v Fairford Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 25 Oct 2022)




(ATT: 127)

Tuffley Rovers’ home form was almost as worrying as it had been in the previous season, with Fairford Town travelling across the county to meet a home team which had only taken four points from the twelve that had been available from their opening four league fixtures at Glevum Park.

Even allowing for the fact that their two home defeats had come against the clubs sitting first and second in the table, the trend of not winning home matches badly needed fixing. Fairford had been beaten in four of their six away fixtures so far and only Hereford Pegasus, Lydney Town, Wantage Town and Chipping Sodbury Town had conceded more goals on their travels, so those statistics might give Rovers some hope that this would be the evening on which their fortunes would change when it came to picking up home points.

Rovers’ home woes continued, but Fairford’s away figures look a lot better after a stunning second-half comeback in which they turned an interval deficit into a comfortable two-goal victory which moved them into the top half of the table level on 17 points with two other clubs but ahead of them both on goal-difference.

Archie Brennan got the game in motion for Fairford at the kick-off and the visitors were the first to show any attacking intent when full-back Callum Preece’s cross from the right flashed across the goalmouth with Ross Langworthy just failing to reach it as he dived forward to try to meet the ball and deflect it into goal. Three minutes later and following a corner on the left the other full-back, Kyle Parker, had a shot which home goalkeeper Elliot Jones saved.

Langworthy had a shot blocked and from a right-wing corner taken by Rowan Doyle a header came in which was blocked and scrambled clear by the Rovers defence.

On twenty minutes Warren Mann was fouled on the left, which caused a yellow card to be shown to the offender (Brennan). Henry Birkett’s resulting free-kick was sent towards the far post, where Ryan Dobbins had escaped his marker to deflect the ball into the bottom corner of the net being guarded by Joe Wright.

Although Fairford were seeing more of the ball, Rovers were looking to add to their lead and it nearly happened when Dobbins sent Daniel Beasley away down the right but the shot, although well-hit, was gobbled up by Wright.

Town’s Josh Bryan was treated on the pitch after being injured and in the closing minutes of the first half the visitors were given a free-kick on the left mid-way inside their own half after Langworthy had been fouled. It was launched deep into the Rovers half and resulted in another free-kick being awarded about 35 yards out. As the ball reached the Rovers’ six-yard box Jones made a decision to come out and punch the ball to safety, a tactic he employed quite a few times on this cold evening on a pitch which was still showing the after-effects of the heavy rain at the weekend.

Whatever was said at half-time certainly galvanized the visitors because within ten minutes of the re-start they had not only wiped out Tuffley’s fragile lead but gone ahead themselves. Brad Bevan and George Peare were the beneficiaries of some lacklustre defending by the hosts. Peare then watched a shot fly over the bar as Fairford started to take control of the game.

Numerous changes were made during the third quarter of the match. For Rovers, Paul Azubilla’s evening ended when he was escorted off after being injured and Dominik Kent came on to replace him. Shayne Bradley came on for Luke Hawkins not long after. The changes made by Fairford were more productive with Jay Simpson and Danny Gudger coming on for Doyle and Peare. Shortly before those changes were made, Beasley missed a great chance to equalise when he headed Warren Mann’s cross narrowly wide.

Home pressure was mounting, however. Beasley escaped his marker and made a strong run down the Fairford right-hand side. His fierce cross was slashed into his own net by the unfortunate Parker. There were fifteen minutes left and there was hope that the hosts could amass some points.

Mason Lewis came on for Dobbins and was almost immediately through on goal, only to be scythed down by goalkeeper Wright, who was relieved to see that a flag had been raised by the assistant referee for offside.

A few minutes later and Fairford were ahead again. Gudger raced away down the right and caused chaos by sending a firm cross into the middle, which forced Jones to make a good stop but the ball ran kindly for ex-Rover Langworthy and he prodded the ball into an unguarded part of the net.

Rovers nearly hit back quickly but Wright denied Beasley at the expense of a corner.

In added-time Town’s victory was sealed when Gudger was again the creator down the right and this time his cross was steered home by his fellow-substitute Simpson.

Fairford deserved to win this match because they were unlucky to be behind at the interval but really upped their game after it. Substitutions can be crucial and Town’s were more successful in that both Gudger and Simpson were key to their team’s turnaround in the closing stages of the match.

Rovers have two more home matches in the coming days. With this latest defeat they badly need to start picking up points again very quickly.