Match Report: Sufferin’ Sock-attack

Early goals in the first and second halves prove too much for Rovers to claw back

Another Saturday, another crucial game for the First Team to show some improvement in their current run of form. With an almost perfect string of results in November, this month hasn’t started in the same vein; a crushing away defeat at Northwood, followed by a disappointing narrow loss to Hanworth not doing us any favours. In contrast, Thatcham Town have recently enjoyed a good results of late, not losing on the League since 4th November.

Our line up this afternoon holds some changes. As James Dillon is injured, Oshane Brown is brought in to take his place in goal. The defence, Tariq Straker, Antonio Simeone, Bertie Lloyd and Rylan John. Midfield, Daryl Coleman, Matt Feeney-Hill, Nabeel Ghannam, Courtney Swaby, Charlie Martin and Aaron Jenkins. On the bench, Max Oldham, Isy Nzelo, Lindell Stewart, Ben Holden and Ashley Sheppard.

Due to a wardrobe malfunction, Thatcham Town arriving at Church Road without socks, the kick-off was delayed for 10minutes, while replacements were sought from Purley Way. Now fleet of foot, and with the first move of the game the visitors take the lead. Barely a minute gone, and a cross from the right to the edge of the box is not cleared effectively, and Muhamadou Ceesay pounces on his opportunity, slipping the ball past debutant keeper Oshane Brown.

Having already made it difficult for themselves, and still reeling from the opening 2 minutes, Rovers again let Ceesay get a shot away, but this time Brown gets an arm to it and pushes it away. The resulting corner kick was headed clear by Bertie Lloyd, but a foul just outside the box gives Thatcham a free kick. Callum Willmouth tries a crafty chip over the keeper, but also clears the crossbar.

Fifteen minutes into the game and a contentious moment should really have given Rovers the chance to level up. A throw from Daryl Coleman is headed on by Courtney Swaby, into the path of Charlie Martin, but squeezing between two defenders Martin is brought down. The referee saw nothing in it, but the home side were left feeling hard done by.

With efforts to make up the deficit, Nabeel Ghannam takes on Thatcham’s left back, making headway on the right, feeding a great through ball to Matt Feeney-Hill. Checking back, Feeney-Hill sets up Rylan John for a cross, but he was alleged to have fouled in its execution. The free kick is sent far to the right, setting up Sam Tanner for a fierce strike, but just off-target.

After 21 minutes, from a Thatcham free kick that is headed back across the penalty area, Ceesay scores from a powerful header. Brown just got a touch, but not enough to keep it out. 0-2

With another twenty minutes or so of the first half remaining, Rovers’ endeavour to up their game, trying to work their way through competent defending from Thatcham. Good exchanges between Ghannam, Aaron Jenkins, Martin and Swaby looked threatening at times, but the final shot never clinical enough, and the keeper, Callum Smart, rarely troubled. On the occasion he was tested, again great combination between Swaby, Jenkins and Ghannam, puts Jenkins through, who fires a fine shot, but is comfortably gathered by Smart.

From a long Coleman throw, Tariq Straker switches wings with a great crossfield ball to Feeney-Hill. In turn, Feeney-Hill plays inside to Ghannam and his through ball on the right sets John off into the corner, the cross disappointingly sailing harmlessly over the bar. The referee brought the half to a close, leaving Rovers’ with a lot to think about over the break.

Rovers make tactical substitutions at the restart, Max Oldham replacing Feeney-Hill and Isy Nzelo replacing John. But Thatcham start the second half with the same determination as the first, with a goal in the first 3 minutes. From an exquisitely taken corner, David Nyarko nods home in acres of space, leaving Brown no chance. 3-0 up in the 48th minute, leaving Rovers with a mountain to climb.

To be fair, the introduction of Oldam and Nzelo injected a bit more pace and urgency into Rovers’ game, but a goal was still seemingly hard to find. A typically speculative but telling shot by Ghannam from distance is palmed away by Smart for a throw. Coleman takes, long into the box and Jenkins’ powerful header crashes into the crossbar. After the ball is scrambled away for another throw Antonio Simeone takes quickly, headed on by Lloyd to Coleman, but his shot whistles over the bar. A good period of pressure from Rovers, the like of which we didn’t see in the first half.

On 58mins Thatcham make their first substitution, Christian Johnson replacing Sam Tanner. Playing out from the back Coleman sends a quick ball setting off Nzelo on the right. His cross is deflected out for a corner. Swaby takes, but Lloyd’s header hits the crossbar, Nzelo’s follow up shot is blocked, and Smart saves Jenkins’ shot from the rebound.

Though Rovers’ were getting more into the game, Thatcham were still creating chances. Nathan Jones in and around the edge of our penalty area completes a sweet give and go with Clive Gwavava, Brown blocking Jones’ shot.

Substitutions for both sides on 67mins, with Owen Clark replacing Nyarko for Thatcham, and Ben Holden replacing Martin for Rovers. Another surging run from Swaby on the left, sends Jenkins into the channel, his cross is blocked by the Ref, who did nothing about it and waved play on. Swaby retrieves the loose ball, and charges into the box, squares to Oldham, but his shot is blocked, Ghannam putting the rebound wide.

Harry Hoath for Thatcham, then catches Rovers on the break, sliding the ball through to Jones. Brown just gets his fingertips to the shot from Jones onto the post, and turns to gather the rebound. A close call after mounting Rovers’ pressure.

Late in the game, a long throw from Ben Holden is headed back out of a crowded box, but fell nicely to Oldham, who cued up a cracking shot to pull one back. A deserved goal and you could see it coming, but with little time left to add to it.

In the dying minutes Oldam is brought down in the middle of the park after running on to a great through ball from Coleman. Hoath picks up a yellow for the challenge, but Coleman’s free kick from the centre circle is headed over. This signals the end of the game, and a comfortable 3 points for the visitors. If you could judge a game by the last ten minutes, you would say that Rovers were on equal terms with Thatcham. Unfortunately, this can’t be said for the previous 80.