Cleeve on way to Glevum Park

Competing objectives come together at Glevum Park

When Steve Cleal’s title challenging Bishops Cleeve squad arrive at Glevum Park today, they will come up against a Tuffley side twelve places and twenty-seven points behind them, but with the same aspirations for a result that could be a significant milestone in their season, to date.

Since Mark Pritchett’s Tuffley Rovers squad succumbed to a narrow defeat at Cleeve, back in late-November, they found themselves deep in trouble, with only thirteen points from the opening eighteen league games of the season. By contrast, Cleal’s side had thirty points from two games fewer. Rovers’ ten games since has seen them take points from seven, taking them to a total of twenty-six and a little higher up the table, although they are far from safe. When they arrive at Glevum Park, Cleeve’s form will show that their eleven games over the same period have accumulated twenty-three points and they are unbeaten in eight league games; a run which has very much increased their hopes of securing the Uhlsport Hellenic League title, as they sit eight points from the leaders, with three games in-hand.

Kieran Alder scored twice in Tufffley’s 4-1 victory over  Lydney Town
on 26/2/19 - Image courtesy of  Brian Rossiter @BrianRossiter1 So, two teams who are in good form will meet at Rovers’ home with a genuine appetite for victory, but with totally different aspirations, as far as the impact that securing three points might have. Pritchett’s side are in buoyant mood, despite two defeats – by the narrowest of margins, against the league’s top two teams – that were sandwiched in between a thumping 4-0 victory over Ardley United and a 4-1 triumph over Lydney Town, on Tuesday evening.

Whilst a much improved defensive record has been a feature of Rovers’ recent form, with just seven goals conceded in the last seven league games – in contrast to a record that saw them concede fourteen in the seven games prior to that. The defensively solidity that has been evident of late will be tested to the full against a Bishops Cleeve side who will visit with their squad brim full of goalscoring potential, including Brad Martin and Elliot Kennedy, who have scored 47 goals between them in all competitions. Jack Watt’s 15 goals mean that the visitors on Saturday will have three players who have scored more than Rovers’ leading marksman.

However, as well as the improved ‘goals against’ column, Rovers have set about improving their ‘goals for’, with one player catching the eye in particular, as a former Cleeve player, Kieran Alder, has found the net six times in his past four appearances, taking his season’s total to eleven, making the diminutive midfielder Rovers’ top scorer. Alder is one of several players lining up against their former club, with Cleeve’s side likely to include a number of former Rovers players, and Pritchett believes his young midfielder is a threat to Cleeve’s hopes.

“A little while ago, we took Kieran out of the side, because we needed to change a few things, and when he got back in, I told Kieran I wanted to see a response”, said Pritchett. “That response has been spot-on, because Kieran has been excellent in recent weeks.” Pritchett also believes that Alder is one of a number of players who are starting to realise their potential, after a tough campaign, to date. “For a young lad Kieran has a great attitude and works hard. He’s someone who has the potential to play a much higher level in the future, but we’ve got a really good young squad that are starting to show they’re capable of competing at this level”, he concluded.

After their midweek win, Rovers head into the game with a largely unchanged squad, meaning youngsters Brad Loveridge and Luke Troke are likely to feature again, after stepping up from the reserve team squad for the game against Lydney Town. Rhys Davies and Sam Hill remain injury doubts but may feature.