v Brimscombe & Thrupp (16 September 2020)





Tuffley Rovers slipped to their heaviest Hellenic League defeat since April 2018 and slipped to a third consecutive defeat to start the 2020/21 playing season, as Brimscombe & Thrupp scored three times in each half to leave Richard Cox’s side bottom of the table, albeit with only two games played.

Rovers made two changes to their starting line-up from their defeat at Virginia Water four days previously, with talented youngster Rudi McKinnon replacing Warren Mann and, perhaps more notably, outfield player Liam Wright having to don the goalkeeping gloves due to Luke Merchant falling ill earlier in the day and various deputies being injured or otherwise unavailable at such short notice.

The game started fairly evenly, with both sides showing attacking intent, and with two close encounters still fresh in the mind from 2019/20 it was perhaps a poor indication of what might follow.

When Jacob Geddes made a strong tackle on Ollie Pitt, just outside the Rovers box, after 12 minutes, he was perhaps harshly judged to have made a foul and to then receive a caution, but it was less of a surprise that, from such a promising position, Jonty Welch stepped up to bend a low free-kick around the visitors’ wall and beyond Wright, who was planted to the spot on his goal-line.

Just four minutes later, Rovers were properly set for a difficult evening, as Dylan Morgan’s run into the penalty area ended with what was ultimately a fairly soft penalty decision, but one that seemed inevitable as full-back Lewis Bainbridge made several attempts to end the foray, without ever getting close to the ball. The Rovers man was playing as an emergency full-back and his challenge was more akin to that of someone familiar with his usual striker’s role.

Wright could do nothing to keep out Pitt’s penalty, but did do well to deny Jack Smith, who looked set to make it 3-0 from yards out on 29 minutes.

That provide to be in vain, as did his next demonstration of his goalkeeping prowess, when kept out an effort from Smith, before full-back Antoine Thompson then blocked Pitt’s effort, only to see the ball fall to David Woodfield, who smashed the ball home from close range, on 42 minutes.

Half-time might have given Cox the chance to rally his troops and inspire a fight-back, but a team who had failed to test the opposition goalkeeper at Virgina Water, and then followed suit in the opening 45 minutes, started the half in a manner that wasn’t likely to see a drastic change in their fortunes, as the hosts cut them open from the kick-off and only a good stop from Wright, to deny Welch, prevented the deficit being extended.

Rovers did muster a chance, albeit one that didn’t trouble Nick Jones in the Brimscombe goal, as Jack Beardsell created space for himself, but good only fire narrowly wide and into the side-netting.

Sam Prior’s side continued to cause Rovers problems and they eventually extended their lead on 56 minutes, as Jack Smith took advantage of a failure to clear their lines, albeit with the benefit of a significant deflection off Thompson, before Cox made three substitutions in an effort to freshen up his side’s rear-guard effort.

Beardsell then looked set to score, but Jones produced a block that forced the ball onto the frame of his goal and away from goal, before Toby Lawrence made two good interventions as Rovers showed an improved resolve to keep their hosts at bay.

With seven minutes remaining that resolve disappeared again, as Kyle Pitts found himself in acres of space to head home at the far post, to make it 5-0, before the rout was completed four minutes later, as Chalmers Phin found himself on the end of a good move, to make it six goals without reply and send Rovers to the bottom of the Hellenic League, Premier Division table.

Rovers may now welcome the distraction of an FA Vase tie at the weekend, although a defeat in that game will mean that their next league game, at home to Longlevens on 22 September, will have far more importance than many of the previous games between the two local rivals.