Match Report: Toe to toe at Westfield

Rovers’ second half equaliser share the spoils at Woking Park

This afternoon we visit Woking Park for the away fixture against top five playoff contenders, Westfield. The “Field” currently sit in joint 6th place with Hartley Wintley, ahead by goal difference, and with games in hand over all the other clubs above them. With their current run of form, 7 wins on the spin and 10 games unbeaten in the league, Westfield have got to be one of the favourites for a promotion slot this season.

Rovers line-up for the game is much the same as the side that won against South Park in the week, the only change, Noah Africa comes in for the injured Daryl Coleman. So that’s, Sam Roberts in goal, defenders Antonio Simeone, Oscar Williams, Ben Holden and Matt Tanton. Noah Africa, Ashley Sheppard, Max Oldham, Malachi Thomas and Ollie Twum in midfield, with Aaron Jenkins as striker. On the bench, Matt Feeney-Hill, Lindell Stewart, Bertie Lloyd, Charlie Martin and Tariq Straker.

Westfield kick off, and Rovers start with a high tempo, Oscar Williams winning the ball in midfield, pushing through to Malachi Thomas. His pass inside to Aaron Jenkins is perfect, the shot from the Rovers striker, just over the bar. From the goal kick Noah Africa wins his challenge, sending Max Oldham off down the right flank. The ball is bundled out for a throw, which Ben Holden launches into the box, Manolis Gogonas heading clear and Ashley Sheppard chipping back in, winning a corner. The rather scuffed near-post delivery from Thomas falls to Archy Taylor, who pushes forward toward the halfway line, Oldham stopping him in his tracks, containing Westfield in their own half.

Seven minutes in and a corner is won by Thomas, his delivery again near post. Holden is first to it but the ball is cleared, Matt Tanton electing to find touch as Westfield break. In Rovers’ right corner, Holden gives away a free kick, which Taylor swings in under the Rovers crossbar. Sam Roberts punches clear, Oldham sweeping out to Africa. His through ball down the middle is exquisite for Jenkins, the shot drawing an exceptional save from Sonny Wheeler. The opening ten minutes certainly look promising.

In the middle of the park Holden wins his challenge and finds Africa, his chipped pass just too long for Oldham. On 15mins, good build up play from Holden, Jenkins and Oldham results in a throw for Rovers. Holden’s delivery into the box is headed clear, Jordan Alves breaking forward at pace and pinging a pass crossfield to Taylor. Laying off to Lewis Jackson, the right back’s cross is long and high, but claimed by Roberts. From his throw, Holden flicks the ball into the right channel for Jenkins, who holds the ball up well and wins a throw. Another Holden delivery is headed out for a corner on the near post. Jenkins takes, but Wheeler claims, rolling the ball out quickly for Jacob Breckon. The striker storms forward unleashing a ferocious shot, which is crucially blocked by Tanton.

As the first half progressed, the tide began to turn, Westfield commanding more and more possession. Breckon again causing problems outside the 18ys box, puts the ball wide for Connor Cullen. His shot looped over the bar but took a deflection off Williams. Taylor takes on their left, the far post delivery headed back across goal, keeper Roberts safely intercepting.

Approaching the half hour, Roberts is twice called into action in quick succession, diving at the feet of Caleb Wright, from a great through ball from Taylor; then stopping a powerful shot from Gogonas, destined for the top right corner, Tanton clearing to touch. Rovers’ were having their moments, but on the current balance of play, Roberts was kept far busier than Wheeler.

To finish the half without conceding, Roberts continued his display of goalkeeping prowess. A one on one with Cullen, Roberts get there first; followed by a low shot across goal by Breckon hitting the inside of the post, Roberts dropping on it on the goal-line; and finally, a brave save at the feet of Alves in the penalty area, keeping the tie goalless, much to Westfield’s frustration.

The second half commenced in much the same way as the first ended, with Westfield peppering our defence with chances. A long throw from Gogonas into the penalty area has Breckon’s name on it, the shot was on target, but stuck to Roberts’ glove like a magnet. Cullen then slips in the gap between two defenders and is one on one with Roberts, his low driven well save and cleared.

Just before the hour, Simeone sends a great pass out to Ollie Twum. Turning his man Twum is brought down giving Rovers a free-kick from around 35yds. Oldham puts his delivery on a plate for Simeone, his header narrowly over the bar. A minute later a bizarre incident just outside the Rovers’ penalty area. Under the nose of the Linesman on the left, Tanton appeared to be knocked down off the ball. The game stopped, the Ref and Lino collaborated, apparently they saw nothing. Simeone then picked up a caution for protesting on behalf of his left-back.

On 65mins, a clearance from Wheeler finds Gogonas just outside the Rovers’ box, his shot rattling the post. Wright follows up the rebound, his deflected strike going out for a corner to Westfield. Simeone clears the corner kick, and Jenkins breaks into the Westfield half, winning a throw. Holden delivers long, but Wheeler again clears and Breckon is quick to counter. From just inside the penalty area his first strike is saved with a strong hand from Roberts, but the follow-up is driven home for the first goal of the game. Not an easy pill to swallow having defended and kept goal so well thus far.

Time for a change, so Lindell Stewart comes on for Twum, and after a Westfield free kick is headed away by Simeone, Bertie Lloyd replaces Holden. In the 72nd minute, Stewart wins a throw on our left. Tanton takes quickly, his delivery reaching the edge of the box. With Williams being disruptive, a defender heads backwards into the path of Stewart. Holding off his man, Stewart skilfully spins to his right, slips through the gap and powers a shot into the roof of the net. What a way to draw level!

With Rovers now feeling they may have more to get from the game, Bertie Lloyd has a succession of throws on the right, pressing hard for a second goal. 10mins remaining and Mayowa Adaje replaces Alves for Westfield. Latching on to a cleared Lloyd throw, Tanton puts a through ball to Stewart, but his shot is cleared. A high kick on Williams (well you can imagine how high that must have been!) gives Rovers a free kick just in Westfield’s half. Sheppard takes far into left hand side of the penalty area, the defensive header nodded back in by Tanton. Simeone steers the ball down the right to Oldham, who plays inside for Stewart. Turning into the box Stewart is tripped, the Ref with no hesitation giving a penalty. We’ve been here before with late penalties, but unfortunately today it wasn’t to be. Oldham sent Wheeler the wrong way, but his strike hit the left post and rebounded away to safety. So close to 3 points!

As the time runs down, Westfield, having suffered the scare of possibly conceding the game, go looking to make amends. Simeone heads clear from a free kick, Adaje pumps the ball back in, Simeone again clears, Jackson shooting the loose ball from distance, Africa fouled by Taylor as he blocks, picking up a caution. With perhaps a sigh of relief from the visitors, the Ref bring the game to a close, Westfield ruing the chances denied them by Rovers’ keeper Roberts.

Rovers have now put in some solid performances against “top 8” sides this season, another impressive draw. You could argue that our keeper, Sam Roberts, kept us in the game and made sure we came away with a point, and you would probably be right, as the lad did brilliantly. You could also argue that, but for the width of a post, we could have taken all three.