v Calne Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Division – 12 Oct 2021)




Rovers returned to Glevum Park for only their second home league match of the season just three days after a numbing nine-one loss at the Hereford Lads Club. The pain of a heavy defeat can often linger into and beyond the next match.

Calne were promoted into the Hellenic League after strong showings in two abandoned Western League Division One seasons; league-leaders when the 2019-20 season was brought to a shuddering half and in 3rd place a year later. They arrived in Gloucester with the same number of league wins as Tuffley (3) but Rovers’ two draws saw them start this fixture two points and two places above their Wiltshire visitors.

Goals from Lewis Bainbridge and Brennan Denness-Barrett had given Rovers a narrow 2-1 win at Bremhill View when the two teams had met in Calne thirty-four days earlier.

If Rovers failed to completely exorcise the demons they had brought back with them from Hereford at the weekend, they certainly restored more than a modicum of pride with a gutsy and disciplined  performance, particularly in defence, deservedly taking a point from their Wiltshire visitors, whose own play also definitely deserved to take something from an absorbing contest.

Rovers welcomed Joel White back into their ranks and he went straight into the starting line-up at the centre of defence alongside Jacob Geddes, whose reputation and stature seem to grow with every passing game.

There was nearly a sensational start at both ends of the pitch. Inside the first sixty seconds visiting goalkeeper Craig Edwards had to race off his line to clear the ball as Joe Shutt closed him down. A minute later Calne had the ball in the Rovers net following a long free-kick but the goal was disallowed for a foul on home ‘keeper Jack Copland as the ball dropped into his grasp.

Rovers were forced into a relatively early change when Warren Mann had to leave the field and Lucas Price came on to replace him. Tuffley immediately made a tactical switch. Until this point Shutt and Lewis Bainbridge had been combining down the right with some neat passing. When Mann went off, Bainbridge moved over to the left and the marauding role he had left was taken over by Price who, to be fair to the early substitute, did a really good job in assuming the same sort of role down Tuffley’s right-hand side.

For all that, it was Town who took the lead at the mid-point of the first half. A free-kick on the right deep in Rovers’ territory was headed away but only as far as Declan McStravick on the left; neat footwork took him past a covering defender and his chip, whether intentional or not (and the latter probably applied) drifted over Copland and dropped into the far corner of the net.

One of many strong runs by Price led to a corner but the next blow was nearly struck by Calne with McStravick’s shot being saved low down by Copland after Geddes had uncharacteristically lost control of the ball.

When Jamal Lawrence collided with goalkeeper Edwards there was no obvious malice in the challenge but it led to an unpleasant melee involving numerous players from both sides which was ended by referee Dan Ellis issuing a yellow card to each team, Lawrence for Rovers and Calne captain and centre-half Charlie Norman.

Rovers continued to press and equalised on the stroke of half-time. Unsurprisingly, it was again thanks to the work of Price who made ground on the right and Lawrence timed his run perfectly to race to the near post and flick the cut-back past Edwards for a deserved equaliser.

Early in the second half White moved upfield when Rovers won a corner on the left but was unable to time his jump properly when Liam Smith’s cross came in and his header cleared the crossbar by a couple of feet.

Both teams made substitutions as the match entered its final quarter but Calne were in no hurry as they concentrated on trying to preserve a point while only occasionally looking dangerous in their attempts to turn one point into all three available. Rovers saw more of the ball and nearly grabbed a late winner when terrific work by Bainbridge on the left resulted in a chipped cross which substitute Dion Ellis-Clark reached with his head but Edwards, scrambling low down to his left, made the save. Bainbridge went down with cramp but soon the final whistle went with each club deservedly taking a point that both will be happy with, Rovers because what happened in Hereford could be put more firmly to the back of their minds and Calne because they didn’t follow up their own defeat three days earlier with another loss as they took a point which they thoroughly deserved on this chilly evening in Gloucester.