Rovers two month wait for a point, and five game wait for a goal came to a dramatic end in a feisty encounter with Hanworth Villa on Saturday.
After a cagey opening it was Rovers who had the first chance when Markus Marku fired an effort well wide of the Villa goal. Rovers continued to have the better of things and on five minutes a sliced (lets call it a crossfield pass) ball by keeper James Dillon found skipper Tyler Cox, he got beyond Tom Bender and his cross was superbly defended by Guy Ansah-Palmer (not the only time the Villa defender would do something miraculous) as it headed to Shakeel Morris for a simple header home.
Villa gradually got into the game, and, as you would expect of an in-form side and started to put Rovers under pressure and from a dangerous whipped cross by Anthony Foikes, Dillon did well to get a big hand on the ball and divert it away from James Fenlon at the back post.
Sam Merson was proving a problem with his movement, giving Bertie Lloyd a few things to think about, but was also putting Rovers under pressure with his long throws, which had the Rovers backline working overtime. Rovers had a couple of long throws of their own from Matt Tanton but despite a few scrambles they came to nothing, and a lightning Villa break from one throw ended with Merson’s low cross being forced behind for a corner.
Rovers should have opened the scoring on 31 minutes, Manny Tehe jinked his was passed a couple of players on the Rovers left, saw his ball into the box only half cleared, and as Rovers recycled it, Dion Macfoy-Johnston was denied from point blank range by Gary Ross.
Villa struck the opening goal on the stroke of half time. A long Merson throw was only half cleared, falling nicely to Gagendeep Samra and he slammed the ball beyond Dillon for 1-0, and in first half stoppage time, Bender picked the ball up just inside his own half, spotted Dillon off his line and lofted his effort just over the bar. Villa took a one goal lead into the interval.
Rovers came out fired up for the second half and made a bright start, neat link up between the impressive Marku and Tanton led to the ball falling to Morris but his low strike went wide of the right hand post. Rovers should have levelled on 51 minutes, with Marku becoming more influential he threaded the ball through to Macfoy-Johnston but as keeper Ross advanced his curled effort went wide of the right hand post.
Villa had a glorious chance to increase their lead when Kyen Nicholas drove towards the Rovers area only to be fouled by a combination of Danny Divine and Siao Blackwood, but from the free-kick Merson’s effort went over the crossbar.
Merson then picked out Fenlon, and his ball into the Rovers area took a wicked deflection before being smothered by Dillon. Rovers were level on the hour. Marku again did well on the left and found Tehe, his turn destroyed Fenlon, and he raced goalwards, Ross advanced and Tehe curled a sumptuous effort beyond the keeper and into the net, ending Rovers goal drought after 542 minutes.
Rovers were now on fire, and on 74 minutes should have taken the lead. Substitute Josh Uzon and Morris linked up on the edge of the area, with Morris being fouled, Uzon curled a free kick over the wall bringing a good save out of Ross, the ball dropped to Cox who hammered the ball goalwards, only for that man Ansah-Palmer to appear from nowhere to block the ball. Rovers though recycled the ball, Marku did superbly on the right and drilled a low effort across the face of goal, Tehe collected, and with players shutting him down, curled a superb effort into the bottom corner for 2-1.
Morris was then denied by a superb tackle by Ben Geraghty as a Rovers side that had been missing for the last three months suddenly rediscovered themselves.
Tempers were fraying, tackles were flying in, and from one an altercation on the sidelines led to a long delay as the referee regained control. Once play restarted and with eleven minutes of injury time to play, it was a nervous time for Rovers, and they were almost made to pay when Merson and Nicholas linked on the left but Nicholas dragged his effort wide. The final act saw Villa swing in a corner and with everyone attacking Rovers keeper Dillon was able to claim the ball and seal the points.