v Roman Glass St. George (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 29 Oct 2022)




(ATT: 67)

October 2022 is a month that Rovers’ boss Neil Mustoe will largely want to forget. In the last game of a month that has seen his side secure just a single point from six Hellenic League Premier Division fixtures – as well as losing against lower division opposition in the FA Vase – his side produced a poor performance that saw them thumped 5-0 and end the afternoon in one of the two relegation places.

There is a long way to go in the season and performances in the previous two months will provide the Rovers faithful with plenty of hope, but this was a desperately poor performance against an in-form side more than capable of dismantling their opposition. An afternoon that started brightly, with Rovers equal in most areas for the first ten minutes, stuttered and then failed as some lamentable defending and a lack of cutting edge put paid to any hopes of taking at least a point.

Mustoe’s plans weren’t aided by the loss of Kieran Squires, who had been in terrific form prior to a concussion injury sustained in the midweek defeat against Fairford Town, and he was also without Henry Birkett, Callum McGuirk, Luke Hawkins and a host of other longer-term absentees, including Sammie Hicks and Liam Smith.

The visitors arrived at Glevum Park on a run of four consecutive wins and they comfortably made it five by the end of the afternoon. They fielded Josh Williams in their line-up, after he’d signed from Shepton Mallett earlier in the week, and he ended the day with a brace, although his first owed as much to some calamitous play from Rovers as it did to the striker’s tenacity.

Roman Glass had the first chance of any note, in the 8th minute, but Owen Woodhouse’s header went well wide as he met former Rover Miles Ferguson’s floated cross.

Just three minutes later, Lewis Gilchrist opened the scoring. The Glass ball-player saw an initial effort from the edge of the box blocked by Macaulay Herbert, but the ball was recovered by Dominic Anderson-Gordon, whose cross was deflected into the path of Aiden Sanfelice, before being rolled into the path of Gilchrist. Herbert once again threw himself in front of the shot, from an almost identical position, but could only watch in despair as the ball took a huge deflection and went into the opposite corner of Elliot Jones’ goal, to make it 1-0.

Falling behind to an unfortunate deflection is one thing. The second goal, coming less than four minutes later, perhaps summarised why Rovers find themselves in such a perilous position.

A long ball upfield was overhit and offered Williams no alternative other than to apply pressure as Ashley Davies rolled the ball back towards Jones. Davies’ pass was dreadful and Jones’ attempt to recover, rather than perhaps seeing the ball run out for a corner, only resulted in him gifting Williams with a goal that was a gift for any striker, let alone one making a first appearance in new colours. 2-0 after fifteen minutes wasn’t necessarily an accurate representation of the game to that point, but it was a sign of Roman Glass’ increasing control on the game.

Within five minutes of that goal, Rovers’ skipper Warren Mann received a caution for something akin to a rugby tackle on Shaquille Smith who had, until that point, already given the left-back a fairly torrid afternoon.

As the half wore on, a couple of long distance efforts aside Rovers were defending resolutely enough to have hopes of going into the interval without any further score. As it was, almost on the stroke of half-time, Gilchrist swung a beautiful pass into the area and Williams rose highest to produce a looping header that went over Jones, who was almost on his line, and into the net, making it 3-0 and making Mustoe’s half-time teamtalk a great deal harder.

As it was, the Rovers boss chose to make just one change at half-time, introducing Paul Azubilla for Mason Lewis, and re-jigging his formation in an effort to combat Glass’ domination in midfield. Within 90 seconds of the re-start any plans were in tatters after Mann received his second caution for a trip on Smith, as the visitors broke but both players were well away from the ball.

Rovers had lost their captain and shortly after they lost their vice-captain, as Herbert was forced off with a hamstring injury. He was withdrawn and replaced by Dan Lander, whilst Davies was taken off, after picking up a dead leg, to be replaced by sixteen year old debutant Dayton Fallows.

On 70 minutes it became 4-0. Substitute Nathan Hughes turned Jack Beardsell inside out and was afforded what seemed like an unlimited amount of time to find his pass, rolling the ball into Anderson-Gordon, who finished from close range.

It was another substitute, Louis Ward, to finish the scoring for the afternoon, as his low shot went around the wall and into the corner of Jones’ net.

Mustoe will not relish facing one of the division’s form teams, Worcester Raiders, in his next fixture but will feel confident that his side will struggle to play as poorly as they did on this occasion.