Report by Jon Tanton
A very similar line-up to the one fielded for the goalless draw against Uxbridge, with Bertie Lloyd replacing Liam Holden who was injured, while Hermann Tehe takes Shakeel Morris’ place who starts on the bench, and Courtney Swaby nursing an injury sustained at the Honeycroft Stadium.
The game got off to a pacy but even start with both sides testing out the opposition’s defensive lines, but it was Rovers who seemed on the front foot. Tyler Cox linking well with Jesse Okpolokpo just out side the Bedfont penalty area, but Okpolokpo’s shot didn’t trouble the Bedfont keeper Joe Ringer. A long clearance from James Dillon found Siao Blackwood, who controlled the high ball brilliantly, executing a give and go with Cox, but Blackwood’s shot from distance was palmed away by Ringer.
Kofi Anoyke-Boadi and Kevat Serbonij for Bedfont were an early threat on their left side, but our defence were equal to them. Against the run of play at this point, a high ball into Rovers’ box was not dealt with, allowing Sam Evans to turn and fire past Dillon on 6mins. Too early to concede, but heads didn’t drop.
A long throw from Matt Tanton was headed away by Bedfont, but only as far as Hermann Tehe, who squeezed past the defence, his shot close but just past the post. Further assaults on the Bedfont goal from Cox, Tehe and Conan Torpey kept the hope alive, as Rovers’ go looking for an equaliser.
On 32mins Bedfont were forced into their first substitution, as the dangerous Anoyke-Boadi sustained an injury and was replaced by Steve Ngunga. Danny Devine neatly cut out a Bedfont pass, pushing the ball for Cox to run on to but run was ushered out by the left back Dom Pires.
A period of sustained pressure from Rovers resulted in a series of fouls and free-kicks in our favour. At 40mins, with a free-kick to Rovers about 35yards out on our right, Cox floated the ball over the Bedfont defence finding Lloyd, who was unable to convert, but kept possession recycling to Torpey who managed to draw yet another free-kick just outside the D. Tanton and Marcus Marku line up to take, but it’s Marku’s cross that again finds Lloyd, heading back across the penalty area. Bedfont’s attempts to clear only go as far as Tanton on the edge of the area, who unleashes a left-foot screamer into the bottom right corner. 1-1
Level going into the break, but Rovers’ finishing the half in the ascendency, shrugging off Bedfont counters and maintaining serious pressure going forward.
Jesse Okpolokpo was replaced by Zaid Ouaret Sorr for the start of the second half, and Rovers’ went looking for a chance to take the lead. From a succession of corners, Cox found both Devine and Lloyd but their chances were well defended by Ringer. It was Bedfont who took their first chance 5mins into the half with a clearance on their right side finding Serbonij, who turned inside firing a shot just inside the left post.
Not to be shaken, the reply was swift and clinical. From a Cox free-kick at some distance, the Bedfont defence failed to clear, with the ball finding Lloyd who headed home. Nothing less than his dominant aerial performance deserved.
Cox was replaced by Shakeel Morris after 63mins, and following the referee overruling an offside decision against Bedfont, a free-kick was given in their favour. Fortunately for Rovers, Ngunga blasts his chance over the bar. On 68, Aiden Brown took the ball deep into our penalty area trying to turn Josh Okpolokpo. In his attempt to shrug off the defender, Okpolokpo fell over the ball shielding it as best he could. With appeals for hand-ball initially waved away, Brown then fell over the prostrate Okpolokpo, and a penalty was given. Evans stepped up to restore Bedfont’s one goal advantage from the spot.
For the last 20mins every tackle was considered an infringement, and free-kicks were issues like they were going out of fashion. If this was supposed to demonstrate authority and calm, it was having the opposite effect. The game was becoming fractious. Sam Morgan issued with a red card.
With Rovers hungry to get back in the game, the Bedfont half was peppered with long throws from Devine and Tanton, with all but Dillon in the Bedfont half. From a throw into the box on the left, Morris drew a foul from the Bedfont defence, and a penalty awarded to Rovers. Torpey (picture above on Saturday) duly dispatched the spot-kick, levelling the score once again.
The pressure was up by Rovers, Devine launching a free-kick from just inside our half into a crowded penalty area. Bedfont head the ball away, but only as far as Ghannam who does well to recycle back into the box, Lloyd just wide with the header. 3-3 the final score.
Speaking as a frequent observer of the games at SCR, but a complete novice of its intricacies, I feel that this squad is now playing with a desire and passion that was sadly lacking at the start of the season. This squad deserves to continue to play at this level.