With 10 men for the majority of the game, Rovers were less than a minute away from rescuing a point, but a stoppage time strike gave Chertsey all three points.
With what can only be described as dubious pitch conditions (groundstaff forking the surface for a good 45mins before kick-off), the game commenced in front of a typical Chertsey turn-out.
An early free-kick just outside our penalty area was smartly delivered by Sam Murphy to the far post, headed back to the six yard box, and slotted home by Troy Walters. Fortunately for Rovers the move was given as off-side. Rovers’ response was immediate, with Tyler Cox on the left pinging a ball across to Nabeel Ghannam on the edge of the Chertsey penalty area, whose cross is half cleared, Matt Tanton intercepts, and the ball is scrambled away for a throw-in. From Tanton’s long throw (which is something of a feat in itself, as there is literally no run-up at this ground), Conan Torpey gets a good head on it, but was judged to have fouled their defender.
Murphy then made good use of a long ball from the Chertsey keeper Nicholas Jupp, firing a shot goalbound, but James Dillon was equal to it, palming the ball away. Opening exchanges were pretty even between the two sides, and the game looked promising.
Tanton then found Ghannam from a cross-pitch ball, who skipped past two defenders, and managed to win a corner. Courtney Swaby stepped up to take, his delivery causing chaos in the box, the ball finally hoofed clear setting Chertsey off with Marcus Marku in pursuit. It was at this point, with only 21mins gone, our fortunes took a turn for the worse. With the slightest of touches the Chertsey forward went down easily, apparently denying a goalscoring opportunity (from 20yards out) and Marku saw red.
The free-kick from Murphy, with 5 in the Rovers’ wall, drew a brilliant save from James Dillon, diving far to his left managing to get a strong hand on it, to deny Chertsey their opener. Cox then gets a yellow card for a push, as frustrations begin to creep in.
On the half hour, a foul on Tanton gave Rovers a free-kick just outside the Chertsey penalty area. Swaby takes, looping the ball over the defensive line, headed clear but Divine was able to recycle, his cross from the right, just out of Torpey’s reach. A Chertsey break by Quincy Rowe, releases Murphy on their left flank, cutting inside he passes to Walters whose shot was well saved by Dillon. Chertsey now with their tails up, Murphy plays in William Montague, requiring a brilliant sliding tackle for Siao Blackwood to snuff out the threat.
A tactical change for Rovers’ during the break, gave Tom Unsworth the chance to strengthen midfield, replacing Ouaret Sorr. The second half started with a break by Tanton on the left touchline, playing in Torpey, who was put under pressure immediately, with two claims for a foul from the Rovers striker, neither given. The loose ball was picked up by Sam Murphy making a bee-line for our 18yard box, his first shot blocked by Tanton, his second from the rebound well saved by Dillon.
After a period of half chances for both teams, on 58mins Chertsey make their final change substituting Robinson for Jonathan Hippolyte. Hippolyte’s introduction had an visible impact on Chertsey’s play, as he stamped his authority on midfield. On 65mins Unsworth goes into the book for dissent (I believe), as the pressure on Rovers grows. Wave after wave of Chertsey pressure soaked up by 10 men behind the ball, all wary of giving away a free-kick, but somehow miraculously keeping them at bay.
A brilliant through ball from Hippolyte to Chertsey’s Walters sets up a 50:50 with the Rovers’ keeper, Dillon bravely claiming the ball at Walter’s feet. On 75mins Rovers’ introduce fresh legs replacing Cox, who had worked hard all game, with Hermann Tehe.
On 78mins again it was Dillon that kept us level, with an outstanding block at his right-hand post. A great cross from Mason Welch-Turner, deflected out to Scott Day whose ferocious shot for all the world looked goal-bound, but Dillon managed to block with his right leg. Torpey, who had taken his fair share of punishment for 80mins, was then replaced by Ryan Stedman-Hoyte.
4mins into injury time, from a corner, Walters looked to have controlled the ball with his arm, and poked the ball past Dillon putting Chertsey in front, with huge appeals from Dillon and surrounding Rovers players. The referee was not interested. Earlier in the game, Rovers had at least two (ball against hand) decisions go against them. Immediately after the restart, the ref blew for full time.
The Rovers defence were outstanding all game, but particularly Dillon, who kept our hopes alive.