By Jon Tanton
Top drawer win for Rovers, as Torpey’s hattrick takes centre stage
Minor changes to the line-up against Bedfont, some enforced due to injury and suspension. Temiloluwa Oladejo comes in for the suspended Matt Tanton, Nabeel Ghannam and Zaid Ouret-Sorr are given starts over Marcus Marku and Jesse Okpolokpo, and Aaron Okpolokpo replaces the unavailable Tyrese Sutherland on the bench. A few familiar faces to be found in the South Park line-up, ex-Rovers players Sam Tutt, Ryan Healy, Brendan Murphy-McVey and Kelvin Manuel-Massango.
An early South Park attack found Sam King beating the offside trap, but was only able to turn the ball wide of the left post. James McElligott then found King on the right, who turns and shoots inside the right post, but James Dillon at full stretch was able to turn the ball away. Brendan Murphy-McVey delivers a great ball from the resulting corner for the tall South Park no5 Matthew Faithorn to head over the bar. Worrying early signs for Rovers.
Hermann Tehe then wins a free-kick just inside the South Park half, which Temiloluwa Oladejo floats dangerously into the penalty area, Roan Strong punching clear and Tom Drinkwater sweeps out for a corner. Tyler Cox takes, but the keeper again punches clear.
Joshua Okpolokpo gave away a free-kick to South Park for a clumsy challenge just outside our penalty area, which earned him a yellow card. Nathan Hogan slammed his kick against the wall, and the second ball is lobbed over defensive wall, goal bound – but the retreating Dillon was able to tip it over the bar. The resulting corner was headed away by Bertie Lloyd.
On 18mins, a second Lloyd clearance found Cox on the right , who nodded the ball forward and skipped past the South Park defence. His cross had some pace on it, but Conan Torpey (pictured against Uxbridge) was able to get a glancing head on it to divert the ball into the left hand corner of the goal to open the scoring. Slightly against the run of possession as South Park had very much dominated the early exchanges, but a very well executed move.
South Park maintained majority possession for much of the remainder of the first half, but had nothing in the way of end product over that period. A great move by Nabeel Ghannam outside the South Park penalty area set up Tehe one on one with the keeper, but Strong was able to cut out the threat. Rovers finish the first half 1-nil to the good.
A now resurgent Rovers side kick off the second period, and begin to capitalise on each opportunity as it arose. Still allowing South Park play their slow but effective passing game, but maximising every advantage on the counter. Rovers’ half-time substitution was Shakeel Morris on for Tehe.
South Park were first to threaten with McElligott turning our defender out to his right, passing back to King, whose shot was wide. On the 50mins Healy was heavily challenged in the middle of the park claiming a foul, the ball rebounding back over the South Park defence into the path of Torpey, who cooly lobbed the out-rushing keeper for his and Rovers’ second.
Our opponents then made a quick change, replacing Drinkwater with Balai Dembele, who posed an immediate threat with his pace out wide on the right, forcing a corner. Murphy-McVey cross was then flicked away by Dillon for a corner on the left, which this time was unchallenged. From the goal kick Dillon found Torpey whose header reaches Zaid Ouaret-Sorr, who passes back to Torpey, his shot low and hard was turned round the left post by Strong. Lloyd heading over from the corner by Cox.
On 64mins Torpey was brought down about 40yds out. Cox’s free-kick was whipped in-front of the South Park defensive line, Torpey anticipating the flight of the ball, bravely dived across their wall to head home into the right top corner. Quite the finest diving header I’ve seen at this . . . . well, quite the finest diving header I’ve seen anywhere.
Almost immediately from the restart a South Park attack was intercepted by Dillon, who sent a drop-kick sailing over their defence onto the toe of Morris, who controlled the ball brilliantly and fired a rocket, from distance, past Strong for goal number 4.
South Park then make a further substitution to try and turn their game round, Hogan being replaced by Ethan Ford. On 72mins Jesse Okpolokpo replaced Torpey, who had done more than enough to impress and left the field to rapturous applause. The game went from end to end with a succession of corners and free-kicks to each side, both keepers called into action to deny any change in the scoreline. On 81mins Ouaret-Sorr was replaced by Marcus Marku.
Late on Marku wins a crucial tackle at the edge of our box and plays the ball out wide to Morris, whose return pass gives Marku the chance to run deep into South Park’s half. His shot was struck well and goal bound, but Strong was equal to it.
As the clock ticked down there was just time for Healy to pick up a yellow card for dissent (well, who would have guessed that!)
Another great team effort, all players doing their bit, but with two stand-out performances – hattrick hero Conan Torpey and clean-sheet King James Dillon.