With five unanswered goals, Rovers take 3 points in an emphatic win over Corinthian Casuals

In their history, Rovers have never played a competitive match against Corinthian Casuals. In 2021 we met in a pre-season game, which Casuals won 2-0. Casuals join us in the Isthmian League South Central after finishing 21st in the Isthmian Premier Division, having been there since 2018. As we know, a lot can happen in a couple of seasons.

The Rovers kept a relatively unchanged line-up to the one that beat Merstham in the FA Trophy last weekend, with Charlie Martin starting in place of Ben Holden. Joining him on the bench are Max Oldham, Siao Blackwood, Matt Feeney-Hill and Ashley Sheppard.

Minutes after the start, Nabeel Ghannam draws a foul on the right, just inside the Casuals’ half, which Courtney Swaby takes, floating the ball deep into the penalty area. The Casuals keeper Jordan Brown rose to punch away, which he did cleanly, but with Bertie Lloyd as collateral damage. The Referee saw nothing wrong, and I guess it looked worse than it actually was, and really was just good goalkeeping.

Casuals were clearly trying to impose some physical presence into the game, with a series of challenges that you wouldn’t expect to see so early on. The officials were quick get on top of this, and chose warnings over cautions.

Gabriel Odunaike then had what seemed a perfectly legit goal disallowed. A great free-kick from Antonio Simeone found Ghannam, who turned neatly and set up a header for Odunaike, but was given as off-side. That must have been close. On 12mins, after a rare attack into our penalty area, James Dillon’s drop-kick finds Isy Nzelo who heads the ball on from wide on the right, into the path of Charlie Martin. The Casuals left back Zayn Bux puts the ball out for a throw-in, which Nzelo takes quickly, again finding Martin who is then muscled off the ball in the penalty area, but in doing so wins a corner. From the resulting kick, Swaby delivers with pin-point accuracy to the far post, finding Simeone who powerfully heads home to open the scoring. It was only a question of time.

Rovers continued to take the upper hand, whilst restricting Casuals to the occasional long ball into the Rovers half. The Casuals no11 Shea Cascoe-Rogers looked dangerous when on the front foot, and had the potential to cause Rovers all sorts of problems, but with virtually no support, none of his efforts counted.

From yet another a free kick Ghannam saw his 30yd effort go close, just wide of the post. Really lost count of the number of fouls committed by the opposition by this stage. On 18mins Ghannam receives a caution for simulation.

Aaron Jenkins was then denied a golden opportunity, the play pulled back for a free kick, rather than allowing the advantage and Jordan Wilson saw a close range left foot effort from a Swaby corner drift wide of the left hand post. With Casuals on the counter their no10 Gabriel Ipanga delivers a great cross-field ball from the right, but Cascoe-Rogers’ header was too easy for Dillon. On 35mins Casuals’ Michael Samson gets a yellow for a clash with Ghannam.

A great long ball from Lloyd finds Odunaike, who does well to hold the ball up and pass out right to Martin, who jinxed into the box, but pulls his shot wide. Rovers’ certainly creating chances, but just not able to finish. A pass out from Matt Tanton to Jenkins, with Tanton running on for the return on the overlap, but his cross was just too far forward. Nzelo just able to keep it in, his cross into the box finding Ghannam, whose shot is palmed out by Brown into the path of Odunaike, who makes no mistake. Rovers two up going into the break.

Rovers started the second half where they left off in the first, creating chances and testing the Casuals back line. A great piece of play between Martin , Jenkins and Ghannam saw Ghannam’s shot miraculously saved by Brown, and an incredible double save moments later, from efforts from Swaby and Martin. On 52mins, a great ball from Swaby finds Jenkins whose shot is again parried away by Brown, the ball falling to Ghannam. Ghannam turns and shoots, but is blocked by a defender, his second attempt saved by Brown, but his third finds the back of the net. No less than Ghannam deserved having been a huge influence all game.

On 62mins, Sam Morgan took the opportunity to give youngster Matt Feeney-Hill some further Step 4 experience, introducing him in place of Jenkins. 10mins later, a poor throw-in by Casuals put their keeper under pressure, the best he could do was to scramble the ball away, but only as far as Martin, who quickly played in Odunaike arriving in the box, and was subsequently brought down for a penalty, earning no3 Oscar Walton a yellow for the challenge. Martin steps up to take, firing down the middle, the keeper diving to his right. 4-0.

Casuals were still creating opportunities, again in the form of Cascoe-Rogers, but Dillon remained untroubled, and hadn’t needed to make a save.

A high ball from Simeone out wide to Matt Feeney-Hill on the right, bringing it nicely under control on the touch-line, but was fouled. Just prior to the free-kick, substitutions for Rovers, the irrepressible Ghannam giving way to Siao Blackwood and Max Oldham replacing Martin. Swaby takes the free-kick floating the ball invitingly over the back line, but is headed out for a corner. Max Oldham gets his first touch, as he steps up to take, but his low curling ball is headed away. Lloyd heads out wide to Tanton, who plays the ball through to Swaby, but his shot is just too high.

A great through ball from Oldham, releases Siao Blackwood through on goal but is dragged down by Samson, earning him a straight red to add to his yellow card, and a caution for the keeper for kicking the ball away, clearly in frustration. From 25yds out, the free-kick taken by Swaby sent Feeney-Hill down the right, but was over-hit.

In virtually the last move of the game, scoring was completed in stoppage time when Oldham saw his shot blocked only for Swaby to crash the ball home from the edge of the area. A fitting end to another great team performance from Rovers, equalling their best ever scoreline.