Two goals late in the second half round off a 3-0 win against South Park
Our game this evening is against South Park (Reigate), who are currently sitting 9th in the league, having earned 10 points more than Rovers and with two games in hand. Apart from a recent loss against Westfield, South Park’s results have been impressive, and the scorelines clearly show that they’re knocking them in for fun. Their squad today contain no less than 5 ex-Rovers players, and had Brendan Murphy McVey been available, would have been a round half dozen.
It’s going to be a tough one!
The Rovers starting line-up is the same as the one fielded for the 1-0 win against Ascot; Sam Roberts in goal, defenders Antonio Simeone, Oscar Williams, Ben Holden and Matt Tanton. Daryl Coleman, Ashley Sheppard, Max Oldham, Malachi Thomas and Ollie Twum (on his 100th appearance) in midfield, with Aaron Jenkins as striker. On the bench, Matt Feeney-Hill, Lindell Stewart, Isy Nzelo and Charlie Martin; Noah Africa comes in for Tariq Straker.
The game kicks off with Rovers keen to bury the ghosts of their horror show away encounter earlier in the season. An early mistake by Sam Tutt almost lets Malachi Thomas in after just two minutes, but the ball didn’t fall for him and the chance was gone. Minutes later, a foul on Ashley Sheppard gives Rovers a free kick 10yds inside the South Park half. Daryl Coleman takes and his delivery finds Antonio Simeone, but his header is just over the bar
South Parks’ possession throughout the opening exchanges was confident and well organised, but didn’t penetrate the Rovers defensive line. On their left flank Jamarie Brissett links up well with Sam Tutt, the return ball fed to Craig McGee, then back to Ryan Healy. Crossing wings Healy finds James McElligott, but his cross is blocked for a corner. McElligott curls the corner into the Rovers box, Sam Roberts punching clear.
From a Danny Bracken drop-kick, Sam King squares to Aiden Brown, but his shot from distance is wide. South Park maintain the pressure in the final third, but good challenges from Ben Holden and Oscar Williams keeps the threat at bay. Holden and Coleman this time break down a South Park attack, Coleman setting off Ollie Twum bursting down the right flank. Twum is brought down, presenting Rovers with another chance from a set piece. Coleman floats the kick into the box for Wiliams, but his header is pushed out to the right corner. Max Oldham and Aaron Jenkins link up and Jenkins’ cross was begging for a head, but the effort was claimed by Bracken unchallenged.
Just before the 20th minute Rovers fashion a breakthrough. From a challenge won outside the Rovers’ penalty area, Holden passes through to Coleman who quickly sets off Twum on the deep right, winning a corner. Thomas takes, Simeone’s header is cleared off the line, but ploughed back in by Thomas. With the ball half cleared, Jenkins makes no mistake of his chance and forces his shot home. 1-0 to Rovers, and a just reward for sticking to their game-plan.
Five minutes on, after some intricate play by South Park in and around the Rovers box, the visitors have a penalty shout waved away by the Referee. Simeone’s long clearance is headed on by Oldham, falling nicely for Sheppard, but his effort is fired just over the bar. As the game progresses past the half hour both teams have their fair share of chances, Brown, King and Brissett looking lively in the final third, but Holden, Simeone, Williams and Matt Tanton making it difficult for them. Jenkins, Oldham, Sheppard and Twum making the most of Rovers’ chances on the break. A high kick on Sheppard gives the hosts a free kick in the middle of the park. Simeone delivering onto the edge of the penalty area, Jenkins chests down into the path of Sheppard but his shot flies over the bar.
On 40 minutes, after a Rovers charge into the visitors’ half, Grieveson clears far up the pitch to Brown, who pushes into the box, Roberts diving bravely at his feet. The young keeper pulls off a great stop, claiming the ball from the very experienced forward.
With 2 mins added time, Tanton heads clear from the edge on the 18yd box, Oldham picking up the loose ball and weaving through midfield. Slipping the ball through to Jenkins, his shot is blocked and goes out for a corner. Thomas takes on the left, Bracken palming the cross away. Oldham is first to it on the right and chips the ball back into box, perfect for Twum to execute a spectacular overhead kick. It would have been a fitting end to the half had it counted, but as it is Rovers go into the break one nil to the good, but could have easily doubled their lead.
The second half starts with a South Park substitution, ex-Rovers midfielder Courtney Swaby coming on for Stephan Aiwone. The midfield battle resumes where it left off in the first 45 minutes, with little to trouble either keeper for long periods. A Simeone clearance is chased down by Jenkins who holds the ball up well and slips a great pass to Sheppard rushing into the box, his chipped effort narrowly passing the outside of the post. Tanton hooks the ball away from a South Park charge, led by Swaby, and Williams heads out strong from a cross into Rovers box.
Unsure who he replaced for South Park, from the match records, but from his introduction Deondre Date bolstered the visitors’ forward threat and was a handful to deal with for the rest of the game. On 69 minutes, Noah Africa replaces Daryl Coleman due to an injury and a minute later Lindell Stewart replaces Thomas. With both sides locking horns in the middle of the park, the Ref giving free-kicks to both sides in equal measure, there seemed little that would change the score-line or tilt the advantage either way.
In the last 10mins, after a terrific challenge by Africa in the middle of the park, the Rovers midfielder slides a lovely through-ball into the path of Stewart. Pressing into the box, Stewart gets a shove in the back from Grieveson, giving Rovers a penalty. This late in the game a pressure kick no doubt, but Bracken second guesses Oldam’s take and pushes the ball round his left post. Oldham takes the resulting corner, Simeone on the far post heading back out to the edge of the penalty area to Twum, but his pass back to Oldham was judged offside. Minutes later, Africa again wins a great challenge in midfield, feeding Jenkins deep in left hand corner, his shot from a tight angle just wide.
From a clearance by keeper Roberts, the ball drops nicely for Jenkins. Turning Grieveson in the box, Jenkins only has to shoot, but Grieveson (again) drags the forward back before he has the chance, giving Rovers a second penalty in as many minutes. Oldham steps up to take, this time no messing, winning the battle of wits, straight down the middle, Bracken diving to his right. 2-0 at 88 minutes, and just the cushion Rovers had been looking for.
In the 7minutes added time, from free-kick just inside Rovers’ half, Roberts punts into the South Park area, the ball headed out for a throw. Holden launches into the box, the defensive header out is pushed across the 18yd box by Jenkins for Sheppard but his shot is blocked. Falling into his path, Stewart pokes the rebound past Bracken just inside the left post. 3-0 that sealed the win.
Points are precious these days, and tonight was no exception. There were certainly positives to be taken from the game, not just the 3 points, but, a clean sheet; a comfortable goal difference (in the end!); younger members of the squad shining brightly; and a discernible increase in confidence in front of goal.