excellent game.