Despite being reduced to ten men early in the second half, Rovers picked up a valuable point away at Uxbridge on Saturday in an occasionally feisty encounter at The Honeycroft.
It was a fairly tepid start to the encounter with the ball sticking in the middle third for much of the opening period, and the only half chance of note saw a dangerous Uxbridge free kick heading towards Anthony Mendy but a timely interception by Liam Holden cleared the danger, although the flag was up for offside.
Luke Paris went into the book for a poor challenge on Markus Marku on 15 minutes and two minutes later Eitel Goueth really should have scored but poked his effort wide of the Rovers right hand post with only James Dillon to beat. Almost immediately Mark Bitmead saw his way into the book for soomething he said to the official.
Mendy then broke through a hole in the Rovers defence, but again the excellent Holden was able to get back and clear the danger.
We gradually started to mount some attacks of our own, and midway through the half a glorious ball by Holden found Tyler Cox and his dangerous low cross was only half dealt with by Tyler Tobin but no Rovers player was on hand to apply a finishing touch.
A deep free kick by Josh Andrew was headed back across goal by Paris before eventually being hooked clear by Matt Tanton. Dillon gathered an Uxbridge half chance on 26 minutes and Rovers almost fashioned a chance on 32 miutes when Josh Okpolokpo almost linked up with his debutant brother Jesse but he was well marshalled by Uxbridge skipper Andy O’Brien. Back at the other end and Andrew cut inside before his low effort went wide of the left hand post.
Conan Torpey and Paris were probably fortunate to both escape without bookings after an altercation ten minutes before the break. Shortly after and a Torpey shot was well blocked by Paris, and on 40 minutes Cox curled an effort over the bar.
Rovers ended strongly, forcing a succession of dangerous inswinging corners, which were well dealt with by Tobin, although from one Torpey did find his was into the referees book. Deep into stoppage time and Bitmead cut inside but saw his effort blocked behind by Siao Blackwood and out for a corner which was cleared, and the sides went in level at the break.
There were chances at both ends at the start of the second half, but neither side was able to get a meaningful shot on target. Ten minutes into the half and the complexion of the game changed. A challenge in the middle of the park by Tanton on Joe Jackson saw the referee brandish a red card, much to the amusement of numerous Uxbridge players, reducing us to ten men.
We made an immediate change, introducing debutant Nabeel Ghannam for the hardworking Jesse Okpolopo. Just after the hour and a hopeful cross-shot by Bitmead drifted through a crowd bringing a top drawer save from Dillon away to his left and almost immediately the in-form keeper saved superbly from a point blank shot by Mendy. Harry Seabrook then headed the follow up corner wide of the right hand post.
Blackwood found his way into the book for handball on 64 minutes. Ghannam fired goalwards on 66 minutes but saw his shot blocked by Seabrook, and minutes later Zaid Ouaret Sorr almost released Torpey but Tobin was off his line quickly to gather the ball.
Andrew almost picked out Bitmead at the back post but Danny Devine did superbly to clear the danger and from the corner Seabrook went into the book for a high hit on Dillon after the Rovers keeper had claimed the ball.
With five minutes remaining all three Rovers subs linked up on the left, but after great work by Ouaret Sorr and Ghannam the final ball into Courtney Swaby was just overhit. Three minutes from time and Presley Evans found Goueth but Marku did superbly to clear the danger and late in the game Rovers had a glorious chance to win the contest. Substitute Courtney Swaby went down in the area under challenge from Tobin, play continued and Tobin clattered into Ouaret Sorr with the challenge earning the keeper a yellow card (although in a whispered comment to yours truly he admitted that is was “only a yellow as it was two footed” – no comment). Unfortunately the free kick clattered into the wall and the chance was gone.
Shortly after the full time whistle blew and Rovers secured another point.