v Brimscombe & Thrupp (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 3 Aug 2022)




After a pre-season that had offered little to assure Tuffley Rovers’ supporters that the season ahead would see a move away from the struggles of the past three campaigns, with concerns amplified by the loss of half a squad during the close season, Neil Mustoe’s squad gave the perfect riposte as they came away with a valuable league point, off the back of a performance full of courage, endeavor, out and out desire and following their manager’s game plan to perfection.

Mustoe handed first team competitive debuts to goalkeeper Elliot Jones, defender Dan Lander and Noah Smerdon, the former Gloucester City and Exeter City player who has been with Rovers over the summer period, and fielded a midfield diamond, with the returning Henry Birkett lining-up alongside Dom Kent, Jack Beardsell and former Cinderford Town man Sammie Hicks.

The hosts had a very familiar look to their midfield and attacking line-up but had a much-changed defence, following their own exodus of players since the close of the 2021/22 season.

Early chances were at a premium, although it looked like Rovers had taken the lead, as Beardsell’s header came back off the bar and then bundled home by Scott Nicholls, but the goal was correctly ruled out for offside from the original free-kick from Henry Birkett.

Beardsell then produced an excellent run deep into the Brimscombe half, before he pulled back a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Dom Kent, whose shot was well-struck but close enough to Gavin Jones, the Brimscombe keeper, he produced a good save to push the ball away from the goal and to safety.

Rovers continued to press and had a corner that was well defended by the home defence, and as the ball broke former Yate Town man, Adam Price, launched an audacious shot towards the visiting goal, from just inside his own half, but it drifted wide and the score remained at 0-0, a score that remained in place until the interval arrived.

Rovers’ keeper then produced a good block save to keep the scores level and then another Price, Harlie, almost forced the ball home but Jones recovered from an initial error to pounce on a weak effort.

Early in the second period two returning Rovers, Liam Wright and Ryan Dobbins, created an opportunity for the latter, but although the signing from Cheltenham Saracens did well to create space he was denied space and a tame shot was comfortably saved by Brimscombe’s Jones.

Jonty Welch then might have given the hosts the lead, but he shot well wide from the edge of the box when he had time and space, and Lander made a terrific block as the ball fell loose from a set-piece, so that the deadlock remained in place.

Both sides continued to search for a chance to secure all three points, but both defences stood firm and Rovers secured a first point at The Meadow since recording the same scoreline on 29 August 2016.