v Brimscombe & Thrupp (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 3 Jan 2022)




Given an awful run of form dating back to the end of October, there has been little to celebrate at Tuffley Rovers, but in his first game officially in charge of the club (albeit his second appearance in the dugout), Neil Mustoe saw his side end one barren run as they finally scored a goal in a Hellenic League fixture, 648 minutes after their last. That the goal – a rather scrambled and otherwise unmemorable effort from Will Ramsey – was the first by a Rovers player since Joe Shutt scored an early goal in a game at Roman Glass St George on 3 November is perhaps the most obvious illustration of the problems that have blighted Rovers’ season.

Mustoe made two changes to the starting line-up, following the defeat at home to Longlevens, with Aaron Basford and Ramsey called up in place of the Demilade Yussuf and the suspended Warren Mann. Brimscombe arrived at Glevum Park without their manager, Sam Prior, who had suffered the tragic loss of his father less than 48 hours earlier.

After an impeccably observed minute’s silence, the game kicked off at a lightening fast pace, in front of a healthy sized Bank Holiday crowd, and the visitors almost had an early lead, as Sam Folkes’ cross was met by Ben Baxter, whose header fell neatly into the path of Ollie Pitt, but he was crowded out and his shot deflected wide of Jack Copland’s goal. Jonty Welch fired over from the resultant set-piece.

Pitt had been denied but he successfully turned provider on 11 minutes, as his free-kick found Kyle Pitts at the back post and the Thrupp defender has given the freedom of Glevum Park as he stooped down to head the ball into the Rovers net from close range.

Given Rovers’ goal drought, a single goal lead for the opposition would inevitably bring fear and so Mustoe would have been grateful to see Welch waste another chance, two minutes later, as he headed over from close range.

The recalled Aaron Basford then had Rovers’ first chance of note, only to put his shot straight at Gavin Jones in the visiting goal.

However, after 18 minutes the moment that the hosts’ fans had been waiting for finally arrived. After Jones’ kick failed to get the required distance, Elijah Simpson miscontrolled and the ball was picked up by Jamal Lawrence, who burst through two challenges before rolling the ball across the Brimscombe goal line and Ramsey, arriving late, made enough contact with the ball to loop it towards the goal, with Baxter’s desperate attempt to keep the ball ultimately failing as his he could only succeed in heading the ball into his own net. The goal was credited to Ramsey, making it his first for the club.

It was almost 2-1 seven minutes later as Lewis Bainbridge carried the ball deep into the visitors territory, cut inside and fired a shot past Jones, only to see it cannon away off the frame of the goal, but by the time the half hour mark was reached, the score had turned in Rovers’ favour.

When Lucas Price cut inside his man, he unleashed a rasping shot that once again beat Jones before hitting the woodwork, but this time Bainbridge was on-hand to win the loose ball and force the ball over the line to make it 2-1 to Mustoe’s side.

Folkes then missed a terrific chance to instantly equalize, but the porous Rovers defence once again surrendered a lead, as Scott Nicholls made a hash of an attempt to head the ball back to Copland, allowing Jack Smith to steal possession and confidently dispatch the ball into the Rovers goal and bring the scores level on 36 minutes.

Within five minutes it was 3-2, as Folkes turned Smith’s miscued effort home and then there was further misery for the hosts, as a failure to clear the ball effectively ended with Pitt teeing up Smith for his second of the game and making it 4-2 on 42 minutes.

When the interval arrived shortly after, Mustoe was left to reflect on half an hour of positives, ultimately undone by ten minutes of calamitous defending that was another illustration of the problems he will face in turning the season around.

Several substitutions interrupted the early stages of the second half but the game was largely put to bed, on just past the hour mark, when Folkes made a powerful run into the Rovers box, before crossing into the path of Welch, who made no mistake and tucked the ball beyond Copland to make it 5-2.

Further substitutions followed and chances became fewer and farther between but the result was finally sealed in Brimscombe & Thrupp’s favour, with twelve minutes remaining, as Smith latched onto a loose ball from a corner to poke the ball over the line and complete his hat-trick in the process.

When the final whistle sounded Rovers were once again on the wrong end of a disappointing scoreline but there was plenty of optimism around Glevum Park, after a spirited display that has at least seen Rovers show some teeth in front of goal, as Mustoe looks ahead to the visit of Shrivenham on Saturday, 8 January and another chance to secure his first points as manager of Tuffley Rovers.