v Chipping Sodbury Town (Uhlsport Hellenic League, Premier Div – 19 Oct 2021)




For the second Tuesday evening in a row Rovers would play host to a club two points and two places below them in the Hellenic Premier table. It would also, as with Calne Town seven days earlier, be an opponent Tuffley had already beaten in their away league fixture, 3-2 at The Ridings on the 4th of September. A third coincidence was that the Sods, like Calne, had also lost a Saturday home match before travelling to Gloucester in the following midweek. But statistics alone don’t determine results. Both clubs needed points quickly to move away from the division’s bottom three.

Considering how handicapped they were by having to play their first eleven League and Cup matches of the season away from their Glevum Park home, Rovers have three wins and three draws from the seven matches since their short-term exile ended with the latest of those victories coming with a disciplined and composed performance as they brushed aside Chipping Sodbury Town in the most foul weather conditions imaginable.

Rovers kept faith with the defence which had taken a point from Bishops Cleeve three days earlier and another shut-out would have been achieved had it not been for Connor Waldon’s late consolation goal for the visitors.

The Sods optimistically appealed for a penalty inside the opening minute but it was the hosts who threatened more early on. Joe Shutt had an early attempt blocked but when the same player raced on to a sublime through-pass from Joel White which took out the left full-back completely he could only watch in despair as his crisp shot crashed against a post before rebounding to safety.

At the other end Abdul Tankora, who was lively and innovative all evening, had the visitors’ first serious attempt on goal but he dragged his shot wide. A shot from Waldon soon followed, which Jack Copland saved low down, the first of many excellent saves by the young goalkeeper in the first half alone. Kye Simpson was the next visiting player to threaten but his good work down the left was wasted when his cross went past several players before being cleared.

Rovers’ build-up play had been patient and it wasn’t a surprise when they opened the scoring. Aaron Basford made progress on the left but his shot richocheted into the path of Brennan Denness-Barrett who placed his shot carefully to goalkeeper Luke Roberts’ right and into the net.

Shortly after Joe Aldridge’s free-kick had cleared the crossbar as Rovers sought to increase their lead, Chipping Sodbury were awarded a free-kick in a central position twenty yards from goal. Tankora’s shot was saved but as the goalkeeper recovered to claim the ball Waldon fell to the ground claiming a penalty-kick and was so incensed that his claim was turned down that he was cautioned by referee Paul Herbert for his over-exuberant protest.

Sodbury threatened more once the half-hour mark had passed. From Keane Ashwood’s free-kick on the right, Matty Jenkins powered in a header from close range but Copland reacted instinctively and majestically to parry the ball up into the air, after which it was cleared for a corner. Jack then raced off his line a couple of minutes later to smother the ball as Simpson was poised to flick it past him. That save protected Rovers’ lead until the interval.

Copland made another fine save from Simpson early in the second half, a crucial stop as it turned out because instead of being 1-1 it was almost immediately 2-0 to Rovers as Lewis Bainbridge cut in from the left and saw his deflected shot fly past Roberts. A third home goal soon followed. Jamal Lawrence received a throw-in on the left, accelerated past the defender who was confronting him and played the ball carefully across the six-yard box. Denness-Barrett took one touch to control the ball and his second smashed it past Roberts into the net.

Copland’s evening of agility and concentration continued as he parried Simpson’s fierce shot; Waldon was following up but could only put his header just the wrong side of the upright.

Both teams made substitutions as the rain lashed down harder than ever. Jacob Geddes had a tame shot which Roberts dealt with easily but as the rain finally eased in the closing minutes Chipping Sodbury pulled a goal back. Waldon found himself in space mid-way inside the Rovers half and dragged the ball a little to the right before firing in an explosive shot with his right foot which even Copland could not reach but there was no shame in that because his handling, distribution and agility had already been a key feature of the evening’s action.

So Rovers moved up into 15th position in the table and left Chipping Sodbury looking nervously over their shoulders at the three clubs below them. Considering that only three of Tuffley’s thirteen league fixtures so far have been home games, they can be pretty satisfied that they have collected sixteen points and know that another couple of wins are quite likely to take them into the top ten, which would have seemed a long way off after they had started the season with three successive away defeats.