v Shrivenham (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 15 Oct 2022)




(ATT: 55)

In this fixture a season earlier Shrivenham had scored twice in added-time but that wasn’t enough to prevent a narrow defeat because Rovers had already scored three times. Today they again scored after the 90-minute mark and this time it did earn them a point from a match which was played in dry but blustery conditions.

In conceding so late Rovers will see this as two points dropped but Shrivy showed discipline after going behind and pressed forward in the closing stages to score the late goal which preserved their unbeaten away record this season.

The two teams spent the opening minutes sounding each other out but it was the hosts who created the first real chance in the fifth minute when Joey Haswell passed inside to Dan Beasley whose scuffed shot allowed Sam Ayres to make a comfortable save.

Rovers were then forced to make an early substitution. Manager Neil Mustoe was barking out instructions to Beasley when the player collapsed in the centre-circle, clutching his back. He limped off after receiving treatment on the pitch and by the time he had reached the dugouts Shayne Bradley was ready to come on to replace him. It was not a change which Rovers would have chosen to make so early.

Shrivenham sat deep and showed no real attacking intent until the 20th minute when full-back Macaulay Dodson made ground in the Tuffley half before sending a right-footed shot wide of the far post, an effort which Elliot Jones seemed to have covered anyway. Shortly after this innocuous scoring effort Birkett was cautioned for foul play by referee Simeon Stoodley.

Rovers earned several corners in the first half but were unable to create any serious attempts from them. Birkett set up a chance for Kieran Alder, who turned his marker but dragged his shot wide.

Alder’s return to the Tuffley set-up he knows so well has seen an increase in midfield creativity with the link between defence and attack, and as the first half came to a close Alder had another attempt which went wide before the offside flag came to Shrivenham’s aid as the same player was about to take a shot after receiving the ball from Jack Beardsell. So, no goals in the opening 45 minutes.

Shrivy’s Josh Elms received a head-injury early in the second half but was alright to continue after receiving treatment. The promising forays forward at the end of the first half were being continued by Rovers in the second.  Haswell shot wide and both Alder and Bradley had shots blocked. It wasn’t really a surprise when the breakthrough came, Kieran Squires marching up into enemy territory to head Birkett’s corner firmly past Ayres.

Shrivenham made their first change but Rovers were next to show attacking intent when both Alder and Kent had shots blocked before Haswell fired over the bar. The pace of Mason Lewis, on for Jack Beardsell, had created those chances and Lewis would continue to run strongly down Shrivy’s right-hand side. The visitors made two more changes in bringing on Harry Ayres and Sean McKeon while Rovers’ last changes were to bring on Paul Azubilla for goalscorer Squires and Callum McGuirk for Dominik Kent.

It looked as if Rovers would hang on to take all three points but deep into added-time Shrivenham were awarded a free-kick on the left about twenty yards out. Mani Roper’s fierce shot was tipped onto his crossbar athletically by Elliot Jones but the ball bounced out kindly for the visiting players and Josh McGrory lashed it gleefully back past Jones and into the back of the net. Another Shrivy Josh, defender Gregory, received a caution in the aftermath of the goal.

The visitors might even have gone out to win it as Roper had another shot which went wide and Jones pushed away for a corner another attempt from scorer McGrory.  It would have been very hard on the hosts if they had suffered another déjà vu moment similar to the Slimbridge cup-tie two months earlier by conceding twice in added-time. A point won is better than no points at all so Rovers remain in 18th place while Shrivenham actually drop from 11th to 13th despite picking up their 14th away point of the season.