v Clanfield (19 September 2020)





For the fourth year in a row Tuffley Rovers’ FA Vase aspirations ended at the first hurdle, and for the second consecutive season they perished at the hands of a lower division opponent, as a lamentable performance away at Division One (West) Clanfield saw them exit the competition with a whimper.

The defeat by the Oxfordshire village side was the fourth consecutive defeat of Rovers’ competitive season and they have now failed to score since their exit from the FA Cup on 1 September, and on this occasion they failed to test the hosts’ keeper through the course of the 90 minutes.

During the early stages both sides shared possession, although Clanfield had the first chance to shoot on goal, although Alfie Saunders’ effort, from distance, went well wide of Luke Merchant’s goal.

Ollie Hunt, who was making a first start for Rovers, had the first effort on the Clanfield goal, but his header from Jack Beardsell’s corner went well over the bar.

Rovers then had a free-kick on the edge of the Clanfield penalty area, but Antoine Thompson’s effort was poorly struck and it became the catalyst for a swift counter-attacking move that ended with Isaac Oliver crossing just beyond the reach of Jozef Fullerton, who otherwise had the Rovers net at his mercy.

Thompson then had a shot blocked, as Rovers tried to apply pressure, before Cameron Pirie might have scored for the hosts, only to head Craig Connor’s cross wide of the Merchant’s goal.

Fullerton then saw his shot blocked, at the end of another Clanfield move, as Rovers found a way to keep their hosts out. The hosts were using Oliver as their main outlet and he was causing a number of problems to Rovers on the right-hand side, with another excellent cross presenting Connor Tinsley with a golden chance to open the scoring, but he somehow contrived to turn the ball wide when under no pressure. That proved to be the last chance of the half that had started well for Rich Cox’s side but ended with them lucky to be on level terms.

Beardsell managed to have a shot on goal, Rovers’ first on target, but it was a tame effort as Josh Gibbens got a block in, before Dom Kent had an effort from distance that went wide of the Clanfield goal.

That was to prove the last moment of positivity for Cox’s side, as some woeful defending, on 55 minutes, gave Tinsley to finish past Merchant, having been given the chance by Connor’s pass, and the lack of a response prompted Cox to make a first change of the afternoon, as Joe Shutt was introduced in place of Jacob Geddes.

Shutt’s first contribution of note was to set a good pass back into the path of Jake Rhodes, only for the Rovers midfielder to skew his shot horribly wide of the Clanfield goal, but Rovers slipped back into a familiar rut shortly after and they were fortunate that Saunders wasted a gilt-edged opportunity a few minutes later.

That was to prove a temporary reprieve and with 18 minutes remaining Saunders didn’t waste a second chance, as he made the most of time and space 25 yards out, to drive a low shot into the bottom corner, to make it 2-0.

A series of substitutions followed but Rovers looked spent and their hosts seemed the more likely side to score, as they saw out the game, booking a home tie against Fleet Spurs in the process, as Rovers were left to reflect on another soulless performance that has brought a premature end to their FA competition interest for yet another season.